Am I the 99%?

I see the Occupy Wall Street protest.  I have vis­ited our own local Portland spin­off.  I have looked through We Are The 99 Percent.  I think I get it.

It’s not all dirty hip­pies look­ing for some­thing to protest, nor kids fresh out of col­lege with fancy degrees but no job prospects.  There are also real, middle-aged, middle-class peo­ple.  There are old folks being evicted.  Then there is that 1% of greedy bankers, indus­tri­al­ists, and politi­cians tak­ing big chunks of money.  Maybe they deserve the income, maybe they got it fair-and-square by bet­ting big on cer­tain stocks or by build­ing a small com­pany up to a multi­na­tional.  But they’re not enti­tled to weasel out of taxes, to increase gov­ern­ment spend­ing, and to leave the rest of us stuck with the bill.

Then I try to come to terms with my place in this big ecosys­tem.  I nei­ther feel like the 99%, nor do I feel like the 1%.

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I have had three decent comfortably-paying jobs over the past ten-plus years, with no real fran­tic job-searching between.  I do not know if I am lucky, smart, or resource­ful in that regard.  Or maybe I was lucky to get my degree in a tech­nol­ogy field?  I am not work­ing three part-time minimum-wage jobs.

I do not eat ramen out of neces­sity.  I occa­sion­ally eat it because it’s quick and cheap, and I am feel­ing busy or lazy.  I do not fill up on cheap gro­ceries at the WinCo.  I get com­mod­ity gro­ceries at the Fred Meyer and some­times more fancy stuff at Trader Joe’s or organic stuff at New Seasons or directly from farm­ers at one of the local farmer’s mar­kets. I don’t eat fancy food all the time, nor do I eat cheap food all the time.  The only lit­tle mouths to feed are cats—no kids, no cloth­ing or school sup­plies for kids.

I can­not afford extrav­a­gant lux­u­ries, but I was able to afford a 3D printer last year.  And I’m sav­ing up for the the next-generation print head for that printer and/or the new iPhone.  I may want these things now, but am enough of a real­ist to know I can­not have them now.  Like my par­ents taught me, I save my pen­nies until I can pay cash and don’t use credit for indul­gences.  If I can­not afford the lat­est fancy gad­get, I reeval­u­ate whether I need it and then buy it when I can.

I have a mort­gage.  It’s not super-cheap—certainly not as com­fort­ably cheap as just pay­ing rent somewhere—and eats up big chunks of pay­check, but the loan is not under­wa­ter nor in trou­ble.  There are enhance­ments I would like to make to the house but, like the gad­gets, I’m sav­ing up to do it in the future.

I pay my taxes.  I do not try to weasel out of them.  Being demo­c­ra­tic, I know (and cel­e­brate) that tax money is used for social­ist endeav­ors like med­i­cine and wel­fare.  It helps fund groups like NASA, the NSF, and DARPA, all of whose projects and tech­nol­ogy end up in the pub­lic sec­tor.  I respect­fully dis­agree with taxes being used for cer­tain wars mil­i­tary con­flicts, but that’s some­thing that is changed through elect­ing pres­i­dents and con­gress­peo­ple, not by chang­ing tax code.

I employ a finan­cial plan­ner to make sure I’m not eat­ing cheap cat food on the streets when I’m an old man.  (It’ll be all fancy gourmet cat food for me.)  This is one of the top rea­sons for not feel­ing part of the 99%.  How many other 99-percenters have finan­cial plan­ners?

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So where does that leave me?  In a pure black-and-white view, I feel like I’m on the knife-edge between 99 and 1.  In a more real­is­tic grayscale view, that 99 per­cent is a gra­di­ent from one end to the other.  Maybe I’m in the 98th per­centile?  Or maybe I am at 99.002 per­cent?  I feel like I have a future.  That future won’t be caviar and Dom Pérignon, but it won’t be liv­ing in poverty.  If and when things come to bal­lot, I’m vot­ing against the 1%.

Posted in: Dear Diary Questions

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

3 thoughts on “Am I the 99%?”

  1. My life is very much like yours now. I have a decent job that is the result of me being for­tu­nate enough to be able to go to col­lege.
    I’m not the 10+% who are unem­ployed or under­em­ployed. But I could be by the end of the year.
    I’m not the 15+% who have no health insur­ance. But I could be when the above hap­pens and COBRA runs out.
    I know that work­ing hard can make a per­son a mil­lion­aire or make a per­son just scrape by. I don’t have delu­sions that there’s much more than luck (usu­ally due to cir­cum­stances of birth) that influ­ences the out­come.
    I am for­tu­nate. I am priv­i­leged.

    but I am still the 99%.

    I have no say in my gov­ern­ment. I have no voice that can com­pete with cor­po­ra­tions. I have no way to pro­tect peo­ple I love from their attempts to get around envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. They are not bound by con­cern for peo­ple around them or by patri­o­tism or by gen­eros­ity. They are con­cerned only about max­i­miz­ing profit. And that doesn’t make a good cit­i­zen.

  2. You are the 99% because you’re not amass­ing wealth by extract­ing it from the right­ful own­ers (the work­ers who actu­ally do all the work for a com­pany and get noth­ing but cuts in pay/benefits) then tak­ing that money to pay huge sums of money to get a politi­cian to do your bid­ding and pass laws that make it even eas­ier to extract wealth from right­ful own­ers, or entire jobs and bun­dle them to be traded for other laws or ben­e­fits in another coun­try. People aren’t protest­ing because they got a crappy lot in life, they are protest­ing because there are peo­ple who are pur­pose­fully try­ing to do every­thing in their power to make sure they get a crappy lot in life.

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