The revolution will be Tumbld

There is now an organized anti-Occupy Wall Street social networking effort. “We Are the 53%” is a tumblr blog

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The site was started by Erick Erickson, and refers to studies showing the number of people who do not pay federal income tax.

The Occupy groups have a tumblr blog too: We are the 99%:

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This is how we discuss issues in 2011.

  • Bismuth

    I wonder how many of the qualifiers (working from a young age, living frugally, started a business, child of immigrants, etc.) also apply to those with 99% signs. My bet is that the biggest difference between these two groups is where they happen to be now, not how they got there.

  • CHS

    My sense is that the biggest difference between the two groups isn’t something tangible such as what age their working life began, but something a bit more existential. Seems to me that the “53%” have a firm belief in self determination and personal accountability, that no force is as powerful as their own force of will. The “99%” believe that it’s society and the community that provides opportunity, not the individual, and that everything is somehow bigger than they themselves are. Hence the need to harness themselves collectively as a group to create change or opportunity in the world around them, because if opportunity and equity come from the world around you, then it’s time the change that world.

    Now, whether or not starting work at 15 in order to save for college and working all the way through your education has a bearing on your existential view of opportunity in the world is a good debate…..

  • Heather

    CHS, are you looking for anecdata? I started working at 14 (babysitting and detassling corn), worked through high school and college. I have always taken the best job I could get at the time, even when that job was waitressing, retail, or working in a nursing home. I sit at a desk now, but I can do a full bed change with somebody in the bed. I’m with the 99%.

    The top sign is interesting in the way it focuses on what he actively did, but glosses over factors like luck, timing, and circumstance. For instance, he leveraged his house to start his own business. When was that, exactly? It doesn’t seem particularly realistic to expect people to be able to follow that trajectory right now, but by participating in the 53% blog, he’s implying that people should quit whining and do what he did. How much sweat did he have to swim in to make money on real estate, though? If the value of his home went up because he made it go up, he ought to get busy fixing the housing market now. Quit slacking, achiever!

  • CHS

    Heather,

    Actually my original point was intending to avoid anecdotal information and trying to bring the topic to a larger scale based on worldview. My last quip at the end was more rhetorical sarcasm than anything, what I was really posing was whether or not your view of how you got to where you are in life determines how you view the “53%” or the “99%” and which you affiliate with.

    You’re the only one biting, so I’ll ask you, do you feel that your place in life was/is determined by how hard you worked, the choices you made, and the risks you’ve taken? Or do you feel that you are where you are due to a combination of luck, birthright, and what society and your community provides?

    And on the topic of anecdotes, I too can do a full bed change while it’s occupied by a fully grown person, spent years in the NH helping pay for school. You and I appear to have very similar trajectories in life. We both started working very young, continued to through school and held a variety of positions (some even the same) to get to where we are now (desk), I’m guessing you’re even from a small town, too. So with so much being equal what is the difference that defines whether we identify with the “53%” or the “99%”?

  • Mark Gisleson

    Media Matters for America explains why Eric Erickson is a hypocrite for starting up this bogus group:

  • Bob Collins

    //You’re the only one biting, so I’ll ask you, do you feel that your place in life was/is determined by how hard you worked, the choices you made, and the risks you’ve taken? Or do you feel that you are where you are due to a combination of luck, birthright, and what society and your community provides?

    I’ll bite. The answer is “yes.” Yes, I got where *I* am, whatever that is on the strength of hard work, including working multiple jobs. “Yes” I got where I was because of the situation I was born into that afford me an education and an upbringing.

    Yes I got to where we are economically because of a loan on a down payment for our first house, a loan which was later forgiven.

    One of the things that would *really* be fascinating as people tell the story about their journey in life is to be more honest about it.

    Nobody gets to where they are — either going up or going down – strictly on one’s own accomplishments, drive etc.

    Now there is certainly a debate to be had about the scale of external factors in one’s journey, but nobody does it alone.

    There’s also a fair amount of pure luck involved.

    Anyway, as in most issues being debated today, somewhere between the positions the two sides have staked out, there is a reality.

