‘Yes, they have very legitimate gripes’

Henry Blodget says “Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About …

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

And he has charts. Lots of charts (courtesy of FRED — Federal Reserve Economic Data).

Let’s start with the obvious: Unemployment. Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s).

And then there’s this one:

While CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

Go read the whole thing.

Related, Mark Thoma on “Why America Should Spread the Wealth“:

If those at the top of the income distribution receive far more than the value of what they create, and those at lower income levels receive less, then one way to correct this, at least in part, is to increase taxes at the upper end of the income distribution and use the proceeds to protect important social programs that benefit working-class households, programs that are currently threatened by budget deficits. This would help to rectify the mal-distribution of income that is preventing workers from realizing their share of the gains from economic growth. …

The claim that there is a tradeoff between equity and efficiency was a key part of the argument for tax cuts for the wealthy, but the tradeoff didn’t materialize. We sacrificed equity for the false promise of efficiency and growth, and society is now more unequal than at any time since the early part of the last century. It’s time to reverse that mistake.

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  • Rachel McG

    I don’t understand why many pundits, and even Pres. Bill Clinton, continue to state that the Occupiers don’t have specific gripes, or are too spread out with their complaints.  It seems to me it all comes down to inequality: the richest 1% have most of everything, and the rest of us have squat. Or is it diddly?  Either way, it seems a fairly straightforward message to me, and one that resonates throughout the 99% of the country that’s not billionaires.  It’s disingenuous of the pundits to say otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand why many pundits, and even Pres. Bill Clinton, continue to state that the Occupiers don’t have specific gripes, or are too spread out with their complaints

    And yet they were infatuated with the Tea Party which three years in still doesn’t have much in the way of specific gripes other than “DEMOCRATS SUCK!”

  • Anonymous

    Disingenuous, perhaps, but they all have a vested interest in keeping things as they are now, so they certainly aren’t going to endorse such radical notions as taxing the rich.

  • P J Evans

     And it’s so much easier to paint all of the people in the Occupy movement as dropouts or unemployed 20-somethings, living with their parents. Because to show them as what they really are would make it very obvious that the country has very real economic problems.

  • Anonymous

    The Occupiers here are a mixture of ages, from those who could indeed be college students to white haired seniors.  Also, odd for this town, they’re still successfully occupying a street corner.  The police here do not have a good history with protests, but they seem strangely reluctant to do anything.  Tis odd.  (Not bad, mind, but very uncharacteristic.)

  • Anonymous

    And it’s so much easier to paint all of the people in the Occupy
    movement as dropouts or unemployed 20-somethings, living with their
    parents.

    Personally I think that college-educated, unemployed 20-somethings have as much or more reason to be angry than anyone else. They graduated with crushing college debt and a job market that refuses to hire them for anything more than minimum-wage jobs. Or they got hired by a company for an internship that got cheap (or free*) labor out of them for 6 months and then dumped them like yesterday’s waste. They’re starting out their career with no prospects and even if this economy every begins to truly turn around, those companies are going to be looking at fresh college graduates and not at mid- to late-twentysomethings who’ve been out of work for four or five years since graduating. We’re essentially creating a lost generation.

    I know you’re not the one marginalizing them as a bunch of unemployed twentysomethings living with their parents, PJ, so obviously the frustration in this post is directed elsewhere. But anyone who does try to belittle them as that is the worst kind of dirtbag. These people want to work, badly. I had to stay with my parents for two years after college while I shuffled from internship to temp job to unemployment to marginal freelance to temp job, and I wanted nothing more than a job where I could use the skills I went to college for.

    *Unpaid internships should be flat-out criminal as far as I’m concerned.

  • P J Evans

     I know people who desperately want paying jobs, and they’re over 50. Good luck finding one at that age: most companies won’t even look at your skills and experience. (I’d be out protesting too, if I were in the trouble so many are. I’m lucky I have a job that pays enough to live on – for now.)

  • muteKi

    I was skeptical of the movement mainly because I doubted any sort of resolve; it was my understanding that they’d started protesting when the markets were closed. Furthermore, protesting CEO profits is odd to do at Wall Street given that they’re one more layer away from anything to do with how the CEO is paid. And of course going from what I saw on Adbusters there was next to no information on what the protests were for.

    I certainly believe in the movement more, but I have my concerns about actually accepting whatever sort of political results that come out of it. To me the biggest thing is campaign finance reform, that’ll make it less necessary for candidates for political office to court people with high incomes in order to seek donations, etc. On the other hand, the fact that all the major news networks are major for a reason, is one concern to have; their influence is large and will certainly give their favorite candidate much more airtime. But without it I can’t see any sorts of change being effected due in part to the protest actually sticking for long-term, since wealthy private donors will be necessary to get contributions from for anyone running seriously in the next election cycle.
    (And similarly that whole “corporations are people too” view of campaign contributions coming from that awful supreme court argument does no favors either.)

  • Anonymous

    They may not really know what they want.

    But they definitively know what they DON’T want.

  • bad Jim

    It’s a matter of moving the Overton Window, changing the terms of discourse. The Very Serious People are certainly not going to take Wall Street to account, so it’s up to the rabble-rousers to do the heavy lifting, which in this case is simply emphasizing the obvious.

