Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Conservatives Respond to 'We Are 99%'

OWS march on 5th
Spencer Platt

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson launched a new website intended as a response to the “We Are The 99 Percent” site and slogan that has become a hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Like its 99 percent predecessor, “We Are The 53 Percent” is a Tumblr site in which people paste pictures of themselves or pieces of paper in which they testify to their financial conditions and personal history. The name refers to the fact that only 53 percent of Americans pay federal income tax.

Both sites have stories of economic travail. Many of the 99 percenters are young people who feel burdened by student loans, health-care costs and limited opportunity to find employment. The 53 percenters tell similar stories — but with a very different message.

The 53 percenters are not bereft of hope, as many of the 99 percenters seem to be. They are not demanding government assistance. Indeed, many of the posts are stories of overcoming adversity and poverty to reach prosperity.

“After a mildly successful career I lost everything in 2004,” one post explains. “I went over a year without work or benefits. But I built a business from the ground up….I am the 53 percent!”

The ethos of 53 percent seems to be one of classic American rugged individualism. The stories tend to be of people who have, as the saying goes, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Or those who are trying. There’s a disdain for those who seem to have given up or look to government for solutions.

“Get a life! Get a job! Stop whining!” the guy who lost everything in 2004 says.

Over at Gawker, the site’s been described as “heartbreaking.”

But what makes "We Are the 53 Percent" so heartbreaking isn't that its contributors are enormous jerks—it's that so many of them could just as easily be writing in to We Are the 99 Percent. Like the guy on the left, who can "barely afford" his rent. Or the "former marine" in the center who hasn't had "four consecutive days off in four years." The phrase "I don't have health insurance" pops up frequently on "We Are the 53 Percent," but not as a cry for help or an indictment of a broken system.

Here, it's a badge of pride…

This is where the best of American values meet their most masochistic applications. Did you work 60-70 hours a week for nearly a decade to get a college degree after serving in this country's military? This is America! Drive on!

Another way of putting it, however, would be to say that those posting on the We Are 53 Percent site are triumphant underdogs. They are proud of how hard they had to work to succeed. What they have endured and overcome is a measure of the quality of their character, a badge of honor.

They see the 99 percenters as people who have simply allowed themselves to be overcome — who prefer whining to enduring.

It’s pretty much a classic American debate.

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