In the midst of protests becoming more violent, police becoming more reactive, tear gas episodes, one young Iraqi War veteran receiving a fractured skull, too many experts, analysts and politicians are still grappling with what this is all about; one Fox News commentator mocking students who majored in Peruvian bongo drums at Columbia university whining about not being able to find a job. While, on the other hand, a protest sympathizer points to student loans you cannot get out from under through normal bankruptcy, or any bankruptcy for that matter, saying students want to be forgiven for mistakes made at age 18 so they can move on with their lives, support themselves, raise families and be a more active participant in society. Also pointed out the cold, hard facts that you can be irresponsible run up thousands of dollars in credit card debt and write it off, negotiate lower payments or rebuild your credit score but not so when you try to better yourself, the wrong kind of irony. Yes occupy Wall Street was started by students but it has grown so much bigger than that and encompasses so much more, the wealth disparity and inequality across all age groups, all job descriptions unless you are the uber rich, the fact that many people in the shrinking middle class no longer feel it’s everyone in the same boat headed for a mutual goal- a better life, if not for self then for their children. Instead many feel like it’s them against a skewed system catering to those with wealth not allowing others to reach the heights they have found, a system purposely excluding ordinary people from achieving substantial monetary success; this is what occupy Wall Street is about the hunger for a system that gives everyone a shot at the amount of assets, monies they wish to gain, are willing to work for.
And according to the congressional budget office, numbers support the occupy movement’s claims; over the last 30 years the richest, most affluent Americans have seen a 275% increase in their incomes as opposed to the middle class at roughly 40% and lower class, poorest people at 18%. Here again we come back to the why, not that the average person is lazy, stupid, squandering educational opportunity, over spending, not reaching for the high level positions, equaling high level paychecks, but gargantuan bonuses given to CEOs, falling tax rates for those who need them the least. At the same time, these same places both nickel and diming consumers, as is the case with the airlines, banks floating debit fees, concurrently firing workers, they say, in order to meet their bottom line. Not only getting bail outs but what they did with them once they got them AIG going on a lavish retreat, GE paying no taxes in 2010. Yet outside of one official, in one city, residing in one state investigating possible wrong doing on the part of Wall Street fat cats, no one is doing anything about it, no one is reforming the laws to keep the great recession from reoccurring. People tried change by voting as they did in the last election to no avail, now taking to the streets to make their voices heard largely due to the fact there are no jobs to get, nowhere to move up to. 15 million Americans surviving on less than $6,000 a year, $11,000 for a family of 4 according to the latest census numbers, CBS News profiling a family with 4 children still at home 2 college educated parents living the dream until the father lost his job; now the mother is the sole bread-winner working as an educator making 22,000 a year, e-mailing the local newspaper her story talking about sneaking cereal out of her workplace in an oversized purse thankful to her superiors who see but pretend not to. Simultaneously you have companies posting billion dollar profits that refuse to provide a living wage, companies whose profit margin is in the millions doing the same thing, people stringing together 2-3-4 jobs and can barely keep their head above water, people who would gladly work several jobs if it meant keeping their home, providing stability to their families, younger people if it meant the reasonable guarantee they could get ahead, wouldnâ€™t be barely scraping all their lives. That’s occupy Wall Street’s point.
As for college students, it’s not about Peruvian bongo drums; neither is it so much about wanting to be forgiven for picking an impractical major, field of study. It is that they want their college educations to mean something in terms of job opportunities; they are frustrated that there doesn’t seem to be a field to study, a set of degrees carrying any certainty of employment once completed. Forget poetry degrees, English majors, theology, philosophy, biblical degrees, people can’t make it studying economics or architecture, marketing, management/business, biology, are ignored when they might be able to put their writing skills to good use crafting everything from an employers want ad to a business proposal, advertising slogan because they don’t have the desired degree, ignored when their amateur knowledge of business or of web media, videography could be an asset to an employer, swept aside for lack of the “right” education. And if you have no extemporaneous skills outside your degree, then you are at even more of a disadvantage. So it seems no matter what you major in, you have little job prospects, then comes the mountain of debt trying to repay one or multiple student loans. Graduates feel very disenfranchised having to move back in with their parents, keep or get a minimum wage job, lacking other choices to pay off their debt, when they did the right thing by getting educated. Even the lucky ones, who do get entry-level jobs in their fields, slowly move up or get a stable job paying all their bills, regardless of using their degree or not, are still saddled with years of student loan debt. One young mother commenting, in an ABC News report, that she would have her loan paid off by 2031 just as her now toddler began college, preventing her from having any hope of providing her child the chance to go beyond high school. Here is a portrait of young people wanting to pay off their debt who thought they had the reasonable assurance their education would afford them a working wage that would allow them to do so, only to come out and find the exact opposite. Further, it sends the wrong message that you can remove credit card debt and not student loan debt through normal bankruptcy or other means, encourages exactly the wrong kinds of irresponsibility, if the government were smart, the situation would be reversed, at the very least making student loan debt would equal to all other debt resolvable through standard bankruptcy procedures. Such is the common sense occupy Wall Street is trying to return to laws and Washington.