  • Albanaeon

    I wonder if some of the confusion as to what OWS wants is that it is a genuine grassroots spontaneous movement.  The last couple years of astroturfed Teapartiers gave the impression that these things would be fairly organized and pretty plain with their messages.  OWS isn’t because it represents a wider base of people and desires that isn’t carefully crafted by corporates to achieve specific policy goals.  It is fairly united in the idea that the system as it is is broken for the majority and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. 

  • Anonymous

    *And yet they were infatuated with the Tea Party which three years in
    still doesn’t have much in the way of specific gripes other than
    “DEMOCRATS SUCK!”*

    Don’t be ridiculous. They have lots of specific gripes.  For example, they’re quite upset that taxes now are the highest they’ve ever been, EVER.  Sure, that’s not even remotely true, but it is a specific gripe.  They also want to ensure that the government doesn’t get involved in private enterprises like Medicare and Social Security. Utterly insane, of course, but again, quite specific.

  • Krazyface

    There is exactly one chart needed to explain the whole thing:
    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/images/wealth/Figure_1.gif

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am afraid that file is showing as forbidden, Krazyface.

  • Krazyface

    It’s the first on this page, the pair of pie charts.
    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That’s interesting for me to see today, because the latest stats on the distribution of wealth in Australia were released this morning.
     
    Our wealthiest 20% of households own 62% of all wealth, compared to 85% in the USA. Interesting because according to Tea Partiers the types of policies implemented here are nothing short of communism, yet while we’re more equal than Americans the divide is still pretty huge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    That’s probably related to the fact that Teabaggers are idiots who don’t deserve a shred of legitimacy or respect. No, really. They’re the same 29 percent or so of this country that supported Bush to the very, very end. As soon as the Negro got his hand close to ThHllyBaahbl, though, they bloomed instantaneously into Randite killbots determined to destroy the U.S. government just like (as they’ll tell you) that brave American hero, Robert E. Lee.

    Australia has political problems too, right? I’m tempted to feel rather jelly of countries that don’t have to deal with this solid clump of pure, carefully refined stupid clogging up all the machinery of democracy.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Australia has political problems too, right? I’m tempted to feel rather jelly of countries that don’t have to deal with this solid clump of pure, carefully refined stupid clogging up all the machinery of democracy.

     
    God, yes. I vastly, vastly prefer my political climate over yours, but there are still problems. It’s important to have perspective, but one of the things about being progressive is that it’s not good enough for any situation just to be “not the worst”.
     
    Check this out, my friends: This week the House of Representatives passed a set of bills implementing a carbon tax in Australia, in order to reduce our contribution to climate change, as well as a range of measures compensating low and middle income households and trade-exposed industries for the increased costs they will face. It did so by securing the majority of votes on the floor, comprising elected MPs from the Labour Party, the Greens, and two independents (one centrist, one conservative-leaning). All the MPs were chosen in one of the fairest, most free elections in the world. Support was secured through negotiation and compromise. No one was killed, there is no suggestion that anyone was bribed.
     
    The vote was met with screams from a small group of protesters: “Democracy is dead”. Apart from the sheer ignorance on display, that’s pretty fucking insulting to the people who have died this year hoping to see their country become even remotely as democratic as ours.
     
    The Opposition Leader vowed “in blood” (whatever the hell that means) to overturn the law when he becomes Prime Minister, the latter premise being frighteningly likely. Incidently, this guy has unabashedly taken ideas from the Republican playbook: oppose everything and pbe prepared to wreck the joint for power. Thanks for exporting another shitty idea, Republicans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Wait, you guys can pass legislation with only a majority of votes? Lucky! Over here we need at least 60 votes in the Senate, and it has to be on the third full moon of the year, and the President has to ritually sacrifice a unicorn on an altar consecrated with the blood of a red heifer…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Majority in the House and the Senate, and Bob’s your uncle. No supermajority, no filibusters, no Presidential veto. Parliamentary democracy really is the way to go.
     
    Of course, when conservatives pass a bill anyone who opposes it is a political terrorist, whereas when the centre-left passes a bill it’s the death of democracy. So even our system has its subtleties.

  • Anonymous

    “Of course, when conservatives pass a bill anyone who opposes it is a
    political terrorist, whereas when the centre-left passes a bill it’s the
    death of democracy. So even our system has its subtleties.”

    That sounds…no different from our Presidential system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    I guess recently I’ve become more aware of the fact that the media in this country is really bad. Really, really bad. Actively evil, its agenda opposed to many of the things I believe in. I’d long since turned to the internet and abandoned the teevee networks almost entirely (I’d rather have unfiltered information, the good, the bad and the ugly, rather than relying on a filter system which is intentionally malicious and wrong), but most people haven’t done that. They still watch. Although it’s outdated and artificial, our mainstream media still therefore wields enormous power, which it uses to serve the Centrist line. 

