Ok, so by definition I knew I was in the 99% economically. That’s pretty obvious. But, I didn’t necessarily identify with the recent Occupy Wall Street movements which have spread out across the country. Yes, I was aware there WERE Occupations and I knew there was one that started up this weekend in San Diego. Heck, I even gave directions to two young demonstrators on Saturday afternoon while I was downtown with my mom’s group for a lovely reunion weekend. But – since I was on a bit of a local vacation – I wasn’t really paying close attention. I knew they were trying desperately to GET media attention. I knew that with their own determination and staying power that cameras were finally being shined on them. I knew that folks on the left and right were sort of scoffing at them for not really being FOR anything. For just seeming to be gathering because they could, with no real plan or purpose. But then a certain theme started to come out about being in the “99%”. In other words, NOT being in the top 1% of the wealthy who control so much of our economy. The feeling being that those top 1% have all the power. They control Wall Street (obviously), they control the Government through lobbying and contributions, and they are not the ones who truly suffer and pay when they screw up. Those bank CEO’s who caused the financial collapse? Either all still working, or, stepped down but with ridiculously huge payouts. No one went to jail for all of that fraud and corruption. When the government has tried to step in and do anything OTHER than completely bailing them out – they resist and support politicians who advocate rolling regulations BACK – not adding more or even (heaven forbid) actually enforcing the existing ones.
Anyhow – in all that – while I got it as far as what they were doing, it hadn’t grabbed me. I couldn’t identify with it entirely. On a basic level I got it. But, in my mind, if you were not pushing for people to register to vote and TO vote then I didn’t quite get the point.
Then, this week, I started to see some push back against the “We are the 99%” mantra. The one I saw the most was this one:
This one went all around Facebook with the “Heck yeah! Go Personal Responsibility!” cheer bubbling up around it. Oh, the condescension. Oh, the self righteousness. Oh, the complete and utter lack of empathy.
There was another one from a former soldier working multiple jobs and 60-70 hours a week with a similar sentiment of personal responsibility and being disdainful of anyone relying on assistance and making bad decisions. He calls himself the 53% guy (from the notion that 53% of people actually end up paying income taxes)
Is there truth there? Sure. At it’s root there is. I absorbed what one friend said about ignoring the condescension and apparent cold hearted tones and just focusing on the words.
And they are still enormously flawed, short sighted and absolutely NOT how I would want to be.
I am a HUGE supporter of Personal Responsibility. I parent my kids mostly trying to use the Logical Consequences method of discipline. I believe all individuals, corporations/businesses and government officials should practice Personal Responsibility.
I happen to think that it is ONLY us, the individuals, who are being held to that standard.
I also happen to KNOW, from my own life, that having a bootstrap is beneficial to all. This blog post gives the perfect of example of how a government support system providing that temporary bootstrap paid off long term:
I know that I certainly appreciated the bootstrap that was the WIC program when my first son was born and I was barely making minimum wage at my job.
And beyond that I kept thinking “wait, we are supposed to work multiple jobs and 70-80 hours a week with no vacations to JUST SCRAPE BY?” Are you nuts? Those types of hard core workers were supposed to be the ones who became CEO’s and started making the big money. They are supposed to have medical insurance and crazy huge retirement funds. What happened to the American Dream? Why is it completely OK for most of us to just be happy to have a job? Why is it OK that our wages have essentially been frozen? Why is it OK that those stagnant wages are having to be stretched further and further as the prices of basic necessities sky rocket?
Why is it OK to just yell at a protester “Get a damn job!” when I think just about everyone on the planet knows that jobs are scarce? Because I know that every single individual who I know who has lost their job in the last 2 years would damn well LOVE to have a job. Or two. Or three. Really. They would LOVE IT.
And what about people like this woman:
Seems like she has worked hard and done all the “right” things. After all, there is a real human being performing the duties of the necessary jobs that don’t pay enough no matter how hard you work to get you up into that 1%. People who still love what they do, do it with a smile and, I would guess in this woman’s case, probably served as a surrogate therapist while you sat in her chair getting your hair done. Why is it OK that she couldn’t afford medical insurance? Why is it OK in this country whether we are economically up or down, for so many people to go bankrupt and lose their homes and assets in order to pay medical bills when the unexpected happens? Why is healthcare – the REAL preservation of life – NOT a basic human RIGHT? Why is the right to live, not really a right but something reserved only for those who can afford it?
Yeah, as you can see, the reactions AGAINST the 99% has kind of got me on a bit of a rant and roll. I am always incensed when I see those “Get a damn job!” and “Get off your ass and work!” and “My taxpayer dollars shouldn’t help a lazy ass like you!” comments. Charming.
But I must say that I am feeling rather inspired by the push back that the 99% is giving to the nay sayers. I often feel like my own rantings about Personal Responsibility applying to everyone and wishing that I lived in a country that truly CARED about each other vs being so judgmental and dismissive are dust in the wind.
Not right now though. Now, there are people out there, Occupying places. Getting the message out about being the 99% and what that really MEANS. Saying the things I’ve been saying as push back against Republicans for the past 10 years. So yes, here I am. I have a good job. A pretty secure one. With great benefits. Decent pay. I own my car out right. I own a house with a mortgage that is probably a bit more than I should have, but I no longer have a cut rate loan and the house isn’t under water in value. I’ve got a small retirement fund started. I’m LUCKY. But….I have very little savings. I’ve never been able to start a college fund for the boys. I had to walk away from some large credit card balances and I am learning to live on cash alone as I slowly pay those off. My plan is to be debt free by the time I am 50 but every time something happens with my kids, or my car, or my house…well…there you go. LUCKILY nothing major has happened. So far, I’ve got this precarious situation under my control. Have I made some poor decisions in the adult portion of my 46 years? Sure. Should those decisions have set me back? Probably. But how far, and for how long? For instance, if I didn’t have to pay so much out of pocket for medical insurance for me and the boys would I have a college fund? Little things. Some you can control, some you cannot. But they have all served to put me where I am today.
Right smack in the middle of the 99%.