None of You Are the 'Any Percent'

In a season of already depressingly moribund talking points, the nascent 2012 presidential campaign has contracted an infectious case of percentage affliction. The most touted media case is the "We Are the 99%" meme being spouted by the Occupy Wall Street protesters and their sister uprisings around the globe. (This, of course, seeks to pit the majority of beleaguered commoners against the perceived 1% at the top of the economic food chain.) But they are hardly the only ones.

Another conservative effort seeks to beat the drum of “We Are the 53%.” This misanthropic effort allows for a clear distinction between barely more than one half of the public and another massive segment who not only get to vote, but might have otherwise sympathized with you. I even have a friend in the Garden State who foisted the idea that some of us may be the 64%.

No matter whether you fancy yourself to swing from the starboard or port side of the political ship, each of these viral themes suffers from fatal flaws, in both practical and political terms. Since we prefer to demonstrate that we can take it as well as dish it out, let us start with the right-wing propaganda.

When it comes to the 47% of people who pay no federal income tax at the end of each year, it’s difficult to think of a worse target to select. I’m not sure what Erick Erickson was thinking when he cooked this up, but a significant majority of these folks are either students, the infirm, or -- to a vast degree -- seniors on fixed incomes. If there is a worse demographic soup to pour political poison into, I’m at a loss to name it. This ignores the fact that these same voters enjoy these benefits largely because of initiatives primarily sponsored by the GOP to begin with. Further, pretty much all of those people pay other taxes at various levels. Nobody is getting off for free. The less said about this the better.

As to the liberal 99% argument, it’s difficult to even select a starting point to begin destroying this meme. By any sort of “We Are the World” measure, the rest of the planet would laugh at the majority of Wall Street protesters. If you have the free time required to go camp out for weeks on end near Wall Street… if you have clothes on your back sufficient to protect you from the elements… if you had two meals of more than 400 calories each in the last 48 hours of your protest… well, you’re probably in the top ten percent of the population of the planet in terms of actual wealth.

It’s also clear that you, as a protester, have very little understanding of precisely what it is you are railing against. (Or, more correctly, what is causing the injustice you perceive.) You live in a society founded on the essential principle that the government turns everyone loose to gather as much wealth as they are able. Do you now express surprise that some people actually went out and did just that?