Dear “53 Percenters”

I am 47 years old.  I put myself through college after serving as an army sergeant in Korea during the Cold War. I went on to earn a pilot’s license, professional certifications and a master’s degree. I’m a qualified freefall parachutist, SCUBA diver and maker of birdhouses…

My family’s company employed two dozen Americans (including me) before it tanked in 2000.

By 2003, I was back in the army and deployed to Iraq, where one commander called me “the hardest working man on FOB Sykes.” My service-connected disability rating is 80 percent.

I work four 1099 gigs – none of which offer health benefits, vacations or unemployment insurance. I pay my own overhead. I buy my own software. I fix my own truck. I pay my own taxes – yes, there are still taxes, despite you idiots who believe that every American family should pave their own streets, home-school their kids (don’t spare that rod!) and staff their own fire department.

My wife also holds a master’s degree.  She’s worked contracts with zero benefits for two and a half years since being laid off twice.

We pay the mortgage on two homes in two states. If the market ever recovers, it sure would be nice to sell the rental. In the meantime, we strive to keep our renters happy.

We work off our synagogue dues by cooking meals at the temple.

We pay our taxes every year, and I’m pretty sure we’re as proud to be Americans as you are. Go ahead and tell me to “suck it up, you whiner.” I dare you.

We’re the 53 percent, too. For you innumerate shills busily making apology for the heirs of privilege, let’s just make this real clear: that makes us a subset of the 99 percent.

Just. Like. You.

There are a tiny minority of people who hold a vested interest in balkanizing working Americans against each other. I’m not one of them, and neither are you. When you post self-righteous signs about how Occupy Wall Street is nothing but a band of drum-thumping hippies in need of soap, you’re performing an unpaid internship in public relations for billionaires who produce nothing but debt.


Your debt. Your kids’ debt. That’s the product of an entitlement society, alright. If you want to know who the “entitled” are, follow the money. It flows toward the people who can afford media and lobbyists and bribery to ensure it keeps flowing in that direction.

If you muster the balls and heart and luck and skill to claw your way into the one percent, good on you. Frankly, the chances are against you. Work hard enough, and maybe you’ll get a shot at middle class livelihood before that chance evaporates. In the meantime, don’t assume you know something the Occupy Wall Street people have overlooked.

Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Between 2007 and 2009, average home equity for average Americans fell 35 percent, unemployment skyrocketed 102 percent — and Wall Street profits increased by 720 percent.

Those are the self-important billionaires puling about the unfairness of being taxed a bit more. Those are the people who have you convinced that if they can just keep all the money, business will improve across the board.

But bankers aren’t loaning the money they get practically free from the Fed. Bailed out investors aren’t kickstarting jobs in America. They’re sitting on the dough that you, the American taxpayer, loaned them.

Can ya see where the “Occupy” folks might’ve gotten a little titchy?

If you want to tell someone to “suck it up, you whiners,” maybe you should start with the folks who are crying about a raise on the top marginal tax rate of 3.5 percent. Yeah… three and a half percent more taxes on income above $250,000 a year, in an economy where the top one percent of families receive an average of $27 million per household — every year. Yet they’re all red-faced and sweaty about paying 39.5 percent income tax on the money they receive (“earn” is an imprecise term for investors) above a quarter of a million dollars.

That’s still less than half what their wealthy forebears paid under Pres. Eisenhower during the greatest economic expansion any country has ever seen. Soft-handed crybabies and unctuous liars, the lot of them, and you fauxty-three percenters serve them like drunken sluts at a frat party. Maybe you believe they’ll respect you if you work that thang hard enough. I have my doubts…

They’ve enjoyed unprecedented bailouts and historically low tax rates — literally every last thing that conservatives have demanded — but there’s no trickling down going on here. Two trillion dollars are locked up in the financial stratosphere by worried investors concerned that they may fall a few pegs down the Forbes 400 list. The upper one percent couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the middle class, and if you get a drink or two in them they’ll let you know that.

Millionaires don’t need your energetic defense, and billionaires are as bulletproof as market manipulation can make them. They’re doing just fine without a zombie army of sanctimonious dupes and web trolls, so don’t join up.

There’s plenty of honor in being a hard worker. There’s considerably less in being a tool.

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  1. AZ_Squeegee says

    Very well put.

  2. While I enthusiastically agree with you the truth is you can not talk sense to people that have none. It does not mean you should not keep doing what you do – they will.

