Back in the day, a prospective bar pick-up line would have been “What’s your sign?” That meant, of course, under which sign of the Zodiac were you born? Virgos were deemed to be more compatible with Leos, while Pisces didn’t like Sagitarians or some variations on that theme.
Today, the same situation might open with “What’s your number?” That is, are you a “47 percenter, a 99 percenter, a 53 percenter or a 1 percenter?”
With any luck, the person you’re trying to get close to would be a “1 percenter,” but what are the chances — at best 99 to 1? But barring that unlikely circumstance, where would the average person rank in the numbers game?
At first, I’d have to rule out the 1 percent as, of course, would the other members of the 99 percent. After that, for myself, I’d say yes to all the remaining classifications. I am in the 47 percent group by virtue of currently receiving Medicare benefits and a small amount of Social Security. In truth, I am sucking down at the public trough something awful and unwilling to take responsibility for myself, some have suggested.
On the other hand, I am also one of the praiseworthy 53 percent who, in fact, do pay not only federal, but also state income tax, not to mention sales tax, property tax, etc. ad nauseum. I also pay gas tax along with tobacco and alcohol tax from time to time. But none of those are peculiar to the 53ers. Everybody pays those or some reasonable facsimile thereof. Other 47 percenters pay the same tax for a gallon of gas as I do. And the other 99 percenters, and maybe even the 1 percenters pay the same, but I doubt it. They buy their gas at sea by the tanker-load and thus avoid all domestic taxes, I’m pretty sure.
So I’m a 99, a 53 and a 47. Quite a number of people I know are in a similar demographic, give or take swapping some features of the 47 with features of the 53. I know some 53s who to my knowledge are not 47s — yet. I know a few people who are straight 47s whose only income is Social Security but not enough to owe income taxes. I don’t know anyone in the 1 percent. I should say, if anyone I know is a 1 percenter, it is news to me.
If anyone in my small circle gets food stamps or cash benefits, it’s also news to me. I have nieces and nephews who used to get survivors benefits for a few years because their mothers died. My mom, at 93, gets some portion of my father’s pension and Social Security as a widow and Medicare of course, but she pays a lot of taxes on family investment income that her father made a hundred years ago. It’s been good for her the past few years, but it’s pretty much all agriculture-based and could evaporate tomorrow. So she’s kind of like me — a 99 a 53 and a 47.
Some of my family members who are 47s actually wouldn’t give Obama a drink of water if they found him perishing in the wild vastness of the Sahara Desert. Some others will vote for him again this year and are darn proud of it. They’re all 99s with a high percentage of 53s thrown into the mix. I’m pretty sure my 1-year-old grandson Thomas has no income tax liability. I guess he’s a 47, but I’m not sure if his cohort is actually counted in that category.
My 47 percent side was insulted by Gov. Romney’s position. My 53 percent side was glad to be in the 53 percent. My 99 percent side is offended by a tax structure created by the haves to benefit the haves and hopefully not do too much actual damage to the have-nots along the way.
But when the haves start flogging the have-nots indiscriminately for their lack of contribution everyone should be 100 percenters against such hubris.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.