Column: Occupying the 53 percent

This past fall, the world welcomed a brand new movement to beautiful Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. They called themselves Occupy Wall Street and their platform was, well, sort of established. At the start of the movement, emotions ran high and their message was anti-corporatism. Many Americans could sign on to that belief.

Just as some Americans think the redistribution of wealth through entitlement programs to individuals can be overdone or is immoral in the first place, many Americans believe that it’s wrong to move money the other direction through programs such as stimulus packages, TARP and subsidies. However, the anti-corporatism message didn’t last long.

Before they knew it, the protesters had been co-opted by a group which propagated the meme “99 percenters” or “We, the ones who are in the bottom 99 percent.” This changed the tone drastically. Occupy Wall Street went from “This isn’t capitalism” to “We hate capitalism” during the course of just a few weeks.

The idea that government’s role is to take from those who have earned great wealth and redistribute it for “fairness” has not resonated with the American public, nor should it. America was founded on the premise that its citizens would be able to keep what they earned, as each citizen worked first to feed their family and then is free to contribute to the economy as he or she sees fit. This system spurred the greatest innovation and growth that the world has ever seen. It also created great charitable foundations from Carnegie’s libraries in thousands of United States towns to Bill Gates’ health- and education-focused efforts.

In response to the 99 percenters, a new movement formed. Although the group received less media attention, it picked up quite a bit of steam on Twitter and across the web. Members of the new movement refer to themselves as the 53 percenters, representing the 53 percent of Americans that pay federal income tax. One reason the new movement may not receive as much media attention is they don’t protest. Even if they did protest, it would not last very long because, after all, they have to return to work the following day.

As our nation moves forward, we stand at a tipping point. Now that only 53 percent of U.S. citizens are paying federal income tax, we are nearing the day when the taxed population becomes a minority of the voting population. This would result in the welfare state scenario occurring in Europe right now.

America has a choice. As Americans, we can decide to continue to reward work and effort, or we can yield to the ideals of “social fairness” as defined by the left, which tell us to transfer wealth based on need. The problem with this type of social engineering is that it denies incentive and entrepreneurialism as the foundation of a thriving society. It replaces equality of opportunity with equality of outcome.

The western world is hanging on the fringe of another economic collapse, thanks to countries like Italy and Greece, who are simply unable to change their policies due to a population that is too dependent on the government, whether that be for socialized medicine, payments not to work or “emotional support.”

As college students, we most likely will end up in the 53 percent of Americans paying income tax. Of course, that assumes that we’re not getting a Ph.D. in Tribal Drumming. I implore you to consider carefully whether you want to view our nation as 99 percent unfair or 53 percent strong, full of innovators, entrepreneurs and laborers. Our state, nation and the world depend on it.

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