‘We Are The 53%’ has good stories, bad math

One story from the 53%.

Just as every famous person eventually gets a novelty Twitter account spoofing them, so too does every political meme get an equal and opposite countermeme. Thus, after supporters of the Occupy Wall Street protests started sharing their stories on a tumblr called We Are the 99 Percent, it was only a matter of time before the opponents got their own meme as well. And now they have!

The strikeback comes from the tumblr We Are the 53%, in which anonymous people share their stories of how they were able to succeed in life with hard work and determination. It’s named after the 53% of Americans who pay federal income tax, with the unspoken implication that the protesters camping out in America’s cities are freeloaders who not.

(That 53% is a handy statistic that’s often bandied about on the right, but it’s one that obscures more than it illuminates. The 47% who don’t pay federal income tax still give a share of their money to government in other ways; they pay excise taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes, as well as state and local income taxes. When someone uses the words “federal income tax” and tries to get you to believe they mean “all taxes,” that is a good sign not to trust them.)

Math aside, the stories by themselves are generally hopeful and inspiring, painting a portrait of an America where anyone can be a success with some hard work and a little ingenuity. Taken together, of course, they also play into the conservative narrative that our country’s main structural problem is that people simply aren’t working hard enough. (As Max Read says, “This is where the best of American values meet their most masochistic applications.”) Can it be both? Argue about that in the comments!


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