All over in American politics and in our socio-economic discourse is a discussion of groups and percentages and numbers and divisions. And on top of it, every side seems only intent on making a stand and pushing their statement on everyone, regardless of whose side people may be on.
The Occupy [your location here] movement has people in New York, Oakland, and even here in Minneapolis, where, within a tight set of rules, they’ve been allowed to stay on the Hennepin County Government Center’s grounds. Their message has grown since the first occupation took place in that park in the Wall Street district of New York City. No longer is it just about protesting banks control of wealth and credit and their role in the foreclosure mess, but now it’s expanded to include tax policy, executive compensation, and other perceived social injustices. Like them or not, they’ve got one thing right–people are suffering, far more people than should be suffering in a country that supposedly is the land of plenty.
They represent themselves as the 99%, or the 99% of people in this country who are not the 1% wealthiest Americans. And the problem there is that the government itself has reported that those wealthiest 1% of our countrymen hold or control over 50% of the money in the country. And right now, in the midst of all of the economic woes the country is facing, the people with the money are targets simply because they could afford to pay more in taxes that could go toward helping those who couldn’t afford it. The arguments are clear: they wouldn’t notice an additional 0.7% or even 1% in taxes, because, after all, if you’re making $1 million per year, are you really going to have a problem if you’re missing $10,000? To someone making $20,000, that $10,000 is obviously huge. But you’ve got conservatives who argue that those people create jobs and taxing them would take away their incentives to hire. But they aren’t hiring now without increased taxes.
You’ve got the portion of that 1% who feels they should be paying more in taxes because they can actually afford it. And then you’ve got the 53% of people in this country who actually do pay taxes, as opposed to the 47% who because of their income level and deductions, pay nothing at the end of the year. Some in the 53% is angry at the 47% because they feel they’re supporting those who don’t pay.
You’ve got liberals who, along with the President, want to push their social agenda, but because they can’t pass anything in congress on their own, have to tour the country and make campaign-style speeches urging people to support the plans. And then the conservatives counter with their own agendas and have even said they won’t pass anything Obama proposes because they want to ensure he’s a single-term president.
So everyone’s been cubby-holed, whether you want to be or not. I’m a liberal, 53-percenter who’s part of the 99% but likes to think that if I were part of the 1%, I’d help pay an extra 0.7% to help the other 99% which includes the 47% who don’t pay taxes.
But I’m so much more.
Sure, I think there are injustices going on in the world right now. There’s no easy way out of our financial crisis mostly because no one will actually take the first step because that first step will be the one that hurts the most: more taxes, cutting spending across the board, hiring workers without a promise of increased revenue, not going on spending sprees because you don’t have a job…We all bear some responsibility, but we’re all waiting for someone else to blink. What good does that do?
What good does blocking a downtown street do besides pissing off drivers trying to get home? What good does not supporting any bill the President puts forward simply because you don’t want to see him get re-elected? What good does having an extra $10,000 per year do if you’re already making $1 million? What good does it do to try to claim entitlement if you either pay taxes, or end the year owing nothing?
It’s been coming for close to twelve years now, this fractionalization, where everyone points the finger at someone different from themselves and says they’re the problem. I face that argument every single day in my own house with my kids, and it solves nothing. The only way things move forward is when I get them to stop being angry and blaming each other.
I think there’s a metaphor there…Oh yeah, we need to stop being 53% or 99% or liberal or conservative. We need to become people with a common vision or goal. The country isn’t some hopeful ideal of imagery, it’s the people who live in it and benefit from it. Right now, I think too many are not benefitting.
See you tomorrow.
See you tomorrow.