SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ah, To Be Young And In Hate

America’s New Radicals Attack a System That Ignores Them

“Enraged young people,” The New York Times worries aloud, are kicking off the dust of phony democracy, in which “the job of a citizen was limited to occasional trips to the polling places to vote” while decision-making remains in the claws of a rarified elite of overpaid corporate executives and their corrupt pet politicians.

“From South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street,” the paper continues, “these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.”

The rage of the young is real. It is justified. It is just beginning to play out.

The political class thinks it can ignore the people it purports to represent. They’re right–but not forever. A reckoning is at hand. Forty years of elections without politics will cost them.

Americans’ pent-up demand for a forum to express their disgust is so vast that they are embracing slapdash movements like Occupy Wall Street, which reverses the traditional tactic of organizing for a demonstration. People are protesting first, then organizing, then coming up with demands. They have no other choice. With no organized Left in the U.S., disaffected people are being forced to build resistance from the ground up.

Who can blame young adults for rejecting the system? The political issue people care most about–jobs and the economy–prompts no real action from the political elite. Even their lip service is half-assed. Liberals know “green jobs” can’t replace 14 million lost jobs; conservatives aren’t stupid enough to think tax cuts for the rich will help them pay this month’s bills.

The politicians’ only real action is counterproductive; austerity and bank bailouts that hurt the economy. Is the government evil or incompetent? Does it matter?

Here in the United States, no one should be surprised that young adults are among the nation’s angriest and most alienated citizens. No other group has been as systematically ignored by the mainstream political class as the young. What’s shocking is that it took so long for them to take to the streets.

Every other age groups get government benefits. The elderly get a prescription drug plan. Even Republicans who want to slash Medicaid and Medicare take pains to promise seniors that their benefits will be grandfathered in. Kids get taken care of too. They get free public education. ObamaCare’s first step was to facilitate coverage for children under 18.

Young adults get debt.

The troubles of young adults get no play in Washington. Pundits don’t bother to debate issues that concerns people in their 20s and 30s. Recent college graduates, staggering under soaring student loan debt, are getting crushed by 80 percent unemployment–and no one even pretends to care. Young Americans tell pollsters that their top concerns are divorce, which leaves kids impoverished, and global warming. Like jobs, these issues aren’t on anyone’s agenda.

This pot has been boiling for decades.

In 1996 I published “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids,” a manifesto decrying the political system’s neglect and exploitation of Generation X, my age cohort, which followed the Baby Boomers.

We were in our 20s and low 30s at the time.

Un- and underemployment, the insanity of a job market that requires kids to take out mortgage-sized loans to attend college just to be considered for a low-paid entry-level gig in a cube farm, the financial and emotional toll of disintegrating families, and our fear that the natural world was being destroyed left many of my peers feeling resentful and left out–like arriving at a party after the last beer was gone.

Today the oldest Gen Xers are turning 50. Life will always be harder for us than it was for the Boomers. If I had to write “Latchkey Kids” for today’s recent college grads, it would be bleaker still. Today’s kids–demographers call them Gen Y–have it significantly worse than we did.

Like us, today’s young adults get no play from the politicians.

The debts of today’s Gen Yers are bigger ($26,000 in average student loans, up from $10,000 in 1985). Their incomes are smaller. Their sense of betrayal, having gone all in for Obama, is deeper.

Young adults turned out big for Obama in 2008, but he didn’t deliver for them. They noticed: The One’s approval rating has plunged from 75 percent among voters ages 18-29 when he took office in January 2009 to 45 percent in September.

Politicians like Obama ignore young adults, especially those with college degrees, at their–and the system’s–peril. Now, however, more is at stake than Obama and the Democrats’ 2012 election prospects. The entire economic, social and political order faces collapse; young people may choose revolution rather than accept a life of poverty in a state dedicated only to feeding the bank accounts of the superrich.

As Crane Brinton pointed out in his seminal book “The Anatomy of Revolution,” an important predictor of revolution is downward mobility among strivers, young adults whose education and ambition would traditionally have led to a brighter future.

In February Martin Wolf theorized in The Financial Times that the Arab Spring rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia owed their success to demographics; those countries have more young people than old ones. On the other hand “middle-aged and elderly rig political and economic life for their benefit in the U.K. [he could also have said the U.S.]: hence the way in which policies on housing or education finance are weighted against the young.”

Right here and right now, though, the young and the old are on the same side. Though the young are getting screwed the hardest, almost everyone else is getting screwed too. And with 80 percent unemployment, the young have a lot of free time to rise up.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

61 Comments.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2011 10:52 AM

    Ted,

    Great points. (I don’t know about the 80% unemployment figure. Did a finger slip on the keyboard?)

    Today, I ran into something that was a first for me. This morning, on my way to Glorious Temp Job (and I mean that sincerely, without this job, I would be on a sidewalk somewhere right now), I saw what looked like a homeless man (three bundles and a wheelie suitcase), sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette and using a laptop computer. A laptop. And not a crappy old one, either.