  • Heather

    Dead on, CHS. Small town. I really liked your post, and am sorry I missed that sarcasm!

    To me, my place in life is obviously determined by how hard I worked, the choices I made (great and not so great), the risks I’ve taken (the ones that worked out the way I hoped *and* the ones that didn’t) AND luck, birthright (if by “birthright” you mean the advantages I gleaned from my family of origin — for me, that’s mostly value placed on hard work and a good education, not cash money), and what my society and community provide. All of those things dance with each other, don’t they?

    I’m with Bismuth on what separates us — it’s not as much as some would like to think. Pointing at the protesters and calling them smelly hippies or taking the “get a job” attitude or otherwise belittling them may make the people doing it feel safer. It doesn’t, however, change the fact that success and security do not stem from personal responsibility alone. We live within a system, and it works better for some than for others — and some of THAT is luck of the draw.

  • CHS

    //One of the things that would *really* be fascinating as people tell the story about their journey in life is to be more honest about it.

    Nobody gets to where they are — either going up or going down – strictly on one’s own accomplishments, drive etc.

    Now there is certainly a debate to be had about the scale of external factors in one’s journey, but nobody does it alone.

    There’s also a fair amount of pure luck involved.

    Bob, thanks for the reply, this is what I was looking for, I completely agree, we should all be more honest about where we are and how we got there, including with ourselves. Actually, especially with ourselves. But this drives to the heart of what I’m posing as a question, if we are honest with ourselves and feel that we ended up where we are due to a combination of many factors, some within our control and others without, does how we reconcile our failures define how we are viewing these movements? If we fail due to factors outside of our control do we feel that someone else is to blame and should be held accountable, such as Wall St?

    By not immediately sympathizing with the 99% it seems I’m painted as a pretty conservative view here, but the reality is far from that. I honestly haven’t decided what to feel about these movements, I don’t feel like I truly understand what is really being contested here based on the often light coverage of what is going on. I saw a political cartoon the other day depicting brokers looking down from a Wall St. balcony saying “Oh cute, they’re protesting Greed” to which was replied, “we can leverage this…” Now I don’t believe that the protests are about greed only, but what is it about really? A lack of a clear and concise voice just portrays a bunch of unhappy people, and that makes them easy to paint as “whiners.”

  • Heather

    I actually think it’s pretty clear that you haven’t come down on one side or the other, CHS. You’re asking interesting questions, not jerking your knee! I don’t see “whiners” though — I see a lot of people who are concerned about different, but related, things.

    One of my jobs was a receptionist at an H&R Block during tax season in 2002. (While we’re being honest, I was also in massage therapy school at the time, having been let go from a job to which I’d given my all and also suckered in by the “Do what you love and the money will follow” trope — I was GREAT at massage therapy, but couldn’t make enough to keep that job even with the occasional $50 tip, and no, no “happy endings”.) ANYWAY, the desk at H&R Block backed up to the cubes where the mortgage brokers sat, and those people would do just about anything to get someone into a loan. No-doc. ARM. Whatever. It was all over the phone, hard-sell, quick-and-dirty explanation, in the guise of “helping” people get into their own homes. In the DC housing market, which was definitely on the way up. It really did seem that if you were ever going to buy there, you had to do it NOW, or you’d be forever priced out of the market. Once the housing crash started and I heard people going on about how “those” people had gotten themselves in over their heads, all I could think about was that hard-sell, and all the messages we were getting about how important home ownership was to advancing our “worth”. There was no sense of responsibility re: being sure people understood what they were signing. It was all about the commission. So who’s fault was it? Who got paid? Who was on the hook when values fell?

    Considering that stuff may put you on one side of the OWS protestors. But why did the bottom fall out of the market? The answers to that question may put you on the other side.

    Just throwing some ideas out here. Time for me to head out. Have a good night!

  • This is NOT lucy

    “Nobody gets to where they are — either going up or going down – strictly on one’s own accomplishments, drive etc.”

    Yes, the ‘who you know’

    and

    ‘what you are willing to stoop to’ inorder to secure the job apply here too.