  3. Wow. Someone finally sat down and wrote a compelling argument for me to support the movement. I identify with your situation and I thank you for sharing it with all of us. Now, I am rethinking my position. While I may not agree with the chants and slogans, I can agree with your points and identify with your anger. I am 56, a degreed Computer Scientist with 30 years experience and I haven’t found decent work for 5 years. Same with my wife (she is older). We run into age discrimination all the time. I am mad as hell and perhaps I can get behind all of you. Just lose the 60’s crap that I and my friends employed as teens in the Bay Area (I graduated High School in ’72 and have my draft card). Thanks.

  4. Not the enemy says

    Ok, not everyone who makes above $250k a year was “given” the money, and I’m sick of being vilified for being moderately successful.

    First, consider the math. “Wealthy” is defined as more than $200k for an individual, but more than $250k for a couple. Umm, what? How does that math work? Two people who each make $130K should together pay more in taxes than one person who makes $199k? Sure, that’s fair.

    I live in DC. My husband and I together make more than $250k, though neither of us comes close to the $200k mark on our own. We are not remotely wealthy, considering the cost of living here. We live in a tiny townhouse that cost me three times what I sold a single family home in another state for, and that I can’t sell even if I wanted to because the real estate market tanked for me, too.

    And I work my butt off, thanks very much. I average about 65 hours a week, between my “real” job and my job with the Reserves. I commute about 90 minutes each way on a daily basis. My husband works similar hours, though he has a somewhat better commute.

    I have been laid off twice.

    We give to charitable causes, and are increasing the amounts. We help support our aging parents, though not yet as much as we’ll probably need to in the future.

    Am I suggesting that we’re poor or soliciting sympathy? Of course not. We’re blessed and I’m grateful. But do I think I should pay an additional 3.9 percent in taxes? No, I don’t. At least, not until the government demonstrates that it’s going to manage the money responsibly.

    And the idea that all the OWS people are crusaders for a noble cause is ridiculous.

    Are there people with a point, issues that need to be addressed, laws that need to be changed, and corporations that need to be held accountable? Absolutely, and THEM I support wholeheartedly. But they’re not the only ones out there — some of the folks showing up on camera DO sound like entitlement minded, whiny kids.

    I’m not the least apologetic about not feeling sorry for the recent college grad who is driving a car made in the last five years and updating his Facebook page from the latest generation iPad to complain about how unfair our economic system is and how s/he shouldn’t “have to work” for minimum wage. THOSE people do exist, too, and at least some of us who worked our way through college — at a school we could afford given our combination of scholarships, financial aid, and what we could earn in the summers, not necessarily the most prestigious school — graduated to find jobs that didn’t pay much above the ones we had before getting that degree in the first place, and yet lived within our means until we got a little better off get a bit tired of listening to them.

    I already pay a ton in taxes. I’m happy to do my part. I’d even be willing to discuss doing a little more than my part. But it would be great if we could quit with the narrative that I’m some parasitic drain on society at the same time you’re asking me to shoulder that additional responsibility.

  5. Hey, “Not the enemy”: I don’t think you’re the problem. I think you *can* be part of the solution. You got shafted same as the rest of us, and I wouldn’t ask you to throw good money after bad as long as the current broken system is in place. Besides, you’re not even within artillery distance of the folks who *are* the problem. Deuce and a half is pocket change to them.

    I think the best way for you to do your part will actually have you ahead in the long run: Find yourself a credit union, and move everything you can there, especially your credit cards, if you’ve still got’em. Encourage your friends to do likewise. The sooner We the People can defund the bastards who got you into your upside down situation, the sooner we can have a real say at the ballot box and get back on our feet. And you’ll pay less in stupid fees, earn more interest, and have a say in what your financial institution does. And hopefully soon you’ll be able to refi and get right side up, and be able to tell the bastards to stick it completely.

    Oh, and a little bit of math: The 3.9% surtax? is on what you make *above $250k*. If you make $270k, you’re hit for that last $20k, and that makes your additional tax (does math)… $65/month. I’m not gonna make any comments about that amount, I’m just gonna let it speak for itself.

  6. Not The Enemy, of course you are not the enemy. No one said you were. You are also not the problem. No one is vilifying you, for being successful or anything else.

    The people the OWS movement are lashing out at are the ones for whom no amount is never enough, who collect obscene paychecks while the rest of us see our standard of living go down, who would roll over their own grandmothers in their Bentleys if it would add a dollar to the bottom line, who perpetuate a system that profits off of the misery and death of others, who buy senators and congressmen like they were Faberge eggs.

