Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street. Or Something.

I haven’t seen what-if-any actual concrete policy solutions are being proposed by the Occupy Wall Street movement, nor even why its members figure occupying Wall Street makes more sense than Washington, but I completely agree with the assumption behind it: the system is rigged to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. What I don’t know is, what-if-any politically feasible chance there is of fixing it.

Nothing surprising in the reports of police violence; cops have had a hostile, us-versus-them mentality toward the public they presumably serve and protect ever since they started referring to us as “civilians.”

John F. Kennedy famously said “Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable.” Why don’t the police learn this in their academies? Do the fools – and the greater fools who speak approvingly of their misbehavior – not realize that if enough people decide the system cannot be reformed from within – if enough people decide outright revolt is the only answer – then all is lost? If violent revolution comes to this country, whether from the left wing or the right, then whatever phoenix rises from the ashes will almost certainly be something much, much worse than what they burn down.

Or perhaps I’m just getting carried away. Experience tells me American complaint and protest movements tend to fizzle out into nothingness – but there’s always the potential to prove experience wrong.

Check out the individual anecdotes on the We Are The 99 Percent blog. A few of the case studies suffer from the same problem I mentioned in my last post: people whose financial difficulties stem chiefly from their own poor decision making, rather than the poor economy. (Advice: if you’re 20 years old, still in school and unmarried, having a baby now is a fantastically bad idea even if you’re not deep in debt.)

Even so, the system is rigged. Most of the 99-percenter posts complain of high rates of student loan debt, and I see something not merely corrupt but outright evil in a system that will spend limitless amounts of public money to spare billionaire financiers the humiliation of being demoted to mere millionaire status, but offers no forgiveness – not even the option of legal bankruptcy – to some poor twentysomething whose only “crime” was having been a teenager naïve enough to believe what every adult authority figure had ever told her: “Go to college and work hard, and you can make a better life for yourself. That student-loan debt is good debt. It’s a wise investment!”

That was definitely true in the Baby Boomers’ day. And still mostly true in mine – but even then, in the four years I went to Cheap State U., in-state tuition costs at CSU rose almost 70 percent, and have risen at similar rates ever since.

Now? Student loans are definitely a wise investment for the banks who make them – the government “guarantees” such loans via making it illegal to discharge the debts in bankruptcy. Rack up gambling debt in a casino, max out a credit card on whiskey and temporary tattoos – that debt can be forgiven if you prove you can’t afford repayment, but college debt cannot. The student loan debacle is almost entirely a government creation: the government backs the loans, the loans inflate the tuition costs, and government then denies students the “clean slate but bad credit score” bankruptcy option offered almost every other debtor in the United States.

When I was in college applying for federally subsidized student loans – the ones where the feds paid the interest until I graduated and started making payments – I calculated the maximum amount I could borrow, plus the amount of interest the feds were going to pay, and I really wished they would’ve offered the option “We’ll just give you the interest outright, in exchange for which we won’t subsidize any loans for you.”

But how would the banks make any money that way? Other than the bailout money they get as a reward for screwing up, I mean.

Look at much of what’s wrong with America today. The war on drugs: there’s no money to get medicine to sick people who need it, because we’re spending it all imprisoning sick people who take unapproved medicine. The Endless Wars in Asia and the Middle East: there’s no money to repair our own country’s crumbling infrastructure, because we’re spending it all bombing other countries’ infrastructures into rubble. The TSA’s war on American flyers… in each instance you can say “Behold, another situation wherein poor nobodies suffer while rich guys with political connections get richer.” There’s lots of money to be made imprisoning drug users and confiscating their property, making bankruptcy-proof loans to students, building drone bombers and nude scanners and ad infinitum.

So yeah, I’m a capitalist and a libertarian and still I empathize with the 99ers who say “The game is rigged.” I don’t agree with all their arguments or individual anecdotes, of course, but the basic recognition of an inherently unjust system? Hell, yes.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Artor said...

I'm not completely without hope here. You said that American protests fizzle out without accomplishing anything, but let me remind you of the labor protests in the 1920's. Cops were gunning people down with machine guns. (Yes! Here in America!) But the labor movement succeeded and got minimum wages and a 5-day work week established. Of course, that's what we stand to lose if the Occupy X movement fails, so I for one support it.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple as this: when you tresspass or break laws and the cop tells you to stop or leave if you do not then expect to be arrested. No policeman should "beat" anyone but if you resist arrest and tresspass a policeman should use his baton to force you back.

Wall street didn't cause the problem and cannot "fix" it. Government caused this problem and they are making it worse with laws and administrative rules. What we need is dramatically lower taxes; i.e. 10% on corporations and a maximum income tax of 20%. And a dramatically smaller federal government; i.e. eliminate most of the departments (education, HHS, HUD, DHS, Labor, commerce, interior, etc. With the corresponding elimination of about 90% of the federal employees.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

No policeman should "beat" anyone but if you resist arrest and tresspass a policeman should use his baton to force you back.