    I too can change a bed with a person in it. I was an inflight medic in the military at one time. I can draw construction documents yada-yada-yada-hey. I have worked as a waitress, retail, clerical…

    Eric Ericksen has been lucky with timing. He should be grateful.

    I am the 99% who has repeatedly reinvented themselves for the last 10 years.

  • Jamie

    // “A lack of a clear and concise voice just portrays a bunch of unhappy people, and that makes them easy to paint as ‘whiners.’” //

    That’s only true if you have a propensity to portray them that way, i.e., if you have a world-view that is shown in some of the things you’ve said here. The truth is they’re mostly very inexperienced people who are very frustrated with our plutocracy and they want to express that frustration and try in their own inexperienced way to change things. It comes off as somewhat unfocused, but no more so than the “tea party” has been. Actually, from where I stand, the OWSers look like they have more integrity and intelligence than what I know of tea baggers.

  • This is NOT lucy

    “The truth is they’re mostly very inexperienced people who are very frustrated with our plutocracy and they want to express that frustration and try in their own inexperienced way to change things”

    Jamie-

    That’s a wide claim there. Do you have numbers to back up your assertion? You are spot on with the college students but the 99% is comprised of much more than that.

    Their focus is that they have been screwed by the few at the top, 1% in a vast number of ways whether it began with the housing crash ect. Their focus is that they have lost lots in the last decade and many see no hope.

  • CHS

    Regarding the “99%” being ‘whiners’…. I think my point was misinterpreted, I’m not saying they are or aren’t ‘whiners,’ but I am saying that it’s easy for any interested party to paint them with that brush without a clear and concise message to rebuff that. Maybe they do have that, but my other point was that if they do, that message is not getting accurately relayed by media. There is no clear ‘voice’ that speaks for the anger and feelings of this movement that can be turned to by media, making it easy to take a slant.

    To Jamie: I don’t have a propensity to think of them any particular way, nor do I regarding the ‘tea party.’ As such I resist calling the ’99%’ hippies or whatever else is being thrown around, just as I don’t feel justified in calling the conservative side ‘tea baggers’ as some veiled derogatory reference to more off the beaten path bedroom activities. Truth is both of these groups are comprised of very passionate individuals from all walks of life who happen to have views from opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t agree with any of them on everything, I agree with all of them on some things, but I do respect them all as having views that are important to them, even if I don’t understand or agree. Question is can we let our worldview be influenced by taking all of these things in? I often fail at it miserably, but I do try.

    To Heather: That brings up an interesting question regarding those shady deals, and I guess my thought is do we get angry at the businesses that took advantage of a certain business and regulatory climate to make money, or do we get angry about the creation of that business and regulatory climate in the first place? Do we protest Wall St. or do we protest our government which gave them the tools to do what they have done? Looking back at what has happened in our country repeatedly over the years I’d say we need to focus on government rather than the businesses, if for no other reason than practicality and effectiveness. Cynical as I am, I believe business will always stretch themselves to the extent that the law and the free market allow, our power lies in creating those laws and voting with our free market dollars. This coming from someone who fell for the housing ‘story’ and who is so far underwater on a mortgage that I’m trying to get out of that I feel like I may never recover financially at this point.

    To the person who is NOT lucy: Do you feel that having constantly reinvented yourself is a bad thing? It seems as though you are critical of the need that people reinvent themselves over the last 10 years in order to make it. Can’t it be viewed as perpetual opportunity? Doesn’t it make those who make it through much more resilient and well rounded? I’m actually pretty happy with all the things I’ve done and am glad that I’ve had such a diverse background, I certainly feel it makes me a more well rounded person. While I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I’ve had many positions that I did not wish for, I wouldn’t trade any of it at this point.

    Thanks for the food for thought everyone, perhaps tomorrow.

  • Heather

    A few last thoughts for today:

    Those “shady” deals didn’t sound shady to the people who took on the loans — they sounded like opportunity. And even with no shady loans, my family has taken a bath in real estate in the past 5 years. Seems like everybody’s soaking in it. We’re all affected, whether we own real estate or not. It’s just that some people are still cashing in.