    I mention it because I see the biggest problem for the OWSers (other than their lack of a coherent message, inept media connectivity, etc.) is the one that gets you booed off the stage if you say it. So here goes: “Hey, guys, stop telling me about your problems while you have laptops (~$600), iPhones (~$200? + monthly connection fee of, what, $80?), iPads, etc. You have how much student debt? And that student loan debt was simply sprung on you at the end of college? No?! You knew exactly how much you were borrowing and exactly how many semesters you had to go to college? And the interest is remarkably low compared to other debt? How awful! A clearly established debt structure was shown to you, you simply kept asking for money, and now you discover that you can’t pay off $75K with a degree in musicology? I’m shocked! Shocked! If only you’d majored in textiles.”

    How many of the OWSers are down to their last nickel? I’m seeing a lot of cell phones, a lot of iPhones, a lot of shiny electronic toys. These people have a lot of, um, joy about them. Joy doesn’t win the revolution. Incompetence and a happy-go-lucky attitude doesn’t win the revolution. Cold, contained fury wins the revolution.

    I read in one of the websites that when the police started arresting the protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, the protesters self-organized so that the able-bodied men could be processed first. First Rule of Protest: You do not HELP the opposition. Ever. In any way.

    I imagine that I’m someone I’m not. I pretend that I’m married, with two kids, a house, a job, etc. And I lose it all. The job goes pfft (that’s happened to me twice), I lose my house (I lost my apartment and ended up on a friend’s couch for 18 months), no medical insurance (that too, AND it’s the only time in my life so far that I’ve needed immediate medical care), and suddenly, it’s not only all gone, the possibility of recovery (good-bye credit rating) is gone too. And I’m supposed to be perky? Are you mad?

    If I were protesting all this at Wall Street, I would not be joyous. Would you? Would you treat this as anything other than a deadly earnest fight for your very life? I wouldn’t. I would go down there very much in the mindset of causing as much disruption as I could, because I’ve learned that being agreeable doesn’t win the day. So when I see young people who look like they do still have options, and who are acting like they are well-aware that they still have options, I draw back.

    Am I wrong about this? I’m perfectly willing to believe that I am, but I just don’t see it.

    • The 80% figure (for recent grads under 26) is accurate.

      I don’t know that young protesters need to give up their modern electronic gadgets, but they certainly do need to express anger and do so in a coherent, populist way if they are going to gain support. I was surprised that the OWSers who invaded BofA in Boston didn’t occupy the building and demand things everyone would agree with: an end to all fees on checking accounts, a reversal for all illegal foreclosures, etc.

  • I’m a tail end boomer, born in 1961. I’ve been lucky enough to stay a few years ahead of what Ted is talking about – when my wife and I graduated, from an expensive liberal arts college, we had some debt but could live with it, I got a ton of real financial aid, and of course “expensive” back then was significantly cheaper than it is now. We got a cheap apartment in NY, and lived on nothing for a while as we alternated grad school and jobs. When my wife decided she couldn’t teach anymore and needed to be an artist, we got a loft in Williamsburg and scraped by for a year until I got my doctorate and a real job (though we were still living on nothing for quite some time). Two kids and twenty years later we’re settled in the country, with a nice house and a comfortable life. I was just back in Williamsburg for a 75th bday party for a good friend, and it was very weird. First, it’s nothing resembling an actual neighborhood anymore, it’s just a commercial haven. Second, I cannot for the life of me figure out how the people there do it. They’re young, twenties and thirties, and lots of the thirty somethings have kids. But housing and living there is off the charts price wise, so as far as I can figure a few of them obviously are heavy hitters, wall street types or whatever, and the rest must be living off their parents. No one I knew in my twenties was living off their parents, outside of the occasional “can you help out with a couple of hundred” request, or buying their old car off of them. But back to Ted’s point, I can’t see how a whole generation is going to continue to do that, at some point the shit has to hit the fan…

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2011 12:04 PM

    Wow! 80% unemployment for the under-26? Holy Hell.

  • As a college prof at a State U, I can second Ted on the fact that’s it’s basically impossible for recent grads to find jobs. And Ted, are you really surprised that the OWSers didn’t occupy the building? It seems to me the biggest problem with the OWS types is just that they’re clueless, not they’re fault really, they’ve just never been exposed to anything resembling an organized left, they’ve never read anything (how many of the people downtown do you figure have read “State and Revolution” 🙂 When I was in 9th grade I helped organized a student strike to protest back to basics budget cuts passed by the school board. We marched about 1/2 of our junior high school out in the middle of the day to attend a protest rally, could very easily have been suspended for who knows how long (though we weren’t) – think any of the OWSers have ever even SEEN something like that, much less organized or even participated in it?

    • Very true, today’s Gen Y students have no role models. My generation saw and read about the Vietnam protests of the early 1970s, so we knew how it’s done.

