There’s some good in the Tea Party, but as far as I can see no good in the 53% movement at all. The Tea Partiers — some of them, some of the time — talk as if the Wall Street banksters were at least part of the enemy, and some of them at least pay lip service to opposing corporatism. Despite the movement having been so heavily coopted and bought out by Dick Armey and Rick Scott, there’s still some genuine populist outrage at the plutocracy — some “there” there.
The 53%’s defining feature, on the other hand, is its explicit indemnification of the plutocracts of any blame for average Americans’ current economic pain: “I don’t blame Wall Street.” The whole theme of the movement is that people who complain about corporate power and concentrated wealth are just a bunch of whiners — the word “whining” is right there in their sidebar. It’s positively painful to watch 53 percenters embarrass themselves with their lickspittle sycophancy toward the super-rich. What do they expect? A doggie biscuit?
Take, for instance, a letter to the editor in Sunday’s newspaper. It describes Occupy Wall Street as a “sweeping movement … protesting against those that have earned but won’t give to those who haven’t.” Other recurring talking points that appeared in the letter were “something for nothing,” “entitlement mindset,” and “nothing is free but comes through hard work.” Finally, the author announces himself as “the 53 percent. The ones who actually pay taxes.”
Where do we start?
What Occupy Wall Street protests is the fact that so much wealth has been concentrated in the hands of those who haven’t earned it. The income of the CEOs and banksters who ran the economy into the ground has exploded by several hundred percent, while the wealth of those who’ve done the “hard work” has remained stagnant for forty years. The “entitlement mindset” of the one percent, of the one-tenth of one percent, comes through loud and clear every time you see one of their shills on the CNBC business shows or read the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The author of that letter may consider himself a defender of “rugged individualism” and “free enterprise,” but in fact corporate capitalism is about as far as you can get — short of Stalin or Pol Pot — from genuine free enterprise.
Never mind, for the moment, prior stuff like the Enclosures, the slave trade, and all the other assorted atrocities on which historic capitalism — as opposed to a free market — was founded. For the past 150 years, we’ve had a corporate economy defined by the marriage of big business to big government. And the main function of big government in that system has been to protect the 1% from the market, and guarantee they keep right on getting something for nothing.
At least the writer didn’t use the “take a bath” witticism so common to his ilk. Every time I see someone drag out that one, I think of a quote from C.S. Lewis: “The greatest evil … is conceived and ordered … in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”
And let me tell you something about the 47% who allegedly don’t pay taxes, Mr. 53%. If you’ve worked for wages or a salary any time since the ’80s, you paid a greatly increased Social Security payroll tax — the most regressive tax there is — whose only real effect was to conceal the nominal deficit and offset tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
As politicians today are the first to tell you, all that SS surplus that went into the “trust fund” over the past twenty-odd years is represented by nothing but U.S. government bonds that can only be repaid by raising additional revenue somewhere. It’s a stack of IOUs. So, they’ll gleefully tell you, the only realistic response is to raise the retirement age and write off all that extra payroll tax we paid as bad debt.
So what happened, essentially, was a shift of the tax burden from millionaires and onto the backs of people paying payroll taxes. And it happened to a heckuva lot more than 53% of the population.
So write that on your little sheet of notebook paper and post it at “We Are The 53%,” you pathetic useful fool. Maybe your master will give you a pat on the head.
C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, andThe Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.