    There’s enough coverage now that people who are really curious should be able to form an opinion of the protests. Photo galleries are pretty informative (some of the signs are really funny, like “We’re Here, We’re Unclear, Get Used to It”), as are some of the opinion pieces and blog posts out there. I think the lack of focus is actually very interesting. Things are complicated, so why shouldn’t the protest be complicated?

    The focus may indeed shift to government, but I think the protesters were VERY smart to pick Wall Street as their first location and as their focus. It keeps attention on what IS the core issue — the financial sector — which gives politicians an opening to act (or not) in what has been a very locked down political climate. Hopefully, some of them realize that they’re getting an opportunity to be seen as part of the solution, rather than as THE problem.

    And I’m with NOT lucy on the reinvention. Right now, it’s compulsory for a lot of people. If you’re doing it out of your own desire, it can be wonderful, but if you don’t have a choice and you feel like you’re losing ground with each one, it can be exhausting.

  • Bob Collins

    Awesome conversation here!

  • Kim E

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. I think everyone has made some interesting points.

    But I wanted to respond to Bob’s challenge to be honest.

    My parents paid in full for 5 years of college. It meant that I had to play by their rules (a “practical” major, on-campus housing), but it also meant I graduated with zero loan debt. I think that this help put me at a huge advantage, since it sounds like debt is a real killer. I still work really hard at what I do. I got a job because I applied for the right job- one I was qualified for that was available at the time.

    Like other posters here, I’m not sure if I fit in with the 99 or the 53. I believe I have succeeded because I’ve worked hard and made good choices for myself. But, I also believe I have succeeded because of luck and timing and circumstance and the cards I was dealt.

  • Brian

    I probably fall into the 99% technically due to my financial standing (not a billionaire) but I am also a work-my-fingers-to-the-bone type. I paid my own way in full through college and had a job lined up a week before graduation. It wasn’t the perfect job but it was something. I loathed it in mere weeks but it turned out that a better job closer to my home opened up. 13 years later I’m still doing what I chose to pursue in college. It hasn’t made me wealthy but it has given me the basis for skills which I am honing at home to parlay into something greater. The day job very well might not exist in five years but in any business you are dependent on the work of those around you and if they aren’t doing everything they can to guarantee success for the company, jobs get cut, wages stagnate and the work environment begins to sour. It’s pretty easy to be envious of and angry towards the 1% because they seem to have it all and are continually sharing less each year with the “worker bees” while still making a respectable profit.

    There probably isn’t an easy fix for the increasing divide except for more of the 99% to gain the skills to control their own destiny and work that much harder to get out from under the thumb of the big banks which hold debt over people’s heads, in turn forcing people to stay at jobs they hate complete with stagnant wages. It’s not easy to step outside of your comfort zone but it’s becoming a necessity. I don’t plan on quitting my day job but I’m hoping that my side ventures provide a financial buffer and that they lead to something better — something that I probably haven’t even thought of yet.

  • Heather

    OK, so now we’ve got some basic outlines for how some of us — just a few, but with this blog in common and no apparent (or at least confessed!) billions in our bank accounts –frame our successes. I’m struck by how modest we are, in more than one sense of the word.

    Another one of my jobs (seriously, I’ve had a lot of jobs!) was teaching at an affluent private school. THAT was where I learned that tmy “rich” classmates in my hometown school were no more rich than they were fish. Relative to most of us, their families had more money, but it turned out that the scope of that comparison pool was pretty limited. I believe in the importance of storytelling, but when we tell our stories to each other and see things we recognize, it’s easy to wonder what people are so upset about. We don’t seem so different from each other, so what’s the problem? Potayto, potahto, right?

    But how would things be different for each of us if people in our lives who appreciate our skills were the ones responsible for deciding what our work is worth? And if part of that decision-making process involved comparing your compensation to others in your work category, with the idea that it needs to be comparable or you’ll leave? And if we all give each other a boost, we all get a boost?

    Here’s where I confess to not really understanding the HTML directions and post a Tiny URL to a recent Washington Post article on executive compensation. This is one thing that I believe is truly out of control.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/6xgeuu7