The movement got a an assist yesterday as major union components joined, including NYC Teacher’s union locals, which may bring some focus to the movement.
The media have across the board commented that the protesters don’t seem to know what they want. They don’t much like capitalism, but they want jobs. In that case, it must be government jobs.
Teachers joining the protest may find that some of their former charges are not too happy with the course of their educations; A tumblr site in which protesters hold up handwritten signs with thier unhappy stories has gotten major play with the Wahington Post, the Guardian, Pajamas Media and elsewhere.
A persistent theme is students, or graduates decrying their fates: no jobs and huge student loan debt, and often additional credit card debt. What do students buy with their credit cards?
What is missing is what exactly these people were or are studying.
Hard times are here, and some of the stories sound pretty tough, but one is more struck by the utter guilelessness of whoever is running the site, since the majority of the posts are just plain laughable. Apparently the plan is to whine the government into taking money from business and givng it to the protestors, so they can buystuff: like cat food.
Another refrain is that graduates can’t find work in their (unstated) fields, so are reduced to menial jobs, like baristas. Myself, I got a BA in history in 72, and after a few weeks of being turned down for entry level jobs whcih I naively thought the diploma qualified me, spent two and half years as an office boy and xerox clerk, before being promoted to an administrative job.
I have an MA, which I took because I wanted to, paid cash, at night. A lot of these kids must have spent plenty of dorm time watching “Friends “re-runs, and figured that was what was out there for them. In “Friends,” Or “How I met Your Mother,” unemployment is just a one or two episode plot point.
Bad life choices figure in many cases, with people having children they clearly cannot afford, often without a spouse or partner.
I don’t like corporate bailouts, but these folks are missing the point: It was the government that bailed out the TBTFs. After generations of indoctrination in our universities, and when public figures as prominent as the First Lady advise the young to stay away from corporate employment, the attitudes shown here are not surprising. I spent 30 years working for large corporations, and I’m glad to be past it now. But it paid the bills, and as I knew full well that I had not trained in any marketable skill, I was grateful.
It’s easy enough to track the growth of government spending on higher education, and the cost of degrees, to find a match, but that kind of iron clad economic cause and effect doesn’t produce “economic justice.”
Consider “It’s Money That Matters” by Randy Newman.
Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
Moving careful and slow
This would seem to describe a lot of the 99ers. “Lurking” would appear to imply some disapproval, but Mr. Newman goes on to say:
All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive
So, a “fair” system is one in which MFAs can do whatever they do, at a “living wage.” He then goes on to a vignette of one of the undeserving rich.
Then I talked to a man lived up on the county line
I was washing his car with a friend of mine
He was a little fat guy in a red jumpsuit
I said “You look kind of funny”
He said “I know that I do”
“But I got a great big house on the hill here
And a great big blonde wife inside it
And a great big pool in my backyard and another great big pool
The rich guy is just some square from flyover country(“county line,” a hick who lives way out of town) definitely not urban chic, no black tee shirt, kaffiyeh, or Mother Africa beanie.
Somehow, I’ll put my money on the guy in the red jumpsuit. While some commenters on the right side blogs are seeing Occupy as a harbinger of civic unrest, even uprisings, I doubt it.
These bookstore lurkers don’t’ have it in them to be real revolutionaries. And the heirs of the real revolutions of the last century found eventually that Newman has one thing right:
“It’s money that matters
Now you know that it’s true
It’s money that matters
Whatever you do.”
The songwriter means this ironically, rather than a concise understanding of economics. He shows the same simple and unfocused resentment as do the 99ers. They would just as fruitfully resent gravity.
Money isn’t free; nothing is, And if money does cease to matter, it will be because it has become worthless.