The 53%: We are NOT Occupy Wall Street

@CNNMoney October 30, 2011: 7:54 AM ET
occupy wall street

Frank Decker has a message for those at Occupy Wall Street.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Occupy Wall Street protesters might say they represent 99% of the nation, but there's a growing number of Americans who are making it clear they are not part of the dissident crowd.

They call themselves the 53%...as in the 53% of Americans who pay federal income taxes. And they are making their voices heard on Tumblr blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages devoted to stories of personal responsibility and work ethic.

The number originates in the estimate that roughly 47% of Americans don't pay federal income tax, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The 53 percenters stress the fact that they are paying the taxes that support the government assistance the protesters say they want.

Kevin Eder was among the first to galvanize those who wanted to differentiate themselves from the thousands of people rallying across the nation to raise awareness of the growing economic gap between the rich and everyone else.

In early October, Eder created the Twitter hashtag #iamthe53, which has since been posted in hundreds of tweets as the backlash to Occupy Wall Street mounts.

"I would never identify myself with those occupying Wall Street," said Eder, 26, a business analyst in Washington D.C. "The frustration was born out of people claiming to speak for me who don't."

Meet the Occupy Wall Street protesters

Many of those tweeting share the belief that the protesters need to stop complaining about the government and financial institutions and start looking for work. Ken Gardner, an attorney in Dallas, joined the conversation because he opposes government handouts.

"We don't want to be the 53% who carries the 47% on our shoulders," said Gardner, who thinks more people should pay federal income taxes.

Eder's hashtag helped inspire Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the conservative website RedState.com and a CNN contributor, to set up a Tumblr blog called "We are the 53%." It mimics Occupy Wall Street "We are the 99 percent" site.

The 53% site gives a voice to those who reject the contention that most Americans are victims of the system, said Josh Trevino, "quasi-official spokesman" for the blog.

"What the 99% is missing is the element of personal responsibility," said Trevino, who is also vice president at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. "The 53% want to bring that into the conversation."

More than a thousand people have sent in entries to the 53% site, which generally features their photo next to a piece of paper that outlines their views, as well as their struggles and work histories.

"I am responsible for my own destiny," writes one 34-year-old father of three. "I will succeed or fail because of me and me alone."

"I took jobs I didn't want. Why don't you?" says one poster to the protesters. "Suck it up and become part of the 53%."

As Frank Decker read through the posts, he felt he could relate. A public school teacher in Vancouver, Wash., Decker and his wife lived below the poverty line until they decided to go back to school to become educators. He sent in a post because he wanted to share his story.

"We didn't go through all that struggle while raising three kids to support people who don't feel they need to work or people who feel they are entitled to something they haven't earned," said Decker, 44.

At this point, neither Keder nor Trevino plan to shift their 53% efforts from the online world to the physical one. But they are both surprised at how popular the backlash has become.

"It's lasted far longer than we thought and it's become much bigger than we thought," Trevino said. "It's not over yet." To top of page

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