  • suetonius17 brings up a point about people around 50 (such as myself). She considers herself a tail-end boomer whilst Mr. Rall considers himself a leading edge Xer.

    Iff, the problems of the younger generation are every solved, people in the present 50 yo cohort will get a new moniker, the screwed generation: too young to reap the glorious benefits of the boomers, too old to be saved by reform.

    I know this is the cry of most generations, but I have a gut feeling that it is true. Especially in the work force. We have been told for a long time that the boomers are going to retire and we will all move up. Guess what? When they do decide to retire, management will bring in a young, fresh face that is hip with the technology. I realistically see myself working until I am 80 and then part time at Stuff*Mart picking up boxes and putting them down until I die at 90+ saying welcome to Stuff*Mart. If my health holds out. I won’t be able to afford the drugs offered up to the boomers curing their lack of boners, hairiness, bad breath, or smelly stools.

    The motto of the screwed generation?
    Life sucks and then you die. Have a nice day.

  • Jesus, stop with the “they own a X, they can’t be really poor!”

    I can get a powerful Unix laptop with DVD burner and wireless internet for $100. If I bother.

    My neighbour has just offered me his 1-year-old Blackberry. I put in my SIM card. It works. Free cell phone!

    Public wi-fi hot spots! Friends. Non-profit computer recyclers. One can have a very low cash flow, yet still have excellent gadgets.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2011 1:58 PM

    Hairhead,

    I need to make an important distinction. To the average person — repeat, to the average person — who has minimal training or conditioning for thinking things through deeply, seeing someone with a shiny new electronic object is where the inquest phase ends.

    They do not think, “Hmm … someone has purchased a powerful Unix laptop — and of course, being uninformed as to what exactly the prices of computers are and so forth — for $100.” They think: “I’ve seen those things on TV. They’re expensive.”

    Also, I don’t notice that the devices these people are using at the protests are second- or third-hand cast-offs that have been brought up to excellence by the tech-savvy of the 20somethings. I see that they have what look like really shiny, really pretty, really expensive devices.

    As to the “free” cell phone. Please, in detail, tell me how I can get a “free” cell phone, which means that I don’t pay to make phone calls. Anyone can get a free cell phone by simply signing up for a service (at $60 or $50 a month). Do you not pay for the use of that phone? Because, if you do, it’s the same issue all over again: for the average person, someone who can afford cell phone service isn’t poor.

    Whether that conclusion is fair, is another matter. But the reality of this is that appearance is just as important as message. And if you go around shrieking poor-mouth with an iPhone in your pocket, or any of the other devices that allows you to tweet and facebook all day long, you are going to be facing a very long uphill fight: “Maybe,” Average Person will argue, “if you spent less time facebooking about what you did yesterday, you could find a job.”

    Remember: the argument isn’t to convince the people who are already on your side, it’s to convince the people who are on the fence or who are misinformed. And if you have no job, $100 is a lot of money.

    • Alex definitely has a point. Perception is very important. I was favorably impressed to see an OWS spokesman wearing a suit on MSNBC’s (disappointingly lame Democratic shill) Al Sharpton’s show. They’re improving by leaps and bounds.

      However, you can’t convince all the lame-os. Some people can’t be convinced, and no one should waste time on them.

  • Spacious Specious
    October 3, 2011 3:46 PM

    I was raised by a single mother in the 1970s. We grew up in a rickety old farmhouse in a rural part of the country.

    During our poorest days, the power was occasionally shut off due to non-payment of the electric bill. We went grocery shopping on bicycles. One night, the police came to take my mother away due to an unpaid parking ticket. Sounds pretty poor, doesn’t it? Wrong!

    You see, during our poorest days we had the following: A working refrigerator. A black and white TV set (which died and was not replaced). A landline style telephone. A wood stove and wood to chop up and burn. A chicken coop with chickens that gave us eggs when properly fed. We also had clothing and only went hungry very rarely because we got food stamps. We also had a subscription to the local newspaper.

    We had it pretty good compared to people a million miles away in some third world hell hole. If there were idiot pundits on the TV in those days, they would have pointed to my family and told you how great we had it, living like it was 1893 in 1977.

    If you think a computer is some kind of gleaming luxury, I invite you to look for work without using one. While you’re at it, find a job where computer skills are unnecessary. Or, hop in a time machine back to the 1970s and look for work without using a telephone or a newspaper.

  • Spacious Specious said, “If you think a computer is some kind of gleaming luxury, I invite you to look for work without using one. While you’re at it, find a job where computer skills are unnecessary. Or, hop in a time machine back to the 1970s and look for work without using a telephone or a newspaper.”

    I work closely with public libraries and 90% of their adult computer usage is job hunters. The librarians have morphed from information professionals to social workers/job coaches. Because of high demand, they have 1/2 hour to fill in applications, look for jobs, check to see if they have any responses. Half-hour up? NEXT!

    And what agencies are seeing their budgets slashed, technology horribly outdated, and staff cut?

    You might want to call a librarian and find out.