    “Well, you know, Republicans almost wrecked the country again today… but both sides do it, really. Let’s just assert that enough times and it’ll become truth! It sure rocks to control the major sources of information for many or most Americans!” Trying to find the perfect middle ground between President Obama, moderate Democrat, and the Tea Party, currently ascending at top speed into orbit, isn’t just wrong. It’s evil. (Also impossible.)(It’s evil because you end up with a media who will-never-call-conservatives-out-for-ruining-everything or even just plain lying. Ever. They will not. See: Yellowcake Uranium. It’s no accident at all that it keeps unfolding exactly this way.)Occupy Wall Street is therefore something they’ve tried to bury and forget about and ignore, just like all those tiny little protests about Iraq. If the truth doesn’t fit the media narrative, then fuck the truth. Well, it looks like this time, giving me a little to be hopeful about, the truth isn’t going to sit there and take it anymore. It’s getting tougher to just brazenly ignore or brush them off as the days tick by and the occupation continues.

    I have no clue how anybody would go about bringing these aforementioned media titans down. They’re the definition of the Powers That Be in this country. It sort of does need to happen. They’re choking this country to death and refusing to allow any real politics or policy to be discussed, ever, nationally, except in their tightly-controlled narrative bubble. (See: Cutting Services To Old People, the Only Serious Position It Is Possible To Take On The Issues. Wars? What wars? Oh, we couldn’t possibly consider those on the table…)

    Abridged Version: The media are no longer journalists or impartial arbiters of the political fight, determining right from wrong and fact from fiction, if they ever were. They’ve got their agenda, and OWS is anathema to it. Absolutely anathema. It’s really bad for the system, as it is. Good.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    But but but the media are LIBRUL BIASED!  Ronnie said so, so it must be true!

    (Yeah, I agree.  Our mass-media are utterly broken at fun function except the same function as any other company, maximizing shareholder value.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    I guess recently I’ve become more aware of the fact that the media in this country is really bad. Really, really bad. Actively evil, its agenda opposed to many of the things I believe in. I’d long since turned to the internet and abandoned the teevee networks almost entirely (I’d rather have unfiltered information, the good, the bad and the ugly, rather than relying on a filter system which is intentionally malicious and wrong), but most people haven’t done that. They still watch. Although it’s outdated and artificial, our mainstream media still therefore wields enormous power, which it uses to serve the Centrist line. 

    “Well, you know, Republicans almost wrecked the country again today… but both sides do it, really. Let’s just assert that enough times and it’ll become truth! It sure rocks to control the major sources of information for many or most Americans!” Trying to find the perfect middle ground between President Obama, moderate Democrat, and the Tea Party, currently ascending at top speed into orbit, isn’t just wrong. It’s evil. (Also impossible.)(It’s evil because you end up with a media who will-never-call-conservatives-out-for-ruining-everything or even just plain lying. Ever. They will not. See: Yellowcake Uranium. It’s no accident at all that it keeps unfolding exactly this way.)Occupy Wall Street is therefore something they’ve tried to bury and forget about and ignore, just like all those tiny little protests about Iraq. If the truth doesn’t fit the media narrative, then fuck the truth. Well, it looks like this time, giving me a little to be hopeful about, the truth isn’t going to sit there and take it anymore. It’s getting tougher to just brazenly ignore or brush them off as the days tick by and the occupation continues.

    I have no clue how anybody would go about bringing these aforementioned media titans down. They’re the definition of the Powers That Be in this country. It sort of does need to happen. They’re choking this country to death and refusing to allow any real politics or policy to be discussed, ever, nationally, except in their tightly-controlled narrative bubble. (See: Cutting Services To Old People, the Only Serious Position It Is Possible To Take On The Issues. Wars? What wars? Oh, we couldn’t possibly consider those on the table…)

    Abridged Version: The media are no longer journalists or impartial arbiters of the political fight, determining right from wrong and fact from fiction, if they ever were. They’ve got their agenda, and OWS is anathema to it. Absolutely anathema. It’s really bad for the system, as it is. Good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Abridged
    Version: The media are no longer journalists or impartial arbiters of
    the political fight, determining right from wrong and fact from fiction,
    if they ever were. They’ve got their agenda, and OWS is anathema to it.
    Absolutely anathema. It’s really bad for the system, as it is. Good.

    As far as I can tell, it used to be even worse. Nowadays, you can at least get facts about most issues. There’s a lot of opinions and stuff mixed in, but you can get statistics (like the FRED mentioned above) and data, and it’s hard to really fool everyone. Before, you didn’t really have that. If Randolph Hearst or someone chose to print lies in all of the newspapers in your town, you pretty much had to accept that. There was no TV, there was definitely no real way for ordinary people to get access to large compilations of data in most places. It’s bad now but at least there’s something you can do about it.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    It’s bad now but at least there’s something you can do about it.

    “The best thing about the Internet is that you can brainwash it _back_.” – Someone on alt.slack, a looooong time ago.

  • Chloe Lewis

    We used to have a lot more two-newspaper or many-newspaper towns, and the newspapers didn’t all slant the same ways. Sometimes they competed on accuracy!

  • MaryKaye

    I marched with Occupy Seattle last Wednesday, from the University of Washington to downtown.  We met a person in a business suit near the Bank of America who (I am told–he was a little forward of where I was marching) shouted that we were losers and would never get a job.  Which strikes me as odd–I mean, yes, it’s possibly true, but surely that is a *reason* to be marching?

