Thursday, October 27, 2011

About the percenters

I don't think people get it. I really don't.

1) First there were the 99% folks, who have very legitimate gripes.
2) Then there are the 1% people who either a) agree with the 99% or say screw the 99%.
3) And then there are the 53% folks who are clueless.

A lot of people have been posting their pictures with their stories about why they fit into one of these groups. There has been a lot of commentary on those pictures. Here is what I see.

1) The 99% aren't lazy. They aren't whining because they have to work hard. The problem, what they (most of us since 99% of us are that 99%) are trying to convey, is that hard work doesn't get anywhere. You can work hard all your life and you will get poorer - unless you are in that 1% that keeps getting richer. You can have a good job, pay your bills, have health insurance... and still not get ahead. There is no American Dream for the vast majority of us who just want to be comfortable enough to pay the bills and maybe have a little extra to take a vacation, all without worrying if the next illness will send us into bankruptcy.

2) The guy from the infamous picture (who works 80 hour weeks and thinks the 99%ers are whiny) doesn't get it. The point is that he SHOULDN'T have to work 80 hour weeks for the rest of his life. And there aren't enough jobs for everyone to work that many hours. The American Dream is not about working yourself to death and not getting ahead. If you work that hard for a few years and do get ahead, that's fine. It isn't about a free ride either. That's not what the 99% are asking for. They just want to get a fair wage. They object to CEOs making 350X what the average worker makes, with stockholders getting crazy dividends, while the people who create the products that make all that money sink lower and lower.

3) The 53% folks supposedly represent the 53% who pay taxes. Except that a lot of the ones posting don't pay taxes. And why, if you pay your taxes, which go toward building roads and airports, and all sorts of other public projects, defend companies and the wealthy, who benefit from those tax funded services, not paying their fair share of taxes?

4) As for the 1%, I'm very happy to see that quite a few understand that they didn't get there on their own. Their wealth wasn't built in a bubble. They were able to make money with the help of others and using public resources. And that use of public resources is a big reason why they ABSOLUTELY SHOULD pay their fair share of taxes. As has been pointed out, many of them wouldn't even notice if their tax rate increased a small amount. The ones who gloat are just that - gloaters. We shouldn't feel sympathy for them or want to do them any favors. That doesn't mean we need to resent them (if people work hard and make a lot of money, more power to them). But they certainly don't need our help or Congress's to get even further ahead.

5) Some of the folks defending the status quo are doing so against their own self-interest. When the options are tax cuts or tax increases for the wealthy and the non-wealthy are fighting for tax cuts (even though it means tax increases for the middle class), it makes me wonder why. Is it because they aspire to be wealthy enough to not pay income taxes? Because if so, I hate to break it to you, but it's unlikely. Why do some folks want to pay more taxes so the people who can afford to pay more get a break? Don't tell me it's because they really believe in trickle down economics or that the wealthy are job creators. Those are fictions which have been disproved time and again. (For the record, when companies make more money [including via tax cuts], they don't hire more workers - they pay bigger investor dividends. They only hire if they need more employees. If the vast majority of American workers can't afford to buy products, it will only keep shrinking the economy. And the wealthy don't really create more jobs - at least not high paying ones. Maybe they'll hire another maid or gardener, but paying lower taxes isn't really going to encourage them to spread the wealth around. And they don't necessarily buy more stuff just because they saved a a few thousand dollars in taxes.)

6) This wealth imbalance can't continue. Historically, this is when societies either fall or reform. Can we please reform?

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