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Forum Post: The phrase: We are the 99%

Posted 12 years ago on Oct. 19, 2011, 7:09 p.m. EST by NYCJames (113)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I'm sure many people will disagree with what I'm about to say, and I certainly mean no disrespect to whomever came up with the slogan, but I feel "We are the 99%" is a terrible slogan.

The unfortunate reality is that the phrase is highly susceptible to "oh noes they are socialists!!". Moreover, it doesn't endear people towards the cause. Now perhaps people don't care about that, but I've got to imagine if this movement is to be a success it should be open to accepting a large swathe of various groups. In the end many people are frustrated with the current system, and are looking for a venue.

I was at a bar the other night, and when OWS news came on people started booing, and jeering at the television (as odd as that was). If it is difficult for regular NYers to empathize how difficult must it be for those in say the midwest.

More importantly: how easy is it to paint the group as a fringe or socialists?

I would suggest that if the purpose is to fix the current establishment that the American people, of ALL walks of life, would far more empathize with something like: "Capitalism Not Corporatism" (something to that effect). Americans respect liberty, and equal opportunity. We should focus on how corporate subsidies inhibit competition. How behemoths like Wal-mart help China make money, and destroy small businesses. How Too Big to Fail bank bailouts hurt mid-size banks and credit unions.

That is a message most Americans would surely go for. At the very least more so than "We are the 99%" which is a message that tugs at their fears, not their pride and joy.

If you disagree I will respect your opinion. This is mine.



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[-] 3 points by gagablogger (207) 12 years ago

Democracy not Plutocracy!

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago


[-] 3 points by MattH (3) 12 years ago

I do have to disagree, NYCJames. You're right that the movement must be open and accepting a large swath, but it's hard to think of a more open definition than "99% of everybody".

More importantly, it seems to me that this isn't about (or not only about) economics. It's about a tiny group which has seized control of our politics and our public discourse as well as our economics. The economic ruin is is the symptom of that larger cause, and that's what "99%" gets at, as a message.

We aren't about redistributing the wealth, we're much more scary than that -- we want to redistribute the power to make those decisions.

At least that's what I want!

[-] 1 points by thebeastchasingitstail (1912) 12 years ago

Redistribute power, yes. Well said.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

MattH, I absolutely agree with your opinion, and I certainly understand the point of the "...99%" slogan, don't get me wrong. What I'm really trying to point out is perception, and how such a slogan (at least in my opinion) one, doesn't resonate with a lot of people, and two, if anything scares them.

I respect the slogan, because I get it, but not everyone always gets such things.

Perhaps a better way of making my point is that a more polished inclusive message would be one where we hit upon liberty and the equality of opportunity. This is what draws Americans. This message has helped virtually every Presidential candidate win. Obama talked about hope. Bush talked about the opportunity for home-ownership. Clinton talked about a better 4 years, etc. Americans are more empathetic to the message of "liberty and equality of opportunity". Many are scared off by "...99%" not cause its socialist, but it is easily painted that way.

I'm really talking more perception.

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 12 years ago

Its good to hear differing opinions and I'm glad you posted.
But I like the 99%.
You say for alot of people it "scares" them. What is scary about uniting with 99% of your fellow Americans?
I don't think the problem is fear or the slogan. The problem is peoples indifference. To the realities around them.
Many people don't want to know and don't want to think about it. They would rather live in their safe, tiny bubble, so long as they're doing ok, and not be bothered with the suffering and injustices around them. Because their doing fine. What they don't realize is, if things do not change, their bubble may be the next one to burst.

I think the question is , how best to reach people who have so far been indifferent?

[-] 1 points by CuttheBS (143) 12 years ago

Just think about this, what if Mitt Romney or Rick Perry's campaign slogan was "I represent the 99%". Some of you would probably be like oh hell no you don't. I think that's how a lot people react to this movement's 99% slogan. People don't like to be grouped into something that they didn't sign up for.

Also, what scares me is when a group marched to some of the executives homes, and how a few years ago people organized trips to Greenwich, CT to protest in front of AIG employee's homes. That scene just brings up images of a lynch mob, and it is truly scary.

The best way to reach people is to clearly define what you're here to do and what you stand for. IMHO.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

May people hear "we are the 99%" and equate it to socialism, class warfare, etc. At the very least, it gets easily spun that way by those who apologize for the status quo.

