Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You're Not Rich. You're Not Special. You're Not the 1% (And OWS is fighting for you!)

I am amazed at the hostility to OWS by people who were not even directly affected by it (say by having to fight the crowds to walk to work in the morning).  What do you think these people are protesting?  I suppose you don't know, because the media are telling you the message is garbled and  unfocused sounding.  No, these were not all lazy unemployed hippies, socialists, students, or terrorists.  They were Americans, just like you, who understand that things have become so rigged in this country that only a handful of citizens are benefitting.  We have returned to the Gilded Age - the age of the Robber Baron - and if you are fuzzy about history, the Gilded Age ended with the Great Depression. 

How is it that so many Americans have been convinced to vote against their own interests?  Why are we so convinced that reasonable regulations, ones that have been in place for decades and still allowed people to become very rich, are somehow tantamount to Soviet Russia?  Why are we so convinced that every tax dollar we pay is somehow going into the hands of the undeserving?  Why do we think that the very people who are going out of their way to eliminate their work forces in the US "job creators"? 

It's because the government tells us it's so.  It is because the media tell us so.  The government has been bought by the biggest corporations in the country.  The media have been bought by the biggest corporations in this country.  We have only a handful of companies controlling our message and they're not serving the people anymore.  The Fourth Estate is gone.

This is the Great Myth of The American Taxpayer.  The middle class, the hardest workers, the most deserving people, are being over taxed.  Every tax dollar they pay is going straight into the hands of lazy people who don't want to work.   It's going into the hands of illegal immigrants.  It's going to fund immoral programs.  Taxes are an evil entity that do nothing but reward laziness.

I won't argue that the middle class is overtaxed, but I will argue that it's not because it's there to hand out money to the undeserving.  The middle class (and upper middle class and lower upper class) are being over taxed in order to make sure the most powerful people in the country never have to pay a dime.  The middle class isn't just supporting the poor.  They're supporting the infrastructure, the military, the local services, and the schools.  They're supporting all of the services that every one of us is likely to use or need at some point in our lives.  They're supporting many of the same services that the upper classes will need and use, but won't pay for.

"But I work hard for my money," you whine.  Many Americans work hard for their money.  We have this belief in this country that if you work hard, you are automatically rewarded.  It's the whole Protestant Work Ethic myth.  God rewards hard work, so if you are rich, you are blessed and holy.  Yet there are people who are working hard - really hard - probably harder than any corporate fat cat - at multiple jobs - and still need social services.  What is wrong with this picture?

So you work hard and don't think you should be taxed too heavily, but you think that burden shouldn't go to the wealthiest.  After all, you're wealthy, right?  You are successful.  You have your McMansion and your fancy suburban assault vehicle.  You take nice vacations and dine out often.  You have made it.  You worked hard and you deserve it and no one is going to make you pay a penny more than you should.  To say that the rich need to pay their taxes means that you will have what you deserve taken away from you.

I'm here to say, no it doesn't.

Are you a succesful skilled trained professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, or tradesman?  You're not the 1%

Do you own a successful small business like a well-known retail store (but not a retail chain giant), an ad agency, an independent real estate agency, an investment advisory firm, a contracting business?  You're not the 1%

Are you a successful member of middle management or a top sales person or broker at a Fortune 500 company?  You're still not the 1%

Are you a bankable Hollywood movie actor or star athlete?  Believe it or not, you're not the 1% - even if you are an elitist liberal.

If you are or were a member of the military, you are definitely not the 1%.

Unless you are sitting on the board of directors of a major investment bank, an agribusiness, a defense contractor, a pharmaceutical company,an energy company, or a similar huge corporation, you are most likely not the 1%.

You see, "being rich" isn't the same as being so wealthy that you can buy off the government and the media and be excused from any sort of responsibility of citizenship.  If you're not quite that wealthy, then you should be just as angry as the protestors out on the occupations, because those at the very top are just as repsonsible for the mess the country is in as the lowliest among us.  Why do you want to put the blame and the burden on the shoulders of the Americans who can least afford to bear it?  Why not put it where it rightly belongs?  Put a chunk of it on the backs of those who grow fat off the benefits of living in the US, but won't pay into the system that supports them, or pay the workers who make their business so successful. 

Once upon a time we had reasonable regulations and a more equitable tax structure and you know what happened?  People who deserved to be wealthy still became wealthy.  There has never been equitable income distribution for the sake of equitable income distribution in this country and there never will be.  We did have regulations and taxes at the top though. That doesn't mean that prosperity is impossible under a tax system that removes some of the burdens on the people at the bottom.  Since World War II, plenty of Americans have become very wealthy and stayed that way.  That being said, none of us in the 99%  really knows what a job loss or an accident or an illness or a lawsuit could do to us until it happens to us.  Any one of us has earned benefits and we are all entitled to them. 

I know that what I say won't make a lick of difference in how people feel.  Even my more liberal friends have been sucked into believing that the protests are pointless and bothersome.  I'm glad there are citizens out there who are fighting for all of us.  I hope one day everyone will realize that they truly are fighting for all of us.

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