    Anyway, I was holding up one end of the AAUP banner, and the group involved with that definitely had jobs–we had several quite senior faculty, many of whom remembered doing this for the WTO protests, and one who did it for the Vietnam protests!  I liked that a lot.

    The thing was definitely student-organized, though, and I thought their demands were quite clear.  Lower or free tuition; guaranteed health care; job creation.  Stop trying to balance budgets by cutting expenditures; it’s time to raise revenue.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, I wish I could go join the protesters out in Westlake.  I would not try camping out, but I would certainly head there in the morning and stay until the evening.  However, I have a job to get to, certainty that this job will come to an end, uncertainty when that end will be, even more uncertainty as to when I will have another job after this, and zero assets prior to taking this job.  I need to pack away as many wage hours as I can in the time I have just to ensure I can continue to eat for the foreseeable future.  

    Some health care would be nice too, but not having a consistent income makes that difficult, and often completely unaffordable.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I get the impression that some people criticizing Occupy Wall Street would respond to the (US) Declaration of Independence like this:

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    Yeah, sure, whatever.  It’s a bit wordy, but ok.

    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless-
    Whoa, whoa, WHOA, there complainy pants.  What the hell is wrong with you?  What exactly are you against?  Is your problem that he’s not assenting to laws, or is your problem that he’s forbidden his governors from passing laws?  Which is it?

    You can’t pick just one?  You’re a confused and muddled mess.  You’re two spread out.  You have no clear purpose.

    Screw off off you indecisive lout.

    This, in itself, wouldn’t be too problematic, but given that the people doing it are often US politicians who tend to wrap themselves in the same document, it’s annoying.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    There’s an Occupy Boulder thing going on later today – I may just dig my old interview suit out of mothballs and go.

    On a grim but historical note, here’s how Brad Hicks predicts the OWS movement can go.  He thinks the BEST possible outcome involves dead demonstrators.  O_O

    (The Captcha had SANSKRIT characters in it.  What am I supposed to do with that?)

  • P J Evans

     I got one elsewhere with Greek. I typed it as I saw it, and the thing went through.

  • hapax

    On a grim but historical note, here’s how Brad Hicks predicts the OWS movement can go.  He thinks the BEST possible outcome involves dead demonstrators.

    I have kind of a love / hate relationship with Hicks anyhow, but this is one of his nastier columns.  His barely disguised gleefulness at the idea of the death of a “decorated war hero” or a “child” — so long as it furthers Teh Cause — is on par with the worst of the Tea Partiers.  If he’s so hot for martyr blood, why doesn’t he take his own ass out to NYC and set himself on fire, instead of slavering for the slaughter of somebody else’s child?

    And his condescending dismissal of the allied protests — what he charmingly calls “Occupy Nowheresville” — is not only snotty, but STUPID.  I haven’t read the description of any of them that doesn’t include an emphasis on voter registration, which is a heck of a lot more likely to produce actual, useful results than any number of chants and signs in Zuccotti Park.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    I have kind of a love / hate relationship with Hicks anyhow, but this is one of his nastier columns. 

    It had some other problems too, not least of which is the assertion that the Wobblies don’t exist anymore. I think, though, that the point we should be taking away from the whole Occupy Everywhere thing is that this is a lot bigger than Wall Street. With our social networking software, the Bonus Army doesn’t have to march on Washington to get noticed anymore. 

    The United States is a seriously big country. No, it’s not the biggest – it’s not even the 3rd biggest – but it’s a lot bigger than England, or France, or Greece. And this has always been a problem for protest movements. A protest which is big enough to have a serious effect in France, or Germany, or any of the nations of Europe barely registers in the United States – see the General Strike of 1886 (which culminated in the Haymarket Incident in Chicago). It may be, however, that we’ve finally found a way to make a lot of little protests into a great big protest. And that’s exciting.

  • WingedBeast

    It’s a little like what would happen if all the world’s plankton started coordinating and organizing.  We humans could decry their lack of cephalization and call them disorganized without an entirely unified ideology beyond expressing anger at our killing off major portions thereof.  But, that wouldn’t remove two basic facts.  We are screwing them over and we need them more than they need us.

    The wealthiest one percent as well as political leaders, even the conservative ones, have been screwing over the working populace (or the would-be-working if there were jobs available) populace and they need us more than we need them.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I was torn between putting this here or on the college thread, since it deals with both topics. Someone (who should really know better) posted this on Facebook recently, saying that they (the sign-holder who was not the poster) had a point. And it’s been annoying me ever since.

    So, how many holes can you poke in this person’s argument? I come up with something new after every few words of the sign. The first thing that jumped out at me was, two scholarships? That is some major luck there. I know people say they earned scholarships, and yes, getting a scholarship shows that you worked hard. However, there are no scholarships that say if you work X amount, you will get them. So someone could have worked just as hard, and NOT gotten two scholarships. So that person’s options would be what, then?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    So, how many holes can you poke in this person’s argument?

    For starters, I’d add near the end, “And if I ever need hospitalization, I am screwed.”

  • Anonymous

    “So, how many holes can you poke in this person’s argument?”

    For starters, I’d add near the end, “And if I ever need hospitalization, I am screwed.”