  • Ted, in 1979 I was 18 and making $8.10 an hour sacking groceries in a union store. We need real labor unions, now. The minimum wage must be $25.00/ hr starting tomorrow to even begin to catch up.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2011 5:52 PM

    I’m going out on a limb on this one. For a lot of people, a computer is a luxury.

    A lot of retail level employees can walk right into the store and fill out an application at a kiosk right in the store. As nom du jour has pointed out, libraries (at least until the budgets get cut a little more) have internet access for visitors. A computer in your house is a luxury. It’s a very useful luxury, but it’s still a luxury, just as a washer/dryer, a TV, a microwave or a dishwasher in your house is a luxury. (Seriously, how much does it cost to buy all of them? $400 for the washer/dryer. TV for $500. Microwave, $125. Dishwasher $300? Less than $1500. That’s all it takes to make life almost infinitely more tolerable. It’s almost horrifying to realize there are millions of people who can’t come up with that relatively small amount of money.)

    Again, I’m on the side of the protesters. I am one of the people who got eaten alive by the system. I’m over 40, heavily in debt, have no medical insurance, no full-time job, I wake up in the middle of the night wondering how my life and my country went so whacko crazy, I am terrified to contemplate retirement because it keeps seeming like it’s going to be me, a bottle of cheap champagne and a whole lot of sleeping pills when I become too old to stay in harness any longer.

    But standing around in brand-name clothes, smiling and having a good time (so it seems), getting free food, sending out tweets and facebook updates will NOT, repeat NOT, win over the middle-of-the-roaders. Forget the Baby Boomers. Too many of them have the -itis, as in, “Thank God, I managed to get my pension and social security before all this happened itis.” The last person in the lifeboat feels bad for those bobbing in the water as the shark fins break the surface, but very few of those people are going to willingly trade places.

    For this uprising to be successful, every possible thing has to be done to sway the maximum number of people over to the protesters’ side. If I were running it — well, of course I wouldn’t be running it, because leadership is so, you know, um, stuff and things — but if I were, I would be telling these people to hide anything that had any value. No piercings, no cell phones, no laptops, no Nikes, no iPods. Cover up the tattoos. (“You have money for ink? Then I guess you don’t want to eat.” will be the hissed catcall on that.)

    Those cardboard signs? I’d have everyone write down the college they went to and how much they owe in student loans. And I’d tell them to write as big as possible. I’d set up a booth for job recruiters to come and meet unemployed people who are ready to go to work.

    I’d even give Wall Street a deal. You want them out of your hair? Then hire them, and everyone else. Put the unemployment rate back to 5%. Buy their/our silence with full benefits and a guarantee of a job for two years. Offer it on a company-by-company basis. But this protest has to either escalate or it will begin to fail (not that it’s been a rip-roaring success so far — have they even gotten Tony Baloney investigated? I don’t see a single thing about him on the OWS site. Again, he’s your sympathy vote from the masses. All that’s missing is the photo of him eating a kitten. He maced five women who were already behind a fence. The Boston Massacre started over less.)

    • Excellent points. Beware, however, that many people feel zero sympathy for deeply indebted college students. Some think college is a luxury, others remember working through college (unaware of how much costs have risen since then), others are simply anti-intellectual. They’re wrong, of course. But college grads have to tread carefully when looking for sympathy.

      The key, I think, is not to get people to feel sorry for the protesters. It’s for the protesters to fight for the people about issues the people care about–something the political class isn’t doing.

  • I think the point Alex_the_Tired is trying to make is that appearances do matter. It doesn’t matter if you can have something for cheep or free, if it strikes others as betraying their conception of destitute poverty and desperation it ruins the sympathy that is key to getting revolutions to snowball and thus become successful.

    From this and his previous posting I gather that he thinks the protesters should come forth as professionally looking as possible owning nothing but the causal-Friday clothes on their backs and demonstrating nothing but organized, professional, and infectious rage.

    But this is just my understanding, I could be wrong in my interpretation.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2011 11:06 PM

    Someone,

    That’s pretty much exactly right. (Gosh, I wish I could have said it that succinctly.)

  • Alex, here’s your list: $400 for the washer/dryer. TV for $500. Microwave, $125. Dishwasher $300? Less than $1500 total.

    In the Real World of the Poor: washer/dryer: Free through freecycle. TV: free or less than $50 through Freecycle, friends/relatives Microwave: $10 (I’ve had several microwaves, and that was the most I ever paid for one). Dishwasher is the most expensive about $100 through freecyle, Sally Ann, or other.

    I have a $1200 Versace suit. Except I paid $40 for it at the St. Vincent de Paul. The poor have a lot of ways to make life tolerable, Alex. What they really lack is adequate access to health care, stable housing, and jobs which pay reasonably well. All the other stuff is merely THINGS — and the USA, Land of the Consumer, is absolutely awash in THINGS. And you, if you’re over 40 and in bad financial trouble, you ought to talk to some poor people and find out how they do this — I’d say you need some help!

