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.