    No shit.  All of my financial difficulties have stemmed from medical problems.  It’s ever so much fun to come down with a chronic illness you’ve never heard of less than a year after becoming too old for your parents’ health insurance while going to college and working at a job that doesn’t offer health insurance.  It’s a gift that just keeps on giving.  I mean taking.

    That person has no idea how lucky they are.  They’re white.  They’re healthy.  They come from a background that allowed them to save up for college while living at home (I knew people in high school who worked, not to afford college, but to help pay the family bills).  They live in a state where the tuition isn’t too expensive – it’s a car a year to go to CU as a Coloradan, and $8,000 a year just for tuition at Colorado State.  They were able to get scholarships.  Nothing unexpected has gone wrong.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I think (and hope) that ignorance is at the root of the “I worked hard to achieve my upper middle class lifestyle and so can everyone else” mindset. I suspect most young people who worked while they were at school to save for college/a car/holidays are utterly unaware that there exist people who work while they’re at school to pay for electricity or, in my case, a fridge to put the insulin in.

    Certainly most of my friends who grew up middle class had no idea how different things were for some of us. Time, imagination and exposure to different people chips away at ignorance but if you’re in a society that continues class separation through adulthood the last of these is diminished, and if you’re in an environment that pumps out the Just World fallacy all day long the second is stunted too.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    @emcee: This link may also be food for thought along with the inherent flaws in the argument. Also, the letters are surprisingly uniform for handwriting, implying that a handwriting font may have been used…

  • P J Evans

    Not uniform enough to be a handwriting font. Also, the letters get smaller going down the page – that’s hard to do in a font; the only way I know to do that, and get not-quite-uniform letters, is using something like TeX.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Emcee, cubed – Someone on facebook posted a link to this essay: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/12/1025555/-Open-Letter-to-that-53-Guy, which I think adequately answers the post you linked to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    I was just looking for the link to that to post in reply to Emcee, cubed.

  • WingedBeast

    That sign is an example of the basic libertarian fanatasy, a world that defaults to fair.

    Good for him so far, but let’s not pretend that luck has no place in his world.  He got those two scholarships in competition with other people who weren’t lazy, stupid, shiftless, or otherwise failures as human beings.  Or, at least his upper level competition wasn’t any of those things.  He was lucky enough to be noticed by the right scholarships just as I was lucky enough to have a father on the faculty with enough seniority to have my tuition fees waived.

    He also doesn’t have any heafty medical concerns that he’s yet aware of.  An expensive trip to the hospital could land him in debt.  Finding out he has any form of cancer or inherited defect that will require constant expensive care will land him in extensive debt throughout his entire life, regardless of perfect choices.

    Oh, and by the way, anything he does own might be subject to fraudulent forclosure, which would mean either fighting the forclosure with representation he can’t afford or just letting a bank steal stuff that would have to be replaced.

    Once he’s gradutated, he’ll have a heck of a time finding a job in a market that’s already uninterested in applicants who don’t already have jobs.

    Actions have consequences, yes.  Sometimes, the bad things that happen to you really are your fault and noone else’s.  But, stop pretending.  Luck happens.  The universe in general or just the local economy doesn’t have a default setting of fairness.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    He also doesn’t have any heafty medical concerns that he’s yet aware of. An expensive trip to the hospital could land him in debt. Finding out he has any form of cancer or inherited defect that will require constant expensive care will land him in extensive debt throughout his entire life, regardless of perfect choices.

    I occasionally run though in my mind what I would do if I was diagnosed with a serious case of cancer of which my odds of recovery were long and the process expensive.  Even assuming I had health insurance, the costs would be huge.  I would certainly be unable to afford them.  I know my family would spare no expense, dipping into our considerable stock of savings (we have a middle class income but saving 40% of what we make over three decades gives us a lot of assets for retirement) but I would not want to compromise my parent’s retirement plans, or my sister’s inheritance.

    So I would become a death panel unto myself, and make plans to die. 

    The trouble is, I know my family would resist this plan, insist on going out of their way when that is exactly that I want to spare them from.  As Steve Jobs said, “Death is the agent of change.”  I hope to get something for the country out of my death in such a matter.  Make a video, do a dramatic contribution to the “We are the 99%” meme, explaining why I made the choice that I did, because it was the most rational self-interested thing I could do for my family in such circumstances.

  • ako

    Well, if someone managed to finish high school with an impressive enough record to get two scholarships that cover 90% of their tuition, and then maintain a 3.8 GPA while working over thirty hours a week, that takes both hard work and luck.  I’ve known too many people who had to go through high school dealing with abuse, mental illness, severe health problems, or the sort of family environment where it wasn’t possible to keep a jar of college money sitting around (either because it would be stolen, or because keeping the heat on that winter is more important than worrying about college next year).    And no high school kid makes the choice to be too depressed to get out of bed, or to have parents that raid their room for drug money.

    And how much money were they able to get their hands on as a seventeen-year-old if one year of saving for college made a noticeable dent?

    And also, I’m wondering how well they’re going to do in the current job market with a bachelor’s from an inexpensive in-state public university and a history of working at minimum wage.  It is possible to work your ass off job-hunting and get either nothing, or the sort of temp work that means wondering where your rent will come from next month.

  • Anonymous

    And how much money were they able to get their hands on as a seventeen-year-old if one year of saving for college made a noticeable dent?