    That said, you have a minor point about people mistaking gadgetry for wealth; but here’s another thing — in the current climate of “hate-the-poor” you have in the US, if the protesters appeared poor or even just not-well-off, they would be vilified as “lazy unemployed scum looking for taxpayer handouts.” That shit is done all the time in the MSM.

    What will impress (or terrify) the PTB more than anything is the sheer size of demonstrations. Get 100,000 people on the streets around Wall Street and there won’t be enough cops to contain them. Then watch the rich shit their pants.

  • The continued sniping of the OWSers is truly silly ESPECIALLY in light of the total LACK of comprehensive, long-term, positive “results” generated by previous, presumably, model protests of those so meticulously employing the “traditional tactic of organizing for a demonstration.”

    I’m VERY curious to see the proceedings of the upcoming “GenX-approved demonstration” in Wa DC in a few days. I hope, at least, that encouragement can be given to the “non-traditional” OWS demonstrators, as opposed to, what I fear, an attitude of rejection and competition. I can’t help but think the sniping has been motivated by the perception that the OWSers have chronologically preempted the “real” revolution by taking advantage of precisely the “traditional” organization that has publicized the DC event for months.

    This country is in a world of hurt and criticism of the tactics of anyone brave enough to try to point it out, over the pall of corporate think, simply hastens the dawn of the neo-feudal age.

    • There’s more than a grain of truth there, Falco. Gen Y style annoys me; either I’m just old or I just can’t understand how anyone can listen to the Decembrists or TV on the Radio without ripping out their dyed hair.

      As for the revolution, Goddess bless the kids, and may they lead to the show trials of the rich the nation so desperately craves. I don’t need credit; I just want this shit to get done. Clearly the OWSers are onto something. Go, go, go, and let us Gen Xers know if you want us. I, for one, am perfectly willing to accept the leadership of the young; that is how revolution is and always will be.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 4, 2011 8:15 AM

    Hairhead,

    1. My list (and its prices) were deliberately high end of the scale. My point was that part of what keeps people worn out is how much time they expend on personal labor (food prep, going to the laudromat, coming back from the laundromat, dishwashing, etc.) because they lack labor-saving devices. Of course you can buy a washer/dryer second-hand, or get one for free (or almost free). But if I had said that, I would have gotten, “Well what if you don’t have relatives giving away microwaves?” The example still holds: It isn’t a wild love of things that keeps people miserable. It’s that so much of their free time is eaten away by “maintenance,” whether of the body, the home, or the mind.

    2. The reason I’m in debt is because I was unemployed for 2 and 1/2 years after years of low-pay work. It wasn’t because I was going out spending money like a drunken sailor. In fact, if I had been spending like a maniac, I wouldn’t have survived 2 and 1/2 years of unemployment. I rent a room in a house. I don’t own any of the labor-saving devices, but the landlord does. I deliberately live in a metro-area to avoid the expense of a car. So please stop lecturing me on my spending habits. I am in debt for the same reason someone loses their house when they get cancer: because the game was rigged to screw me over at every turn.

    3. As to the $1,200 Versace suit. I wouldn’t wear a $1,200 suit if I got it for free. You have a $1,200 suit? So next year, Versace will bring out the $1,400 suits. Then the $1,600 suits. Eventually, I’ll have to hold up a liquor store just to be able to afford socks. Give it time. The hyper-expensive suit will go the way of the fur coat: a symbol of grotesque excess.

    4. As to “the protesters appeared poor or even just not-well-off, they would be vilified as ‘lazy unemployed scum looking for taxpayer handouts.’ That shit is done all the time in the MSM.” Correct. We have established that as a proposition. We also know that, similarly, in true Morton’s Fork style, the protesters are vilified if they appear too well off. I can see it. You can see it. Pretty much everyone, except the protesters, can see it. A narrow line has to be walked for success to be maximized. (This is called tactics or strategy.) And I don’t see the OSWers trying that, or even admitting that it exists.

    5. As to the “Get 100,000 people on the streets around Wall Street and there won’t be enough cops to contain them. Then watch the rich shit their pants.” I’m sorry. Your notion that the rich will be worried in any real way is risible. If you were rich and your house suddenly exploded with vermin, mice and cockroaches coming out of the walls, you wouldn’t stand there and fight them yourself. You’d check into a good hotel and call the exterminators. The rich will continue enjoying themselves. As they own the police, they will call them to handle the problem. The police have the weapons and the training.

    The police will never, ever, turn on their corporate masters because, deep down, a lot of police simply hate civilians: it’s not police v. criminals, it’s police v. non-police. And if the police ever turn on the rich, guess what, they aren’t going to come over to the side of the poor.

    As before, a symbolic protest is pointless. I suspect the “GenX-approved demonstration” will also fail. Why? Because the rich are looking at the end of the protest. A bunch of speeches will be made, people will meditate to heal the world, someone will play a tambourine, tweets will be filed, someone will offer to read auras, some impossible suggestions will be made for solving the world’s problems, and everyone will finally go home because the rich will either grow bored of watching the fiasco or they will grow irritated at the minor annoyance.