I don't think there is anything necessarily "wrong" about the slogan itself. I am simply pointing out perception should be considered. Even if the slogan wasn't changed, the message that it represents things like "liberty, equality of opportunity, competition, and Democracy" needs to be spread better to fight against the propaganda against OWS.

[-] 2 points by frankchurch1 (839) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

To be fair, it is about 80 percent. 20 percent are doing pretty good.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

My point isn't a matter of bickering over percentages. I'm simply pointing out that if one is to make this movement launch it is incumbent on OWS to (to use a lobbying term) use the right "messaging". Americans love the notion of liberty, and equal opportunity. Why not promote that message, which is certainly analogous with OWS, then promote one that (right or wrong) will tug at some Americans fears.

[-] 1 points by frankchurch1 (839) from Jersey City, NJ 12 years ago

It's the early stages. Civil rights went on for about two hundred years.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Frank, that's fair, but my point was let's not bicker over numbers, that's all. :)

[-] 2 points by thebeastchasingitstail (1912) 12 years ago

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out" is one that is already used.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Yes, I saw that one. I loved it. :)

[-] 2 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Except, my purpose is to enhance the OWS movement, not to derail or deride it. If that's your purpose that's your problem.

[-] 1 points by nordr (8) 12 years ago

The slogan is a description of the people within that movement. It's not a slogan so much as a subtitle. It doesn't need a PR consult. I thought that I was specifically protesting against the corporate takeover of the political process. :-/

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

NORDR, if it's the subtitle, and observers don't know the title, it is easily susceptible to misinterpretation.

[-] 1 points by riethc (1149) 12 years ago

Unless we make a good demand, and stick to it, the OWS be spun unmercifully in the news.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Then why not get behind: capitalism not corporatism.

In the end capitalism is for the people, is for the middle-class, is for small-businesses. Corporatism is for cronies and politicians.

[-] 1 points by riethc (1149) 12 years ago

I don't agree with the premise of Capitalism v. Socialism. When I hear people supporting either, fully and completely, I think they are ridiculous (ex. Ayn Rand and Karl Marx.) Successful societies are mixed economies with a vision of the future.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Exactly my point. It is easier to endear to people the notion of capitalism not corporatism, because its something people can get behind (anti-corporatism).

And as to your last point, most societies, virtually all, are mixed economies of one form or another.

[-] 2 points by riethc (1149) 12 years ago

"And as to your last point, most societies, virtually all, are mixed economies of one form or another."

Yes, very true. There was a bit of a fallacy in that statement you pointed out nicely. Thank you.

[-] 1 points by Kulafarmer (82) from Kula, HI 12 years ago

Well, and to me saying we are the 99% is a bit misleading because perhaps not all of the 99% agree with the OWS folks. Im just sayin, I know im not in the 1% so am part of the 99% but if the socialist propaganda on here is where they stand they can count me out and a whooooole bunch of my friends and neighbors too.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Yes, that's sort of my point. I think many people get scared off by such terminology when they would be a part of it if it was more inclusive.

[-] 1 points by lordnikon (2) 12 years ago

I think that if people are for socialist policies that they should pronounce that and not be scared of back lash. Communism sure works for China, and they're poised to pull ahead quietly in the world economy. I personally could do without the whole lot of political systems.

[-] 1 points by lordnikon (2) 12 years ago

I think that if people are for socialist policies that they should pronounce that and not be scared of back lash. Communism sure works for China, and they're poised to pull ahead quietly in the world economy. I personally could do without the whole lot of political systems.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

LORDNIKON, China is not communist. Sorry, that is a terrible example.

[-] 1 points by mimthefree (192) from Biggar, Scotland 12 years ago

and what is so wrong with socialism?

A list, please.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

MIM, without having a huge discussion on the concept of socialism, I'd point out I'm more specifically talking about the appearance of it by the American people, and how it affects OWS's growth.

[-] 1 points by Misguided (373) 12 years ago

The leftist in the movement won't go for it. They don't want to hear any pro freedom rhetoric.

[-] 2 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

For a movement to truly be impactful, and I believe OWS can be, it must be able to reach as many ears, hearts, and minds, as possible.

[-] 1 points by Misguided (373) 12 years ago

I agree but how much of your own principle are you willing to discard in order to be inclusive?

