Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thanks 53ers - Now I Finally Know Who I Am

First we had the tea party, and in 2010 they changed the electoral map nationwide from blue to red in a dramatic "take back" of the People's House - the U.S. House of Representatives.

Most observers speculated they were a flash in the pan that would quickly fade and have no staying power.

However, taking a page from the tea party, a more recent populist response has arisen, labeling themselves as "the 99." They claim they are the "rest of the country" not represented by the privileged class in America who comprise the top 1 percent. Their claims are legitimate. Corporate greed has never been more obvious than it has been the last few years. Workers unite!! Overthrow the system!! Down with capitalism!! At least one observer thinks it's coming right out of the Communist Party play book.

Contrasted with the peaceful demonstrations of the tea party (no, they are not racist, bigoted, rowdy or fanatics), they have been seeking a more representative voice in Washington, and they made huge strides toward that goal in 2010. Many would be surprised to learn the goals of the 99ers and the tea party are not that divergent when it comes to change we can really believe in, as opposed to the change Obama gave us. Political change within the system without anarchy is what everyone is aiming for. Overthrowing the government by violent means isn't really the aim of anyone, or is it?

The 99'ers, aligned with something called "Occupy Wall Street," have filled up public squares all over the United States with their vitriol. Camped out for days at a time they have left behind garbage and filth, and I'm not referring to their language or their antics. The iconic symbol of this development is a picture of a protester defecating on a police car in New York. Nice image.

They claim this country has treated them unfairly. They collect their welfare checks, their unemployment benefits, their Medicare and Medicaid, and they are railing against the fat cats because they aren't. They aren't likely to become such with their protests, unless the goal (which it could be argued is the goal) is to simply destroy the capitalism they detest, which would give them the jobs they claim they want. But what they really would prefer is living on the government checks they receive. The government in their view is the benevolent dictator for which they seek. Level the playing field, equalize the income, redistribute the wealth, reach for the Utopian society capitalism denies them.

It's complicated, I know, but try to keep up.

If the socialist government we have created in this country does not collect enough taxes, it is free to borrow from foreign nations to sustain the socialist giveaways. Try asking them sometime where all the money comes from that funds the government, then wait for their response. Their simplistic view is that we need to tax the rich, redistribute the wealth of the fat cats and presto, problem solved! They rarely mention the debt this government has racked up, nor do they believe government spending must be curtailed. If you really believe in the socialist agenda, you'll have to look somewhere else for direction; you certainly won't find it here.

Now comes something called "the 53-percent." These folks are pushing back against the 99 with their own stories. They pay taxes, these 53 percent, because they are working and trying to stay ahead of the economic tsunami that has overtaken the world's financial markets. Many lost jobs, certainly their medical benefits, their retirement investments, and some on the cusp of old age now find themselves wondering what all their hard work of a lifetime has gotten them. I met a neighbor the other day in his 70s working the drive-up window at Arby's, but he refuses to give up or retire.

Here's the one thing they won't do - they refuse to blame anyone for their plight.

Somebody's got to pay for this according to the 99ers!! Followers of the 53-percenters' site created on Tumblr have been posting photos of their faces next to pieces of paper detailing the workaday sob stories that are their lives. But who are they blaming for their difficulties? Not the fat cat capitalists, nor the communist progressive liberals who are driving this country into the ditch.

The 53-percenters might be pushed to blaming themselves for electing career politicians, but that's generally as far as they will go in playing the blame game with others. They say we did it to ourselves. They're right in the middle of the American electorate where I reside. And in most cases they would be right. It's the folks in the middle who tend to be more independent.

Here's one guy's story who caught my eye today:

"I don't blame Wall Street because it doesn't matter what Wall Street or anyone else does. I am responsible for my own destiny because of me and me ALONE."

Here's another one:

"I don't have health insurance, but I don't blame Wall Street. Stop whining, suck it up, and God bless the U.S.A."

The 53-percent Tumblr is run by Mike Wilson, the same guy who made "Michael Moore Hates America," and his friends.

I don't need to sign up my story on the 53-percent. I wrote my views recently to the Bank of America in my "hardship letter" as part of a request for a modification of my mortgage (almost a three-year odyssey now):

"I love the game of golf. I love it because no matter what external influences come to bear on you during a round, there is only you, the ball, your club selection and the hole up ahead. You alone are responsible and accountable for the outcome in a round of golf. Only you take the swings that produce either a good or a bad shot. You can kick the ball to improve your lie, you can shave strokes off your scorecard, and you can brag about your exploits after the round is over as you describe it to others, but in the end only you know the truth about the round. You can't blame the weather, the wind, your playing partner, or even the condition of the greens. Once you learn the truth that no one's a very good golfer, you can accept responsibility and take it all in stride.

"I signed a mortgage agreement years ago with a mortgage broker and the loan was sold to Countrywide. Then Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America. In a transaction to which I was not a party that mortgage was securitized along the way. But none of that changes the fact that someone in the capitalist system in America eleven years ago provided me with money to buy my home. I made a promise I would pay it back with interest. Certainly since then the financial winds have blown at gale force, the economic rain has fallen in torrents and I lost my means of providing financially for my wife and family. All my savings were consumed and my assets sold to stay alive.

"I reinvented myself to compensate. Three years later I am still alive, in good health and I can still work hard every day.

"I know as the servicer for my loan Bank of American cannot even produce the original note I signed because it long ago disappeared into a securitization pool where it was pledged in the collateral pool to investors who bought it, and I later confirmed the note is now owned by Fannie Mae. There is nothing I can do about any of that.

"All I know is I still owe someone the money I borrowed, and I am doing everything I can to repay it. The arrearage that has amounted to a negative amortization of my loan based upon my partial payments of the full amount will have to be addressed. Even that's not totally my fault, since Bank of America's inaction and broken promises have contributed to it. However, I've done everything you've asked me to do as a borrower in distress.

"In the end I am fully responsible and accountable. No politician did this to me. No bank did this to me. No amount of adverse external conditions swirling over my head in the last three years alters in one iota the fact that I made a promise to pay it all back. And I will. With or without Bank of America's offer of a modification. If I can't get there before I die, a life insurance policy will pay it off."

So after all that, here's what I know about myself: I never saw myself as a member of the tea party. There was something about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann that just never clicked with me. I'm sure as heck not a 99'er, so I must be a 53-percenter. The margin of victory in a presidential election is most often narrow. Thirteen months out, no one knows which way the thing will turn out. Half the country will be ecstatic, the other half dismayed.

A related thought to conclude: If the death of Steve Jobs teaches us anything it is that in failure we may someday succeed despite all the odds against us. He didn't just put a "ding" in the universe, he kicked the door down. He was likely a fat cat in the upper 1% by any measurement of financial success. How funny to see one of the protesters the other day in New York answering her iPhone while condemning capitalism's profits. Can you say disconnect?

Now you can correctly label me. #IAmThe53. Here's another version.

1 comment:

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