    That doesn’t sound like you. It sounds like you’re part of the 99%. So are the hippies, the tea partiers, the homeless, the students, your neighbors and friends and local cops and the woman at the checkout counter and probably just about everybody you know. You’re in good company.

  7. Jax, thanks for your service. We’ve eaten some of the same dirt. I lost my business while I was deployed, I’ve weathered hurricanes and oil spills, I earned my degree in engineering after doing my active duty time as enlisted and earning hard stripes on jump status before going to “the darkside” in the Reserves.

    Respectfully, I disagree with many of your points. Part if it is due to my service…I joined up in 1983 and have spent time in the Eastern Bloc as well as other interesting places. When a bunch of people I didn’t elect start saying they speak for me (via the “99%” claim), I get really twitchy. When I try to engage and am shut down, it makes me more twitchy. When this group claims to repesent 99% of the population and its pretty apparent they do not….the brand name 99% comes off as a “True Citizen” or “Real Patriot” or some other “if you’re not with us, you’re scum” brand name, as opposed to a regular group like Whig, Dem, Green, Repub, etc. Process means a lot.

    The 99% group demands many things. The tricky thing is no matter how many times its repeated by how many people within the group, if you ask them specifics its “we have no leader, no group, no demands.” Again…you claim to speak for me, as I’m not a 1% of anything in terms of money, but you won’t stand for anything specific.

    To use one example … universal college education. That is on the Wiki page as something that has polled to be a demand/want for over 60%, so let’s use that. Free college for all, and forgive all loans. Who pays for it? Is this a program where there is a free program available to all, maybe through Phoenix, or is this a demand that ALL colleges are free? What about the billions of dollars owed in student loans to the gov’t…who pays for that? Why college..why not trade school? We need master plumbers and certified welders more than we need lit majors. We NEVER have enough engineering majors … do we put a sliding scale on “free” to make the fields the nation needs free and surcharge the ones that are in surplus? Do we charge non-citizens?

    I know they claim they are not in the “detail phase”. However, they want me to join them and support them…essentially sight unseen. I don’t do that for ANY major party. In fact, I rather despise the Dems and GOP. That does not mean that “anything would be better than what we have”. I’ve been too many places to know there are worse things. Show me something better.

    What do I want? I want more accountability and transparency in the government. I want more transparency and accountability in finance. In this, I can agree with the 99%…and Tea Party…and those in the Dems and GOP who have wanted this. Hell, I agreed with (then) Senator Obama, who promised to NOT have congress vote on bills without time to review AND to post major bills online for public review…a task one could give to a secretary or intern, completely within his personal power to execute. It hasn’t happened.

    However,simply because a new group promises nebulous wonderment and manages to include my hot button issue is hardly cause to be overjoyed. In fact, its cause to pause. I don’t want “we posted the bills online, trust us” to become the new “we got the trains to run on time, trust us.”

    The country is roughly evenly split between the right and left. I dont’ see this in the group. There are wa wide range of interests in our nation at the “regular folk” level. I don’t see this range in this group. They want all bankers jailed (a frequent statement, if a bit hyperbolic)…but if the bankers did nothing illegal, where is the rule of law? What are the CRIMES committed? Yes, go after the bastards that broke the law…please please please. But just because someone managed a series of retirement funds and managed to do better than the inflation rate may have had her hand on millions, even billions of dollars…but that money belongs to thousands of working people and retirees and it does NOT mean the manager did something wrong, legally or morally. Blanket accusations, scapegoating, and making a certain type of person (regardless of their actual conduct) into a demonized group…I’ve seen that before, too.

    If the 99% group was serious about not liking the 1%, they would have something to say about the millionaire singers, actors, and atheletes…people paid well above anything resembling “upper middle class” and often didn’t even spend decades climbing organizational ranks or seeking advance degrees. What about Jobs (pre-death), Gates, Soros, and other members of teh 1% who control great amounts of wealth–why are they not lumped in. Why is that 1% ok…or is it really something else. Ethics are about WHAT is right, not WHO is right, so if the issue is how much money you have there are a bunch of names missing from the “to be OCCUPIED list”.