Nor should any policeman order protesters to step on the Brooklyn Bridge, then arrest them after they obey. Nor should a policeman mace a woman in the face simply because he is annoyed. Yet the NYC cops did both.

I've known for years -- ever since I learned about the travesty of civic asset forfeiture -- that cops motivated by the sincere desire to protect the innocent are in the extreme minority; the odious behavior of the NYPD does nothing to change my mind.

10:53 AM  
Blogger lunchstealer said...

Yeah, the sob stories from theater majors and fine arts majors with mountains of student loan debt and no salable skills make me giggle, but the sob stories of people with real degrees and salable skills, but who nonetheless have no job with which to pay their mountains of student loan debt are more sympathetic.

I'm fairly certain that the 99%ers have absolutely no idea what steps might actually mitigate their plights in the long term, nor steps to prevent such debacles in the future. But I'm largely sanguine about the whole affair.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The police told then NOT to go on the bridge. You are simply repeating the left wing propaganda. If the protestors remain peaceful and do not break laws they will not be arrested or "beaten". The problem is the protestors are there to get arrested and force the police into violence. The far left elite pulling the strings have called for blood in the streets so that is what we will get.

In my humble opinion it is a huge mistake for the protestors to use this tactic in NYC. The NYC police are the best in the world at their job and will not allow them to break the law or trash and burn the city. My advice to the protestors is go to San Francisco or Seattle where the police and politicians are incompetent and they will stand by as you have your way with others property.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

If the protestors remain peaceful and do not break laws they will not be arrested or "beaten".

Ah, yes, the old canard "If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear." Once upon a time I believed that was true of the majority of officers -- then I actually started reading the news, rather than cling to the solipsistic belief "Since I personally never had much problem with the cops, surely nobody else has, either."

The NYC police are the best in the world at their job and will not allow them to break the law or trash and burn the city.

Well, the NYC police certainly have the best cops' UNION In the world. Where else could a thug like Capt. Alberto Sanchez be convicted of beating up his subordinate (with whom he was having an affair), be convicted of th4e crime, and STILL get his $75K annual cop pension? Where else can cops fire 41 shots at a man standing on his own front step, kill him (after less than half those fired shots hit their target), and not face charges? Where else could an officer like Adrian Schoolcraft be confined against his will in a psychiatric ward for daring to expose corruption in the force?

Mmm, yes, anyone who would dare suggest there's corruption and sleazy behavior among the upstanding members of the NYPD must be either insane or spewing left-wing propaganda, saith the indignant (and anonymous) commenter on my blog.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Where else could a thug like Capt. Alberto Sanchez be convicted of beating up his subordinate (with whom he was having an affair), be convicted of th4e crime, and STILL get his $75K annual cop pension? Where else can cops fire 41 shots at a man standing on his own front step, kill him (after less than half those fired shots hit their target), and not face charges? Where else could an officer like Adrian Schoolcraft be confined against his will in a psychiatric ward for daring to expose corruption in the force?

Where? Well actally almost any large city in this country - or any other country for that matter.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

That's left-wing anti-cop propaganda, Smartass. Along with every article Radley Balko ever wrote.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that police do step over the line and I have zero tolerance for that. I would favor jail time for the cop and a civil liability for the city whenever that happens. But to use this as an excuse to break the law with impunity is stupid. The police are charged with protecting property and lives when a mob is threatening. They set up perimeters and enforce them. I see no reason that a mob should be allowed to break the law and get away with it when a indivual acting like that would be arrested. If nothing else I fully favor equal treatment under the law. Break the law, go to jail.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

The police are charged with protecting property and lives when a mob is threatening.

Police also seem to enjoy looking at a "peaceful protest" and goading them into becoming an "unruly mob." Kettling the demonstrators, macing the face of a small young woman who couldn't possibly have been a threat ... and, of course, even if cops are beating the shit out of you, you're not allowed to writhe in pain because then that becomes "resisting arrest" and they get to beat you or Tase you even more. I think the cops get off on such behavior, and it certainly helps pump up their arrest stats. The old-school Officer Friendly type doesn't get hired anymore; the modern police model is Eric "Respect my authoritah" Cartman.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand a doctor or even a lawyer graduating with $100,000 or more in student loans. But how stupid is it to graduate with a degree in womens studies or sociology or some other basket weaving study and owe $100,000? Do you really think that level of stupidity should be rewarded by taking money from me?

The government should not be in the business of making student loans. End the program and sell the loans to banks or other institutions.

Most students use these loans to upgrade their living status and buy a car and a 4g cell phone. Less then half of the student loan money goes towards tuition and books.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Yeah, a young kid taking on such exorbitant debt for a bullshit degree is stupid. The government offering to loan this money to the kid, and furthermore denying kid the second chance of bankruptcy offered to every other person who borrows money for stupid reasons, is evil.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like the concept of bankruptcy laws so I'm not in favor of allowing debtors to walk away from any loans. However it isn't just studnet loans that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Child support and taxes are also exempt from bankruptcy laws. What is your position on these debts?

6:00 PM  

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