Over the past several weeks, hundreds of Americans have submitted personal tales of economic hardship on the "Occupy Wall Street"-affiliated Tumblr "We are the 99 percent." Now, conservatives who oppose the Wall Street protests have an answer to it in the form of their own Tumblr, entitled "We are the 53%."
According to the Washington Post, the blog was conceptualized by Redstate.org founder Erick Erickson, who collaborated on it with the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Josh Trevino and conservative filmmaker Mike Wilson.
The Tumblr claims to represent the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes - the implication being that those associated with "Occupy Wall Street" are not also part of that 53 percent and do not pay federal income taxes. The "We are the 99 percent" refers to those not among the one percent of richest Americans.
According to the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center, 46 percent of Americans will not pay federal income taxes for 2011. About half of those people, their report says, are exempt because their incomes are too low. The other half tend to be exempt due to provisions benefiting senior citizens and low-income working families with children.
The group points out, however, that "many of those who don't pay income tax do pay other taxes--federal payroll and excise taxes as well as state and local income, sales, and property taxes."
Unlike "We are the 99 percent," which has 76 pages worth of posts and counting, the conservative iteration of the blog only has 5 pages worth of posts logged so far.
In the first post, which mimics the style of the "99 percent" blog, Erickson holds up a sign with a hand-written message, telling the "whiners" protesting Wall Street to "suck it up."
"I work 3 jobs. I have a house I can't sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don't blame Wall Street. Suck it up you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain," the sign says. Below the image, a caption confirms that "@ewerickson Declares he's one of the 53."
A post later that day, which is not accompanied by a photo or personal anecdote, reads: "We, the 53% of income-earners who pay taxes, hereby refuse to bitch about it. We're happy to make a living. Just because we could whine about stuff doesn't mean we will. That is all."
While the notes on "We are the 99 percent" are often somber, "We are the 53%" appears to embrace a sharper tone: Captions accompanying photos often provide commentary - including "Suck it up." and "Brittney worked 3 Jobs to make it, because that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. Nice job, Brittney."
A message announcing the "official hashtag" (#iamthe53) invokes a similar tone: "So, like, when you're, like, community organizing for solidarity and stuff, it's totally cool to have this little hashtaggy thingy when you're on twitter, so other people, like, totally know what you're talking about and stuff. So if you're, like, totally gonna spread the word about being one of the 53% of people who actually, like, pay taxes in America and don't just, like, hang out protesting stuff all day... like, here's the hashtaggy thingy. See you at the protest!"
Washington Post blogger Suzy Khimm, who first reported on the background of "We are the 53 percent" on Ezra Klein's left-leaning blog on the site, points out an irony in conservatives espousing such strong support for federal taxes.
She writes: "The '53 percent' Tumblr also implies that there's a certain mantle of responsibility that paying taxes confers upon people -- i.e. grown-up, self-directed Americans like us can earn enough money to pay taxes, so you should, too. That's an unusual message coming from conservatives who've pushed so mightily for an anti-tax agenda."