19 October 2011

We Are the 53%

Okay, so actually, I'm not, since I make, you know, about $100/month more than the poverty line. Still. If you've been following the "We Are the 53%" rhetoric, you're familiar: it's a bunch of people holding up cards talking about how they're tired of subsidizing the lifestyles of poor people, and how said poor people should get over themselves and start contributing to the tax base like everyone else.


"Suck it up you whiners" is a pretty decent summary of the argument from most of these. Also, "Nobody helped me, I did it myself, so should you."

The International Business Times has put out a really nice little article talking about why that rhetoric is ridiculous. Some of the choice quotes:

The creators of the blog either do not understand taxation, or they simply do not care. Even the 47 percent of Americans who did not pay federal income taxes in 2009 still paid state, local and payroll taxes -- so, saying that only 53 percent of people paid taxes that year is a lie. Even the poorest Americans, those who make an average of $12,500 a year, still pay about 16 percent of their small earnings in taxes, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Moreover, data from the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy indicates that in every state except for Vermont, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy. In Alabama, families making less than $13,000 a year pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.

[...]

The contributors often boast about how they have worked themselves to the bone, often without vacations or benefits, but still have never turned to government social programs, implying that the kind of people who support the 99 percent movement simply want a free ride.

It would be interesting to see how many of those people have received unemployment insurance, Pell Grants, home-mortgage-interest deductions or any of the other government programs that many people have relied on as stepping stones to get to the state of financial independence the "53 percent" celebrate.

What they don't seem to understand is that the 99 percent movement is demanding those same things -- namely, the ability to receive an affordable education, affordable health care and a livable wage -- in short, all of the things that allow Americans to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" (whether all of the protesters' demands are actually possible right now is another story).

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