The PJ Tatler

An Open Letter to the Self-Proclaimed '99%'

Self-delusion is no way to go through life, but it’s clear from perusing the “We Are the 99 Percent” web site that self-delusion has become an epidemic. Anyone who believes that they represent 99% of Americans, without any supporting evidence, doesn’t. Deluding yourself that you do leaves you unprepared for opposition and rejection.

The 99 percent site reminds me of the “Sorry Everybody” site, on which liberals posted photographs of themselves apologizing to the world for the re-election of George W. Bush. Perhaps many of the 99 percenters still haven’t quite come to grips with that defeat. Regardless, common themes emerge from the photos posted there — excessive academic credentials that are mostly unrelated to producing anything in the real economy, high personal self-regard, massive personal debt, and shattered dreams.

For those whom those terms above describe, and it’s a heavy majority of the 99 percenters, it’s evident that they hold to a certain political world view in which abstract credentials entitle you to a comfortable life, and that the fact that you dream something entitles you to have it. In the real world, neither has ever been true. The world doesn’t care about your credentials. It doesn’t care about your self-esteem. It doesn’t care that you chose of your own free will to rack up a mountain of debt. It doesn’t now owe you a painless way out of that debt. And it really doesn’t care about your dreams.

That’s not an indictment of the times in which we live. In fact, if you take the sweep of human history into account, these times are obviously the most accommodating of our personal aspirations, by far. The Hobbesian world of short, brutish, and nasty lives still exists all over the world, but mostly far outside the America that has so disillusioned the 99 percenters. America is not a dark Dickensian place where wishes can’t come true, it’s a free land where anyone can succeed if they have enough determination, some useful skills, and a little luck. And of the three, luck is probably the least relevant. This was true at our nation’s founding, and despite the efforts of some, remains true today.

The self-proclaimed 99 percenters say they want jobs, and they cast blame hither and yon for why they don’t have them. Some seem to have replaced faith in God with faith in the state, faith which the state has never earned and will not live up to. But I’m not here to blame the unemployed among the 99 percenters. It’s a tough economy out there, the toughest in a very long time, and once you lose your job for whatever reason, it can be very tough to get another one. Anyone who has ever been unemployed, and most of us have been at one point or another, knows the terror of waking up each day without the dignity of work and the expectation of future gains. You feel the anxiety in your gut and in your chest. I don’t wish that feeling on anyone.

It’s good and right that the 99 percenters want jobs. It’s worth pointing out that it’s not necessarily the Wall Street bankers who are making things so tough to get jobs. The voters, presumably many among the 99 percenters included, elected someone who promised to “fundamentally transform” America. In order to transform anything at a fundamental level, much must be torn down first. And when the mighty tear anything down, the average person is often the one who ends up getting broken. That is how things have always been, and no weepy Internet photo gallery will change that. No political system will change that. If anything, capitalism makes such destruction less harmful to the average person.

The regulatory environment has private enterprise, the engine of the American economy, too skittish to consider hiring. That’s not my opinion, it’s the opinion of business leaders ranging from Donald Trump to BET Chairman Robert Johnson. When the government, for whatever reason, makes the business climate uncertain, businesses react negatively, hold back on hiring, and jobs become scarce. “Fundamental transformation” has its price, and many of the 99 percent page are paying it. Put another way, if you try to “bring down the system,” don’t be shocked if the system comes down on your own head.

So the 99 percenters need to do a few things, in my opinion. First, they need to put aside the notion that the world owes them a job. It doesn’t, and never did. They need to assess what makes them worth hiring, and then act accordingly. If you don’t have any marketable skills, get some. They need to put aside the delusion that they represent 99 percent of their fellow Americans. They don’t and never will. They need to come to grips with the fact that their unrealistic view of the world is not only getting in their way, it’s a big part of what has made our economy as weak as it is.

Will they 99 percenters heed any of this? Eh, at most maybe one percent will. It’s best to keep our expectations realistic.