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

In my opinion, making a statement that the people are fed up with crony capitalism, with corporatism, and with politics being riddled with corruption is a very important principle. I am willing to subjugate some of my principles for the greater good. I guess we'd have to get into the details of what we are specifically talking about.

[-] 2 points by Misguided (373) 12 years ago

I agree and am fed up with the things you mentioned now doubt. I just get frustrated when the answers offered are just more of the same that got us into the mess we are in. I don't understand why anyone would argue against the answers that increase liberty as they fix the problems. But I guess that's me digressing. First things first and I suppose that is the common ground and speaking out against the problems you mentioned. Getting everyone on the same page with that is the first step I will agree. It does however concern me that the next step is solutions and the wrong solutions can cause much more damage than good causing us to be in a worse place.

[-] 2 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

I think people uniting itself is the first step towards a solution. Uniting people from various parts of the political spectrum together is difficult, but massively important. Solutions can't happen unless enough people work together to agree the status quo can't stand, and indifference equals status quo.

[-] 2 points by Misguided (373) 12 years ago

Again I agree. It is nice to see the apathy I have screamed about for years finally ending. I would like to see folks take a bit more time to educate themselves on the issues rather than taking ques from others.

[-] 1 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

I just resent that OWS claims to represent me/my interests. Financially, I am one of the 99%, but I don't need anyone to fight - or, rather, occupy a park - on my behalf. I agree with about 30% of what I read in this forum, but until OWS articulates a clear set of principles and demands, I can't get behind it, and I don't like that they seem to be claiming to speak for me.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 12 years ago

My number 1 goal is to achieve equal and fair representation in government. There are many people here that feel the same. 1% buys their representation, 99% are left with the scraps. Is it any wonder why our country is in a terrible mess. Money speaks too loudly in our political system. And it is drowning out the voices of the 99%. We need to get the money out of politics and end the corruption of our democracy.

[-] 1 points by Abc3602 (42) 12 years ago

They can't specifically call out people's names that agree or dont agree with the movement. Waste of time when they have REAL issues to protest. They are speaking generally when referring to the "99%"...

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

What would you like articulated, if you don't mind me asking?

[-] 2 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

It would be nice if they developed some sort of coherent statement of purpose - right now there seem to be a million and one different grievances. Which is totally understandable, but I feel that to have a movement, you have to have more than shared frustration. Also, a list of demands - concrete demands - not just "no more collusion between government and corporations" (not that I would disagree). A proposed solution would also be nice. After all, there is no incentive for the government, the corporations, or "the 1%" to develop a solution. Why would they?

[-] 2 points by J789 (18) 12 years ago

This would be a good start:

Ban federal campaign contributions by anyone other than an individual. Cut the influence of corporations in our government.

Someone wrote a good post about it:


[-] 1 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

That I could get behind.

[-] 1 points by J789 (18) 12 years ago

A lot of people seems to agree with it.

The problem is to push this demand out to the public.

We don't need so many demands, just need one, and make it work.

With so many groups and organizations in the movement, I highly doubt that they will agree to one single demand.

[-] 1 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

I couldn't agree more.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Capitalism, Democracy, not Corporatism. I agree.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

Well, to be fair, they do have that 99% working site. I think what you are saying is similar to what I'm saying though. A more distinct, and polished "message" would draw more people from all walks of American life. Certainly it sounds like it would pull you in.

So far "we are the 2". j/k

[-] 1 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

I think so! I guess my main issue is that some people are really vocal about ending government/corporation collusion (which I totally support), and others are equally vocal about heavy taxes on the 1%, wealth redistribution, the injustice of possessing wealth at all, etc., which I definitely don't support (and for the record, I make just under $32,000/yr). So it's hard to tell whether this movement is really something I can support. I can't tell if it's big government or not. Plenty of people say it isn't, but with no central/official statement of purpose, how can I tell?

Also, there is something that frightens me about getting lots of people riled up and fighting mad and figuring your principles out later. Shouldn't the enthusiasm be a result of the principles, not the other way around?

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 12 years ago

I understand your point. However, I think that peoples individual frustrations are a catalyst.
The underlying cause of many of the problems is the lack of fair representation in government. Alot of what I see that is propelling the movement is using the individual frustrations and pointing out the root cause of those frustrations. Which often times is the corruption of our democracy.