Because no, not everyone can be like the daughter of our Fox News panelist majoring in chemical engineering making more money than he does, not everyone has the talent to become a computer programmer, software designer; we all have our own unique gifts, our own definition of fulfillment, some of us want to be teachers, some weathermen, oceanographers, some want to work in social services but most of all what we and the occupy Wall Street protestors want is the ability to pursue that and have something to show for it. However colleges have gone from educational institutions to business mega machines more interested in getting students in seats, the money that equates to than providing vital knowledge making degrees, certificates, majors functional in the working world. Continuing, many colleges are a microcosm of the corporate conglomerate; public post-secondary education entities raising tuition by 8%, private ones by 4%, well above inflation all in one year. Another question, how is it the student’s fault when there are no internships to accompany education certificates so that a forensic science major separated from a large city gets a degree and ends up in a factory as an electrical processor, instead of either solving crimes or something as simple as processing rape kits, key physical evidence that often becomes useless running against the statute of limitations for lack of processors. The same holds true for biology majors who with a little extra training could further bring justice to victimized women; just two examples of what could be and should be in the workforce but is not. How about allowing an architecture major to utilize their knowledge of buildings to become a building inspector, creating degrees for what is needed like a food safety, food inspection degree since the FDA is so in need of people with those skills? Situations completely in the hands of businesses, employers who constantly bemoan the shortage of qualified workers but do nothing to change it, who insist on keeping students and others looking to enter a field in the dark about how to do so, who shun internships and job training on the grounds they can’t afford it a direct contradiction not only to posted profits but large bonuses given to upper management. Scenes above harboring an answer to why occupy movements are targeting Wall Street, the uber business monster, mergers monopolies strangling small to average businesses rather than the federal government.
One added reality check for the old fuddy duddies still lost, doubtful though it is Columbia university has a major in Peruvian bongo drums, one or two elective classes sparking a hobby, an interest could mean a job at a public library using them as part of interactive story time, a music show for kids. In bigger cities, like New York, you can make quite a hunk of pocket change playing in subways, on street corners, better in some cases than job openings available with that degree in an area considered a mainstream, stable field. Despite criticism from businesses in occupy areas claiming they lose customers, revenues because no one wants to come near the mass of demonstrators, the vandalism perpetrated by a fringe portions of the movement, those using it as an excuse to commit sexual assault, be a vagrant, the question remains how else will things get better, how will people finish their educations, how can people move ahead? Because unlike the scorns of Sara Palin, various conservatives, naysayers, these people DONâ€™T want to get something from other people’s productivity, ingenuity, a handout, a bailout; they want opportunity, they want the chance to be productive, openings to explore their own ingenuity belying another anti-occupy assumption, protesters are decrying capitalism. Wrong they are decrying robber baron capitalism, capitalism without rules, regulations, capitalism based on the manipulation of money, fleecing the masses not creation, industry, work ethic, ideas. They are decrying the true sense of entitlement embodied in the mindset just because I am a CEO, possess a high level management job, I deserve six or 7 figures, regardless of how my company is doing, regardless of my competence level, independent of if I have to lay off workers, it’s ok to strip workers of their pensions, 401K, retirement as long as I can continue to line my pockets.
And the answer to all of this isn’t just go home so that a few inconvenienced shop owners can get back to their status quo, it’s not to stomp their feet like toddlers at the vandalism etched into their business; for them it’s realizing what the root cause is and saying hey Washington, rein in Wall Street, put the common sense back in business so these people can go home, my place remains untouched by violence and oh, why the hell did you let it get this bad in the first place? Solutions in the eyes of protestors is laws passed, efforts made, progress on changing the business climate, culture, attitude, busting the myth occupy Wall Street does not have its sights on Washington. They do just in an indirect way; they too want Washington to stop gobbling money, they too are tired of hearing one form of government worker get rich scheme after another in news expose` upon news expose`, the latest-bloated congress retirement at least twice as much as average social security allotments. They want Washington too to tighten its belt, to sacrifice as they have asked the public to do. They want public and politicians alike to understand occupy is a legitimate force for change that will not stop until change is seen, things will not be allowed to get worse on their watch without comment, without presence, without action on their part as they try to better their world. That is their message the question is are we getting it?