    • Historically, the police never turn away from state support. The military, on the other hand, often play a decisive role by switching sides.

  • I just turned 30 and at this point most of my friends that are my age have jobs but I know a lot of people around 25 that are unemployed. My experience is that people with engineering and hard science degrees (I’m an engineer) don’t have too much trouble finding jobs. The liberal arts majors are finding it impossible but if the unemployed younger friends I have follow in the footsteps of the liberal arts majors I graduated with they will eventually decide to double down on the debt and go to law or medical school and find jobs. I think part of the problem on the college student side is that technology has reduced number of white collar positions available to liberal arts majors. Our educational system hasn’t recognized that yet.

    The bigger problem is the people who didn’t go to college at all because the jobs they traditional took are now getting staffed by college grades. Might be because I’m a mechanical engineer and we’ve been hit by outsourcing for a long time but I think fixing our economy would be relatively easy if we would put tariffs back on the table.

    Just wait ’til the Internet and closed circuit TV outsourced lawyers jobs to India, and Internet controlled robotics outsources surgical jobs to china. Then we’ll see a real discussion about outsourcing

  • John From Censornati
    October 4, 2011 12:55 PM

    The End is near.

  • John From Censornati
    October 4, 2011 1:20 PM

    Role model: Johnny Rotten

    “Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it.”

  • I have to second what Hairhead said very strongly:

    Here in 2011, gadgets are not an indication of wealth. Even in Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa, they are using cellphones. The very fact that gadgets would considered be an indication of wealth is another example of just how out-of-touch those in authority are. You can get an iPhone for fifty bucks now, if I’m not mistaken.

    And, frankly, I’m getting rather tired of the whole “How would this look?” attitude. Because the hipsters were able to sit their ass down first, more of what we call “ordinary folks” are starting to do the same, especially those out-of-work and without a home.

  • Ted,

    Thanks for the grain of complement.

    It’s my understanding that the OWSers are not seeking a leader at this time. But if you are truly interested in the job you could send a resume. The address I have is:

    The UPS Store
    Re: Occupy Wall Street
    118A Fulton St. #205
    New York, NY 10038

    There is no listed personnel director. But act fast as their website has pictures of boomer types who just may be lurking to fill the leadership gap if the opportunity presents itself !

    They ARE accepting donations at:
    http://nycga.cc/donate/

    I expect ONLY that money sent there does not go to Goldman Sachs.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 4, 2011 6:46 PM

    Susan Stark,

    Three quick questions.

    1. How much is the subscription for that $50 iPhone? Per month.

    2. “Even in Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa, they are using cellphones.” How many people, expressed as a percentage, do you know, and how many, again as a percentage, do you think evaluate arguments by considering what goes on in sub-Saharan Africa? You don’t get to just wave away the importance of appearance in swaying public opinion and rally support.

    3. “Because the hipsters were able to sit their ass down first, more of what we call ‘ordinary folks’ are starting to do the same, especially those out-of-work and without a home.” Yes. The movement does seem to be beginning to coalesce. But what are they doing? You may not like it, but the worst possible thing will be a small, permanent encampment in Liberty Park because it will be a nice, passive (from Goldman Sachs POV) locus for dissent. Remember the Free Speech Zones? It’ll be the same thing, but the protesters will be self-removing to one. “We’re here in the park, holding a symbolic protest.”

    Look at the OWS website. Balloons and an art exhibit. The video clip of 4 minutes something in length? The first 45 seconds should have been cut. Again, again, again, these things MUST be aimed at the people the group is trying to sway, not at themselves. And multiple angles of the Wall Street Bull with typewriting coming across the screen? Wow! That’s powerful. I bet a lot of people had to look away because they couldn’t handle all that truth!

    At one minute into the tape, we see the NYPD slowly retreating as the protesters march up the bridge. And the police are videotaping. Kind of creepy, kind of “why are they videotaping protesters?” but no mention made. BUT …. there’s a real kick-ass soundtrack. It’s the best I’ve heard since the Loose Change 9/11 Conspiracy soundtrack.

    Then there’s a guy with a giant red star painted on his back and his arm raised in what, I am sure, some will mistake for a Nazi salute. And that great soundtrack! I hope it’s available for download!!!!!1!!

    Finally at 1:32, you finally get to see something worth seeing. A line of people marching with arms linked. Omigod! It’s like people are actually trying to present a united front about something. A lot of them are wearing face protection. We don’t know why, because although there’s a soundtrack, no one bothered to educate the viewers. “The marchers are wearing face protector for fear the police will mace them, like a police officer maced five unarmed women earlier in the protest.”

    At 2:42, we get to see the police starting to arrest the protesters. Sure can’t tell what’s going on, partly because of that GREAT soundtrack which prevents any narrative from going out and partly because the whole video is just images.