    I persist in the belief that many of these people are drug dealers.

  • We Must Dissent

    someone managed to finish high school with an impressive enough record to get two scholarships that cover 90% of their tuition

    This seems to assume that the scholarships were based entirely on individual merit and achievement, and not based on what church they go to, or what high school they went to, or what social organization their parent or parents belonged to, or whatever else.

  • ako

    True.  I was probably giving the writer too much credit in thinking that they wouldn’t be presenting the scholarship as “This is me making good decisions and earning my way” unless it was merit-based.  It’s entirely possibly they’re bragging about the scholarship they got by virtue of something their parents did.

  • WingedBeast

    It’s entirely possible that his scholarship is partly, mostly, or even all things his parents did, but that he still views this as his merit.

    That’s the mindset.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    There’s a lot of people who are born on third base and convinced they hit a triple.

  • Anonymous

    cough Bush cough

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     And no high school kid makes the choice to be too depressed to get out of bed, or to have parents that raid their room for drug money.

    [conservative]
    Typical Liberal drivel.  There’s NOTHING more American than punishing children for an irresponsible choice of parents.
    [/sarcasm]

  • WingedBeast

    And another addition.  He said it’s our choice whether or not we’re in the 1%.  Assuming that he knows we’re referring to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, I’ve got to wonder what the 100% foolproof but incredibly difficult decision is?

    Seriously.  If it’s my choice, the choice should be pretty clear and without an element of luck.  Sure, it’ll involve a lot of hard work, but that kind of financial security may just be worht it.

    So, go ahead, Mr. It’sYourChoice, explain the choice.

  • ASeriesOfWords

    Fred:

    Completely irrelevant to conversation, but patheos has changed your blog link from 

    http://www.patheos.com/community/slacktivist/

    to

    http://www.patheos.com/blog/slacktivist

    Which has unfortunately broken my bookmark on my bookmark bar. :( I’m not sure if that needs mentioning on a blog post but I thought I’d bring it to your attention.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    @aseriesofwords: It just crossed my mind that the folks at slacktivist.typepad.com might appreciate a heads-up on the link change, if you’ve got an account there.

  • P J Evans

    the folks at slacktivist.typepad.com might appreciate a heads-up on the link change

    Done. (Also, it wasn’t redirecting here from the old spot. Thanks so much, Patheos, for your competence.)

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

     It just crossed my mind that the folks at slacktivist.typepad.com might appreciate a heads-up on the link change, if you’ve got an account there.

    Yup, we had a number of people contact us concerned about the pages “disappearing” as the redirects didn’t seem to catch everything.

    We will change the address on our sidebar.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    Actually, the url is http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/ (with an s), and for now the “community” URL is redirecting to that. It wasn’t for a while, which had me confused.

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    Off-topic:

    Patheos made me very angry today. Wouldn’t have been so bad for them to have changed the site address, but they don’t appear to have changed the intra-Patheos links, so my bookmark didn’t work and going to the Patheos blogs list didn’t work either. Probably no lasting consequences for P. or myself, but still: pretty Patheoetic.

    Just needed to vent about that.

    As you were.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    Don’t forget that he was lucky enough to be born white and male.*

    And that last “I am NOT the 99%, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision” has me thinking, “oh goody, we can ALL be the 1%! Yippee!”

    * I don’t actually have any firsthand idea whether he’s male, but I see previous commenters using male pronouns, so I’ll go with that. The hands certainly give away the whiteness, though

  • P J Evans

    And the belief that he (or she) is not part of the 99% shows how much they don’t see privilege and how little they know about reality. The 1% doesn’t use scholarships, for Ghu’s sake; they can fund their education from their household money.

    (I have a cousin who funded a good deal of his college by working: he did magic shows for at least some of the money.)

  • cjmr

    Randy Owens said, “* I don’t actually have any firsthand idea whether he’s male, but I see
    previous commenters using male pronouns, so I’ll go with that. The hands
    certainly give away the whiteness, though”

    My guess, looking at the handwriting style and the hands was female, actually.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    Here’s another nice take on the 53%, I-work-hard-why-don’t-you? people I just came across.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I am also assuming that this pic comes from 53% website, which is kind of funny, since this person claims to be working 30+ hours a week at just above minimum wage. Which means they certainly aren’t part of the so-called 53%. Because at that amount, they aren’t paying any federal income tax, and are pretty much part of the “47%” they are demonizing.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I am also trying to get my head around the math. We don’t have specifics, but they work 30+ hours at slightly above minimum wage. So if we assume an average of 35 hours at $10.00 and hour (which is more than slightly above, but makes the math easier), they make roughly $1400/month. Standard payroll deductions, figure take home of $1200/month. They live in a small apartment. No mention of roommates, or sharing, or renting a room in someone’s house. An actual apartment, even a small one, I don’t seeing going for under $600/month (if that seems high to anyone, feel free to correct me. Personally, I think it’s low.) They still need to pay 10% of their tuition. Using depizan’s figure of CO State at $8000/year, that’s $800/year, or $67/month. That leaves $533 for food, utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer, garbage collection – because none of that would be included at $600/month), phone (they say they don’t have a smart phone, but they must have a land line or basic cell phone), internet (hey, they uploaded a photo to the website somehow), books, other school supplies, transportation (either a car or public, both have costs), etc. And they say they live below their means to save for the future, so some of that $533 has to be saved. I know in PA, that would be extremely hard to do. Here in NV, it might be a bit easier, but still hard-pressed. So just the fact that they are in a place where they can get by on that is some major privilege going on.