    If this group truly represented 99% of the population, all of these changes could be done rapidly. They are not “99%”, and their claims to speak for others has uncomfortable precedents. Their demands have uncomfortable precedents. Most of all…they are going after private firms and individuals who are NOT duty bound to the public and are ignoring the congress critters who write the dang laws in the first place. THEY need to be held accountable, THEY are the best avenue forward. If one says “they are corrupt, they won’t do it”….why in the world would the corrupting forces give a crap about pressure? There is serious logic flaws here.

    What this is working as is a smokescreen. It gives cover to the politicians who are the ones actually legally and morally responsible. They should not be left off the hook, but that is what this organization is doing. They do not speak for me because their demands would hit me, not the rich. The do not speak for me because they do not embrace ALL Americans nor try to. I know what poverty is. I know what a police state is. Their accusations don’t hold up.

    If you wish to back them, I can respect that. It is a compelling emotional appeal. However, emotional appeal is not enough for me, particularly as presented with a mix of facts, lies, fantasies, promises, and …well, a bunch of stuff like a politician. No better. No worse. Except they are the new corporate version of a politian as its not a “real person”, just a group that weasels and prevaricates so it can’t be held accountable yet claims to have the moral imperative to act on your behalf. It may be a brave new world in politics, but its still some pigs are more equal than others, and others are just bacon. Things can ALWAYS get worse. So far, the 99% Party (TM)(R) actions and words indicate they can’t make it better, and are certainly capable of making it much, much worse. If they want support, they need to earn it by at least presented something resembling actionable items. If they do, great. I’m willing to reconsider. Until then, if they keep this course…I’ve seen this show before, and its not a lot of fun except for a few.

  8. Omir … I disagree. The OWS group is against “CORPORATIONS.” Not specific ones. Not only the ones in some states, or multinationals. In their writings and speeches, its “corporations,” just as its “bankers” and “the rich.” “Corporations” includes the small and medium businesses. “Bankers” includes the people who are doing things right. It includes the 1% controlling the wealth like Gates, who apparently is OK with the OWS group (and should be…he is rich but is leveraging his money and power these days for charity). To listen to THEIR words, and read THEIR writings on THEIR websites…and then have another person say “oh, what they really means is THESE people, you’re not one of them”….no. Not buying that. I listen to what OWS says, and if they say it, I should respect it enough to take it as presented. As they present it, between their attacks on “corporations” and “financial institutions” (the people who have our 401Ks, checking accounts, etc. and are mostly doing things ethically as well as legally) and their unqualified demands for free college, free housing, free everything as a “human right”…well, its their words. Not yours. Not mine. So please be respectful and let their words stand on their own. Otherwise it seems people treat them that they are so stupid, or so childish, they can’t find a way to say what they “really mean”.

  9. codeamazon says

    Hi Bart,

    I know the media is focusing on simple messages (sound bites work!)but as a small-business owner it’s definitely not what I’m hearing from folks on the ground (physically, twitter feed and web pages.)

    There are a LOT of small business owners directly involved, and a lot of support for businesses, including some large ones. Nobody but a few anarchists thinks the end of corporate business is a worthy goal.

    The problem with looking at a movement from the outside is you only get the stratified view. Tea party? Bunch of racist ignoramuses, right? Except that I have a couple of friends…

    Likewise I only hear about how the Occupy movement resents wealth from those outside the movement. Though I’m sure there are some inside who feel that way, they’re enough of a minority I haven’t bumped into them yet. But I hear a LOT about it from people who are afraid that’s what the movement stands for.

    And when people say “No, you (only) make 300k a year, you’re really not who we’re talking about”, folks accuse hypocrisy, as you did. What does that leave as an option to clarify the message?

    Here’s my effort:

    When those numbers move into the millions annually AND people scream that small marginal tax hikes are class warfare WHILE profiting from bailouts and tax shelters THEN people get pissed.

  10. I am with not the enemy. As someone that has owned a small business and seen first hand the stifling nature of tax laws I say enough is enough. As for the guy mentioning letting an extra $65 a month in taxes “speak for itself” why don’t you work some “extra hours for yourself.” This is not a noble movement by any means and a vast majority have their hands out for something they never earned. It is as bad as the 99’ers holding down a couch while all of the retail stores are hiring for the season. Real change will happen when people can take care of their own lives and deal with their own circumstances instead of blaming the rich. It is much harder to look in the mirror. Believing in this administration to “fix” Wall Street while ignoring the campaign money is comparatively easy.

  11. @ not the enemy – I think you may want to include a little more information… like if you and your husband together make $300,000 and you have average deductions ($51,000 in 2008) you are not paying the extra tax you can probably quit worrying

    @Pocket Nem esis – “have their hands out for something they never earned” sounds kind of like the banking industry, or anyone who invests in the stock market.