    This thing shouldn’t be treated like an art installation. It also shouldn’t have taken, what, two, three days to get the footage up on the site.

  • “The police will never, ever, turn on their corporate masters because, deep down, a lot of police simply hate civilians: it’s not police v. criminals, it’s police v. non-police. And if the police ever turn on the rich, guess what, they aren’t going to come over to the side of the poor.”

    Not all cops. A few of us started demonstrating near the FL Capitol during the buildup to the 1st Gulf War in a city-owned park. Capitol security called the city cops… and the guy they sent said “I was in Vietnam, so I understand why you’re doing this” and let us stay. The next week we went to the police HQ to inquire about a permit to demonstrate in the park. The officer on duty said we didn’t need one, “that’s your first amendment right.” We kept up weekly demonstrations for several months.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 5, 2011 8:09 AM

    Russell,

    Of course not all cops. Thank you for the correction on that.

  • I was at a young Democrats meeting in WA last night. Our club raised $25 to mail care packages to OWS. I was/am very skeptical about this protest after marching in the SF anti-Iraq war protests and seeing how easy it was very the government to ignore many many thousands of people but ows has struck a nerve with my generation. Maybe the art installation look is necessary for my generation to buy into the message at all? I remember my mom talking about going to Vietnam protests as if they were a good place to meet guys. Could be that if young people are going to stick it out, there needs to be a fun aspect to the whole thing and it needs to look authentically youthful, not with a bunch of old hippies running the show talking about Woodstock and Bob Dylan.

  • Um. All this talk about appearances is turning me off. If you don’t have substance, then all the talk about proper clothes, proper “presentation” … kinda seems part and parcel of the spectacle.

    And the demands? There is really one one that sounds dignified and right on. The Spaniards came up with it. Real democracy. Now. The rest of them sound like begging at the feet of a system that has all the power, and no intention to share it.

    • I would add to that demand: the mass resignation and prosecution of the political class (president, congress, governors, etc.), business elites, and top media propagandists, along with the abolition of extraction-based capitalism.

  • You make ridiculous, impossible demands like that and then you wonder why the political class pays little to no attention to the left, Ted?

    Statments like that are like a red flag to politicians “Wacko! Unserious! Not interested in helping me keep my job! Best to ignore!”.

    The left not only used to understand how the game was played, they used to play it BETTER than the right wing. What the hell happened?

  • I agree with Whim (did I say that?! 🙂

    If you get real democracy, all sorts of doors open. One battle cry.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 5, 2011 9:30 PM

    Look at the unions joining the OWSers. It’s interesting because, back when Reagan had a strike from the Air Traffic Controllers, all the unions crossed the picket line. Reagan pushed, and the unions caved. And that was one of the big things that started the whole “workers shouldn’t get security” from their jobs.

    Then came the whole 401(k) scheme, which coincided with the stock market’s massive increase. How much longer before all those 401(k)s start getting cashed in at the same time, without sufficient desire to buy up the stocks flooding the market? I think we’re going to see a lot of Baby Boomers wandering around going, “But, but, but, the portfolio was valued at a million. Do you have any idea how many younger people I had to screw over to get that much into the portfolio? And it’s now down to $250,000? How’s that possible? What? No one can afford to buy the stocks and investments at the prices they were artificially inflated to? Wait. I’ll get my broker on the phone. Wait. It’s his machine … ‘I already got mine.’ ”

    And now, that we’ve wiped out an entire generation of progressivism, and all those social programs are gone (good luck reconstituting the talent that ran them), we can all start back at the beginning.

    Vera, you want a rallying cry? I think that it should be a General Strike. Every union worker in the entire country, all at once. Invite the unemployed to attend (just tell ’em not to mention they’re unemployed). And their demands should be the following:

    1. Universal health care. Why? NOTHING will get people to understand the power of a union faster and better than universal health care. With the power of unions established, we move on to demand 2.

    2. Immediate investigation (with mandatory jail terms in real prisons, where ass-rape and being shived is a daily occurrence, for the guilty) of the economic meltdown. That’s long-term. It will take at least a year for that investigation to conclude. While we’re waiting for that …

    3. Stock market revamp. Every transaction now carries a flat fee. 1% of total transaction cost is taken right off the top. Give it to the schools, which will now go to a national funding basis, no more of this local property tax horseshit. Immediate cessation of all short-sells on stocks. You want to make money, you do it by backing a winner, not by betting on a loser. Also (you’ll love this one), your hedge fund manager only gets paid when the fund cashes out, and then, only if there’s anything left after paying the investors. That’s right. The days of someone getting paid regardless of whether you make money or lose money? Over. The financial markets need to stop being “investor bears the risk” oriented. These money guys are the ones with the education and the training, right? Then let THEM take the frickin’ risks. Maybe if they start seeing it affecting their bottom line, they’ll stop offering bullshit investments that wipe out working-class people’s life savings. If someone makes me a million dollars, I’ll be the first one to say he deserves a slice of it. But he has to MAKE me a million, not COST me a million.

