We are the Tumblrs

October 21, 2011

If you haven't been following the conversation around Occupy Wall Street, it's perhaps best summarized in terms of the Tumblrs. First there were the 99 percent, who have been demonstrating in New York and elsewhere for weeks.

Then there was the backlash from the so-called 53 percent. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson inaugurated this Tumblr with the claim that the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes are "subsidizing [protesters] so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain."

Of course, the other 47 percent aren't dodging income tax liability; they simply don't have any after the deductions and exemptions and credits written into the tax code. Think that should change? Okay, but call that idea what it is: a tax hike on lower-income people. It's also fairly odd to use this 53/47 stat to attack Occupy Wall Street, since a lot more people would owe federal income tax if Wall Street hadn't done such a number on the economy (and thus on their incomes). Erickson's argument boils down to "Get a job. How hard can it be?" Well, pretty hard.

Most egregiously, 53 percent of Americans pay federal income tax. Everyone fortunate enough to have a job pays payroll taxes, and everyone who can afford to buy things (and doesn't live in Delaware or New Hampshire or parts of Oregon, Montana or Alaska) pays sales tax--both of which, unlike federal income tax, hit poor people hardest.

But the most fascinating of the many problems with the self-proclaimed 53 percent is this: not all of them are actually part of this group. They may work hard; they may not expect more help from the government; they may be annoyed by Occupy Wall Street. But based on the stories they tell, a lot of them can't possibly owe any income tax.

So the next Tumblr to emerge was inevitable: "Actually, You're the 47%." It's rather snide at times, but it makes its point.

Last but not least: "I am the 2 percent." A good reminder that the only thing the Internet is better at than organizing people is being cute.