  • Anonymous

    Heh.  I make just slightly more than your math, and more college is not likely to be in my future.  It might be possible if not for some medical debt from my last period of unemployment, but given that I’ve no idea how I’m going to pay them off, college isn’t bloody likely.

    You’re aiming high on the rent, though.  My apartment and utilities comes to roughly $550, but I have a studio apartment with a kitchen so small I can’t open the fridge all the way.  Not that that in any way detracts from your point.

  • Lori

    I’d add one thing to the objections that people have already raised about both the “I’m not the 99%” guy and the “”53%” guy—both of those people are acting as if their situations are somehow admirable or desirable and that everyone should do what they’re doing and that anyone who isn’t is a lazy whiner. 

    Working 30+/week while going to college is rarely a good thing. It can be a positive situation for some people who are working in their chosen field in some way, but that kind of work is not generally described as “slightly more than minimum wage”. For most people working those hours markedly degrades the learning experience and is a major factor in people never finishing their intended program of study whether it’s a 2 year associate’s degree or a 4 year BA or BS. The need to work that many hours while in school is sad, not admirable. Among other issues, presenting those work hours as a good thing strikes me as a sign of credentialism at it’s worse—the person is not in college to learn, either academically or socially, he’s just there to get his piece of paper. I understand the forces that drive that attitude, so I don’t want to be too hard on him about it, but it’s still a bad thing. 

    Same goes for the guy who expects a pat on the back for going 4 years without having more than 3 consecutive days off. It would be one thing if he was saying that his situation really sucks, but he’s pushing through because it’s what the lousy economy demands right not. Instead he’s presenting his lack of time off as proof of his work ethic and therefore worthiness. There are so many problems with that. For one thing, he seems to think that people exist to work. He’s also ignoring the fact that lack of time off degrades quality of work right along with quality of life. 

    He also seems to have missed the fact that his supposedly superior work ethic and drive have gotten him nothing but 2 jobs, neither of which pays enough to live on (hence him needing more than one of them) and no time off to rest either his body or his mind. That’s bad. Why exactly should other people want to follow his example when clearly The Great and Powerful Market is not rewarding his slavish devotion all that well? Part of me feels sorry for him, both because of his situation and his cluelessness about it. The rest of me wants to smack him for putting his warped crap off on other people. No matter how long or how hard he claws through that big old pile of manure he’s never going to get a pony. Pretending otherwise is not good for anyone. 

    The warped POV of both this people is really depressing to me. They have economic Stockholm Syndrome and that’s just sad. 

  • ako

    That is a very good point.  Do we want the kind of economy where the exceptionally lucky scholarship-winning students have to work nearly full-time in addition to attending classes?  Do we want the kind of economy where working a full-time job isn’t enough to support a person?  Do we want the kind of economy where ordinary workers can go years without a week of vacation?  In short, do we want to force everyone to work as hard as possible so that when they look back at their life they’ll be able to go “At least I spent plenty of time in the office!”?  Do we want an economy where the good result is a life of constantly grinding away as hard as you can just to get by and hoping you stay lucky enough not to lose your place?

    Or do we want an economy where people regularly go to work after breakfast and come home before dinner, where a week off in the summer to go camping with the kids isn’t an unthinkable luxury for the common man, where someone who’s working minimum wage can get by, where sick people can worry more about getting healthy than about paying for health care, where ordinary people aren’t one bit of bad luck away from homelessness, and where students can actually spend their time outside of class studying instead of serving burger thirty hours a week to make rent?

  • Anonymous

    Someone asked if maybe some of those 53% posts were trolls.  For example, there is the young woman who talks about how her father immigrated from Croatia and works 6 days a week, 12 hours a day at his own business.  He’s now dying of cancer and his doctor told him to cut back on work, but he won’t, “because this is the American Dream.”

    In response, the person asked, “Seriously? Someone really thinks working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is the American Dream? Or is this just a joke?

  • Anonymous

    It’s called “workaholism.”

  • Lori

     In response, the person asked, “Seriously? Someone really thinks working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is the American Dream? Or is this just a joke? 

     It’s called “workaholism.”

    For the sake of argument I’m going to assume that it’s not a Poe. 

    Working 72 hours/week while dying of cancer is not the American Dream and I don’t think the issue is workaholism per se. (Workahioism is an effect, not a cause.) 

    The American Dream in this story is owning your own business. Working 72 hours a week while dying of cancer is simply what this man has to do i(or feels he must do) n order to have his own business. If you buy into that and believe that keeping the business running is the most important thing in your life you’ll become a workaholic. Once you’ve gone all in on it, that version of The Dream is relentless and grinding and incredibly hard to walk away from. 

  • Anonymous

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workaholism And for the record, it is not a Poe: I actually don’t like workaholics.

  • ako

    When people say they have to deal with stuff like that and say “But you don’t see me complaining about it!” I really want to go “Why not?”