I think we will get to a point were this - fair and equal representation in government - becomes more of a central theme. And some of the other topics, that are not as universally accepted by the majority, will begin to fall away. At least that is my hope.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

ANNERIDLEY, so if it was more evident that the OWS's "message" was liberty, the equality of opportunity, and "capitalism not corporatism", is it fair to say you'd be far more supportive of the movement?

I think you make an excellent point in your last paragraph btw.

[-] 1 points by AnneRidley (73) from New York, NY 12 years ago

Yep, I think so! Emphasis on equal opportunity, not equal outcome, but yes. Essentially, that sums it up. I still think they'd need proposals of concrete change and suggested means of implementing them, though.

[-] 0 points by NachoCheese (268) 12 years ago

If they are going to claim to represent "the 99%" then they need to focus on a single issue that most of the actual 99% would support. This laundry list of complaints, many of which are so nebulous as to be useless ("fair share" anyone?) are counter productive and turn many of the 99% away.

My personal opinion is "get money out of politics", which can be supported with the concrete request/demand for public funding of elections. No more bribes...errr..."campaign contributions".

[-] 2 points by Abc3602 (42) 12 years ago

The issue I see right now is that there are so many people involved from all age groups and walks of life, and there are so many issues and things going wrong with our government and economy that pinning pointing one issue is hard and may cause people to swing back and forth or give up completely. Majority of what I've seen/heard/read this far has one common theme : unfairness and inequality...we can stick with that and still get ALL of our messages across. We are so conditioned to have to have a reason/category for everything, even the smallest bit of information. If you feel unequal to other Humans in this world, that's enough to support the movement.

[-] 1 points by NachoCheese (268) 12 years ago

I feel that one issue that the largest majority can agree upon is a simpler way to have the most meaningful impact. Once that is accomplished we can address other more complex issues.

What about the ending of the corrupting influence of money in politics? How many of the 99% can agree on that?

[-] 1 points by Abc3602 (42) 12 years ago

I'm gonna say 99% can agree ;)

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

We've got 3 here. :)

But in all seriousness, I think your initial point is excellent. There are numerous issues, and yes, people are conditioned to have reasons (we are logic-seeking animals). That is part of my point though. A polished message that all Americans can get behind is very important.

[-] 0 points by NachoCheese (268) 12 years ago

1 down, ~299,999,999 to go ;)

[-] 2 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago
  1. Get money out of politics.
  2. Promote competition not corporatism.

Personally, I feel this would be a great beginning, because it's something 99% of Americans can agree with.

[-] 0 points by NachoCheese (268) 12 years ago

One edit:

  1. Promote competition not crony-capitalism

^^ the undue influence of the moneyed interests is cronyism at it's worst. From the bribes under the cover of contributions to the inbred relationship between government regulators and the industries they are supposed to regulate (the cronyism). Look at the housing bubble and how many regulators went from govt to industry and vice versa...not hard to see how that bubble was nurtured from within...

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

NACHO, I absolutely agree. In fact, I always love using the following analogy:

Back in the 80s the Reagan administration broke up Ma Bell.

"Oh NOES anti-capitalist!!!"

Not at all, it helped promote competition. Today we as a people are better for it.

Competition not Corporatism is a key issue Americans empathize with.

[-] 0 points by betuadollar (-313) 12 years ago

The problem is that many see 99% as a falsehood, an intentional misrepresentation. Because they know that only 53% of that 99% pay any taxes at all... the rest are either unemployed or under-employed (for any number of reasons). I'm casting my vote for "Capitalism not Corporatism."

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

BETUA: well I appreciate you backing "Capitalism not Corporatism", first and foremost, second, yes, that's part of the "perception" problem I'm suggesting. The phrase has never really been well "messaged" (to use a lobbying term) to the American people. If anything it is very susceptible to be spun by those who oppose OWS messages.

[-] 0 points by FarmerFreshVeg (4) 12 years ago

all they did was block traffic for people trying to get to work so that they can feed their families, pay their kids tuition, make their mortgage payments, etc.

[-] 1 points by NYCJames (113) 12 years ago

See, I disagree. Would you say the same for those who protested at Tahrir Square? Would you have said the same for those who protested with Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mandela, etc? Would you have said the same for Mohamad Bouazizzi?

I understand your point, and I respect it, but that's not all that has been done.

[-] -1 points by FObama (470) 12 years ago

Use the Dirt Bagger Party.