Friday, October 14, 2011

The Great Divide

Chasm[Subtitled “Cognitive Dissonance Revisited]

I see that another Tumblr blog has cropped up in response to the We Are the 99 Percent site. Created by conservative blogger Erick Erickson, it’s about the 53% who claim to pay the taxes for the 47% who they claim don’t pay any taxes at all. I will not link to it. If you want to find it, have at it.

First of all, we need to put this ridiculous lie to rest. It is a vicious falsehood being promoted by the right in order to portray lower income people as lazy freeloaders. This is nothing new. Those of us of a certain age (ahem) will remember Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” story. Although there will always be people who try to game the system, this was an urban legend based on nothing resembling the truth. So the right is still at it, and some people are still falling for it. The people who pay little to no income tax are still paying taxes: payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes. To paint them as lazy bums contributing nothing to society or to our country is simply wrong. WRONG. If someone says this in my presence, they’re apt to get an earful, because I have had it up to here (motion towards my neck) with this nonsense.

If people don’t pay federal income tax, it’s because they have enough deductions under the federal tax structure to erase any further payments. These include deductions for the elderly and for children. If it’s not because of deductions, it’s because they simply don’t make enough to have to pay federal income tax once they take the standard deductions. Here is the best article I’ve read about the 47 percent.

So now that we’ve put that silliness to bed, what about the 53 percent and their website? Let’s look at a few. (This is where the cognitive dissonance part comes in.)
53 percenter
This person went to public school, then went on to get scholarships and loans for college. They served in the Army, taught college, and went on to law school and opened their own firm. That’s great! Good for you! And you DO realize, don’t you, that taxes paid to the government financed your public school, your loans, and the Army you served in? I’m sure the college where you taught also received money from the government for scholarships and research. I’m guessing at this, but I bet your law firm got plenty of deductions and tax breaks from the government. It sounds like you really made something of yourself and worked hard to get there...but you had plenty of assistance from the federal government.
53 percenter2
This person had a mortgage and a “pile of student loans.” A federal tax code deduction and loans provided by the federal government. Again, it sounds like they worked hard to get to the point they’re at. With government help.

53 percenter3
This is my favorite. This person goes to a public, in-state university. Federal funds. They got scholarships. Federal funds. They got a good education in high school, quite possibly (although not stated) at a public school. It sounds like they have the right idea about not living beyond their means, but much of the good fortune they’ve had has been because of the federal government.

There are other stories on that site about people’s parents being firefighters (government workers), nurses (working in a place that gets government funds via Medicare), or about people working their way out of welfare. That’s great, it really is. Here’s my question:

If it was okay for you to be on welfare or receive government aid when you needed help, why would you deny it to others?

There is a huge difference in philosophy here, and I really don’t know if it can ever be bridged. They completely misunderstand what the Occupy movement is about, and ignore their own interests in favor of those who are reaping huge profits and providing multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs...but no matter how many tax breaks they get, they are not creating jobs. Wall Street deregulation, speculation, and unbridled greed led to our economy going into free fall, and they got away with it. They got away with it.

There are tales on the site of people working three jobs, 80+ hours, having to pay hundreds of dollars for health insurance, losing their homes, losing they not realize that it could and should be better for them, and for all Americans? Who has fostered this slave-like mentality that makes them think that they have to work themselves to death in order to fill the pockets of corporate CEOs? Is that their version of the American dream?

There is nothing wrong with hard work. I think most people (including the Occupiers) are willing to work hard. But when Wall Street screws the economy and people are laid off as a result, the jobs simply are not there. I know plenty of people who have tried their damnedest to find a job (including military personnel) and have sent out thousands of resumes, and the jobs simply are not there. Assailing the protestors as lazy, spoiled, whining, idiotic bums is just mind-boggling to me.

I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome or what, but they’ve sure fallen for it hook, party line, and sinker.


  1. Beth, We need your voice. Keep on this. I'm at Occupy Raleigh on Saturday (10/15)

  2. it scares me that people are so ignorant of the things that taxes pay for. i think that if you make more then you should pay more taxes. i'm just gonna go there and say it.

    from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    why is that such a bad idea?


  3. I am with Alaina... this kind of ignorance is startling... it shows how simple and selfish some people are... quick to blame others instead of realizing their own incompetence... they don't think of themselves as receiving government aid when they have to fill out papers given to the by a gov't agency...

    Good for you Beth... if there is an Occupy Omaha (somehow, I doubt there will be... not Omaha's fault, just the way it is here) I will go..!

  4. Some of your examples sound very much like what Elizabeth warren said in the viral video (and I am not saying your thoughts are not original, not at all).

    Just goes to show that great minds DO think alike!

  5. Absolutely brilliant! I didn't think that you could make me feel awestruck after all this time; after all, I've grown accustomed to your astute and always on target observations. But this should be viral, it needs to be read by millions. I'm not just saying this because I consider you to be a great friend.

    You zoom in on what we've all missed up until now. This crazed system based on maintaining economic inequities survives because so many people have brought into it as valid. hey define themselves by how difficult a road they've had to hoe and they truly believe that everyone should have similar travails in order to meet with some success and if you fail? Well then it's your own fault and you need to try harder.

    Of course this totally discounts that climbing to the mountain top requires at minimum that you have the appropriate footwear and some appropriate climbing tools. You're also in competition withe those who were born at the top of the mountain and the ones who have already taken the best tools.

  6. Awesome essay, Beth!!! You have observed many things that these people for some reason just don't see in themselves. They're okay with taking advantage of their citizen-given rights to benefit themselves... heck, the government is supposed to help its citizens... That is its mandate after all, BUT they object to it if others attempt to do the same. If this does not describe hypocrisy, I don't know what does.

    You cut through the chase, but even so, I doubt these people would see themselves... dumbasses!!!

  7. I just find it sad that these American companies don't hire Americans anymore and then call those that complain, 'lazy'.

    I think 'pissed' is a better term.

  8. Excellent post, Beth!

    I, too, have done some speculating about Stockholm Syndrome and other theories that might underlie corporatist support from working class Americans. You do a stupendous job here of exploding the "I Am The Captain of My Ship" myth in this country. I'll be sharing on FB.

    I'll be at Occupy Myrtle Beach today and Occupy DC next week.

  9. I posted that last picture on my blog yesterday- I had the same reaction as you, though perhaps not as eloquently stated!!
    How people can think that someone who isn't working 38.5 hours a week and paying 40% in income tax is not contributing to society boggles my mind! It's like they think that the person who cuts their hair, carries their order to the table, or mows the grass at their McMansion isn't deserving of quality healthcare because they don't make enough money to have to pay taxes- that elitest, "I deserve it but you don't" attitude is really just mental enslavement! "You were put on Earth to serve my needs, but don't you DARE think that YOU need the same things as me!" ARRRRRRGH! Now you've got me all riled up! Love you!

  10. I wish the Elizabeth Warren video would have been more viral, perhaps a second round...

  11. Those people are corporate pawns who believe the lies they've been told.


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