  • Illuminati Informer

    That is a very good point.  Do we want the kind of economy where the exceptionally lucky scholarship-winning students have to work nearly full-time in addition to attending classes?  Do we want the kind of economy where working a full-time job isn’t enough to support a person?  Do we want the kind of economy where ordinary workers can go years without a week of vacation?  In short, do we want to force everyone to work as hard as possible so that when they look back at their life they’ll be able to go “At least I spent plenty of time in the office!”?  Do we want an economy where the good result is a life of constantly grinding away as hard as you can just to get by and hoping you stay lucky enough not to lose your place?

    Apparently, _somebody_ does.  

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The former Vice Chancellor at one of our most prestigious universities* was a big advocate of increasing living allowances paid to students (a government payment). He used to say that he hated being served by his students every time he ate out, because they should be studying and discussing things with each other and getting involved in the community, not making his coffee.

    *public – almost all unis are public, and the private ones are certainly not considered more prestigious

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    The former Vice Chancellor at one of our most prestigious universities* was a big advocate of increasing living allowances paid to students (a government payment). He used to say that he hated being served by his students every time he ate out, because they should be studying and discussing things with each other and getting involved in the community, not making his coffee.

    Damn straight! Further, professors should not feel that a poor grade in class has the potential to result in poor service at local restaurants and such.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, Lori.  I had several scholarships when I was in college, and took out loans for the rest of my tuition, room and board.  I worked about 15 hours a week to pay for books, supplies, and spending mone.  There is no way I would have had the stamina to work 30 hours  a week while going to school full time.

    I wonder if this person is facing what I did: where her scholarships require her to attend school full-time or she must forfeit them.  That requirement made part-time education, while working to pay for the rest instead of loans, not an option for me, because the loss of the scholarships would have made college much more expensive to pay for.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     It’s called “workaholism.”

    I’m addicted to workahol!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Y’know, that unemployment graph? I noticed something about it.

    Some economists love to crow that since the 1980s we’ve had fewer and fewer recessions than from the 1950s to the 1970s, but the other thing they conveniently miss is that we don’t bounce back from them as fast as we used to. Notice that in the 1950s and 1960s, unemployment always took a sharp nosedive back down (green circled area) – kind of like when you get an overshoot and then return to the norm. Even as late as 1984 you could still see this kind of effect happening, but the slope of the return to norm was starting to get less steep.

    Look at the red circled areas and instead of it taking about six months to a year, max, to get people back to work it takes years – two, three, sometimes even four for the curve to start working its way back down. And you can even see a portent of this in the post-1974 recovery.

    The conclusion is that companies really just don’t need as many people to do what they do as they used to, and the government is not eager to take up the reins in the private sector’s stead. It’s even more pronounced because the military is likely less attractive now than it was prior to 11 September 2001 (in the 1990s, it was widely a safe harbor employer of last resort for blacks and Hispanics who couldn’t get jobs any other way), and these statistics already omit the large prison population in the US.

    Fundamentally an exploration of the meaning and nature of work is vitally needed. People don’t have to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. It is quoted in the linked PDF: “John Maynard Keynes once made the bold prediction that the three-hour work day would prevail for his grandchildren’s generation.”

    *snicker* that’s a laugh, we’re still working as much as we did after World War II ended. And those in charge of the state of affairs in Canada and the USA want to keep it that way, because people with too much free time on their hands have the time to question lots of things about society – including things the folks in charge would rather not open a debate about: the distribution of wealth and income being one of the cornerstones.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/3lue6jq

    http://www1.picturepush.com/photo/a/6765439/img/6765439.png

  • ako

    Fundamentally an exploration of the meaning and nature of work is vitally needed. People don’t have to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.
    It is quoted in the linked PDF: “John Maynard Keynes once made the bold
    prediction that the three-hour work day would prevail for his
    grandchildren’s generation.”

    Well, if the free market needs fewer employees, there are three possibilities.  You can have a lot of potential workers are kept perpetually unemployed, a lot of people working part-time jobs and making far less money, or get everyone working fewer hours for higher hourly wages so that their incomes remain good.

    Guess which one of those ideas isn’t going to be embraced by The Sacred Wisdom Of The Unregulated Market, because it maximizes human welfare but doesn’t increase corporate profits?

    Guess which one of those ideas is the only one currently not being tried?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    In the 50s and 60s, it was generally accepted that by now (heck, by 10 years ago), in many if not most fields, technology would have increased productivity by so much that a man could work only, say, three days a week, and be just as productive as a worker in their own time.

    This turned out to be entirely true. I am (let’s just slap a number on arbitrarily) three times as productive as someone doing the closest analog to my job fifty years ago.

    Logically, those futurists predicted, this meant that either we’d all have lots more time off, or we’d all be making several times as much money and all be fabulously rich.

    As it turns out, this is not the case. Which means, in a certain sense, I am not being compensated for some percentage of my productivity. Which is bad enough on its own, but, well, I make a good living, and I’m happy enough being a couple of eschelons below the top 1%. What I’d really like is to be middle-class and have that three-day-work-week. 

    Not an option. No one’s going to hire someone in a skilled professional field for a 24-hour week; they’d never make their productivity targets.