  12. Willie SUTTON said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Willie Horton is–uhm–someone else . . . .
    But while we’re on the topic, wasn’t it Brecht who asked which was the greater crime–to rob a bank or to own one?

  13. D’OH! Thanks, Margaret. C- for spelling AND social studies.

    Yes, I remember Pres. G.H.W. Bush’s “poster child,” apparently well enough that his name flows trippingly off the typing fingers. I’m gonna go ahead and fix that one, dishonest though it may be. I’m less concerned about looking like a bonehead than leaving misinformation enshrined in the interwebz.

    Thanks for the catch.



  14. My mouth hinged open while reading this. WELL DONE.

  15. I am disabled. I get no soc sec disability. I drag myself to work. I work in excess of 60 hours per week. I ask for no govt handouts all I want is a fair system.

    I no longer want to pay high taxes to subsidize the lazy.

    I read books and want a full audit at the federal reserve IF we are going to have to pay for this national debt. Its only fair that the taxpayers see what is going on.

    To me Ron Paul has the best ideas of all politicians. I see how MSM is keeping him out of the press. the public does not seem to notice 🙁

    when govt cannot meet its payroll or send out social service checks is when more people will open their eyes.

  16. Can someone give me a reference for the skyrocketing bank profits I keep hearing about. This article says that Wall Street profits are up 720%. As an investor I would love to invest in a bank or financial with record profits but all I can find is banks like BofA that lost $1.65 a share last year (pretty sure that not the best earnings they have ever had) and Goldman Sacs who’s earning are half what they were in 2007.

  17. Ken Brandt says

    Suck it up, you whiner! Talk about “self righteous”. Look at you. Talking about your college degrees and your hard work. Your military career and all the great things people say about you. Well, I have an MBA. I am a war vet. My wife also has a Masters. The only difference between you and me is I believe in myself and you believe in government.

    If a millionaire makes another million, I say “good”. You a like a five year old child saying, “that’s not fair”. I want more millionaires. I want to me a millionaire. And, I don’t care if millionaires pay no tax at all. I wish noone had to pay taxes. Until 1913, there was no income tax. Who cares if millionaires hold 99% of all wealth. How does that effect you. Are you under the idiotic notion, there is a limited amount of money in the world and if they have 99%, there is nothing else to do. All inventions are made, all resources are taken, and there is no way YOU can make it.

    Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many others grew the economy because they had an idea and ran with it. It didn’t matter that the Rockefellers, Clintons, and JP Morgan already had most of the wealth. They created more. So, stop whining and create your own wealth. Stop trying to TAKE someone elses.

    • That’s hardly the only difference between you and me, Ken. Another is that I can — and do — back up my assertions.

      So how about you go ahead and post the website for the company you run… you know, that fantastic profit machine that provides all your employees with health care, lay-off proof jobs, a liveable wage, and makes millions for you.

      Cards on the table, friend, or fold your hand and bugger off.

  18. June Samuels says

    I agree with you Ken, its easy to hate millionaires, but no homeless guy ever gave anyone a job. These guys (OWS) want a socialist society that looks like Europe. I say No thanks. In socialism it really doesn’t matter how hard you work, your earnings are to be taken and distributed to folks who cant or wont work. I see capitalism as a good thing, like with anything it has its faults, but no where else in the world do you have the opportunity to succeed like you have here in America. Problem is liberals have convinced a lot of people that the American dream is a farse and that sir saddens me greatly. America is STILL the shinning city on a hill and a place where hard work CAN make a difference. What needs to change is the entitlement mentality and get your hands out of my pocket and grab a broom.

  19. To rob a bank; poor people use a gun, rich people use a pen.
    Kids: it isn’t the making of money that is the evil. It’s the use of that money to marginalize and victimize those with less. Why haven’t any of the credit rating sycophants been charged with fraud? They nailed Madoff for building on BS yet not a one of the self-involved jerks that invented CDO’s or “derivatives” based on equally faulty assumptions has yet to take the walk.
    Yet some of you still seem to argue about the how the system is fair because you busted your asses to get a slightly bigger crumb than the folks living in the streets. Without realizing you are one bad diagnosis from joining them.
    At what point do you think a society might limit the power of a bank draft to dictate legislation intended to promote the needs of a few over the many? Wake the fuck up!

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