    See. Three things: Universal health care, stock market investigation, stock market revamp.

    If the unions hadn’t caved, we might have avoided some of this, so I expect them to expiate their sins. I want to see the country grind to a halt while one strident message keeps resonating: UHC. Investigate Wall Street. UHC. Investigate Wall Street.

  • Inevitable my ass, Ted. $20 to the charity of your choice versus your actual vote for Obama in 2012 says not more than one token resignation/arrest happens, especially not as a result of these protests, and it won’t be anyone from the political or media class.

    See, while you’re dead wrong about the consequences of revolution (it will destroy America, and what will take its place will be far, far worse), you’re right about this much, and only this much: If you’re unwilling or unable to play by the rules of the game, it’s the only option you’ve got.

  • Well, there’s one solid vote for neo-feudalism!!!

  • alex_the_tired
    October 6, 2011 7:47 AM

    Falco,

    Although I love the use of polisci terms (neo-feudalism), I think that a minute or two of real reflection about this all is in order. Without getting all End Timesy about this, the U.S. is approaching an inflection point. It IS going to get bad. It is going to get very bad, very scary, and very sad.

    If the protests just peter out, things will continue as they are. That might be preferable. Why?

    The demands (or what I can tweeze out as the demands) of the protesters are basically, “Give me a job so that I can have money so that I can live my life.” Those demands cannot be met. Not for any high-end polisci theoretical or ideological reason. We’re down to the basic math part of the problem. Something like 16% of the workforce are out of work or not working enough. There is NO way to come up with the number of jobs needed to fill that gap. My horseback calculation? It would take a minimum of three years of very robust job creation to get them all back to work. Even a national project, like revamping the electrical grid, probably wouldn’t do it.

    So what do you do with a large, vocal, group of people who want to work when there’s no jobs available? Thanks to 30 years of treating the People like criminals, we now have things on the books (and in use) that are going to be a hell of a surprise to some of these protesters. You’ve heard of “preventive detention”? That’s when the government locks you up because they think you might do something. All these protesters are in for a hell of a surprise, I fear. They will be preventively detained. They will be locked up, indefinitely, because they’re protesting. (But, but, but, that’s a violation of the First Amendment, I hear you cry, aghast.) Remember what happened to the Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II? That violated at least 2/3 of the Bill of Rights.

    I can easily see the government constructing giant barracks out in the Midwest somewhere and simply warehousing all these troublemakers. No visitors. Security concerns. And thanks to all the facebook and tweeter and the myspace and the AOL and the Compuserve, it will be simplicity itself to round these people up.

    The unemployed were permissible as long as they kept their place, which was quietly starving in a corner. Now that they’re complaining, they are going to be told to shut up. If they don’t, they will be forced to shut up. I’m surprised someone hasn’t introduced a bill that would put any protester who’s arrested on a bus to Georgia to pick crops. The logic is unassailable. The unemployed want work. There’s the work. Get to picking. If you don’t, you will be put in prison and then you will be so desperate to get out of the cramped little hole they’ve thrown you into, you’ll sign up to pick peaches and onions. Only, then, you’ll be paid a couple cents an hour as a prisoner.

    The system has almost finished constructing itself. I have never been more afraid in my life. Because once it starts up, the country will tear itself apart breaking out of it.

  • Less a vote for neo-feudalism, more a call for the left to stop thinking they’re above playing by the rules of the game, and start using the rules of the game to get what they want.

  • To alex-the-tired:

    Die with a whimper or try to live in pride.

    Your posts are too long. I never read them. This one I scanned because it was addressed to me.

  • To Whimsical:

    What rule(s), exactly, are the WS, and now the DC, occupiers violating?

  • Falco-

    Oh, they aren’t VIOLATING any rules, per se. What they are doing is the equivalent of complaining that the banker didn’t give them enough Monopoly money to start with; which is fine in and of itself, except that the game they are playing is actually chess.

    It’s not against the rules to complain about monopoly money in chess, but it’s not going to be particularly helpful in winning, either.

    I defining winning as achieving your goals, and I believe it’s still possible to do that – if you stop thinking you’re too good to have to play by the rules of the game.

    Ted doesn’t want to play by the rules, and advocates up-ending the board.

    We disagree.

    • This isn’t chess, it’s perverted monopoly in which you’re not given any money to start with but you still have to pay rent and luxury tax.

      The game sucks. Damn straight I want a new one.

  • To Whimsical:

    You sound like a duly frightened bankster. You know you can win “by the rules” because your lobbyists have written all the rules.

    When those you’ve chronically (but “legally”) abused play a different game you immediately drop a pile of hard green turds, then get your obsequious media to trash them precisely because you now have no appropriate set of rules available to crush them.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 6, 2011 10:43 AM

    Falco,

    Good. Don’t read them. I don’t care. People who can’t take the time, lecturing me about how I have it wrong? Good arguments take time. Isn’t that the biggest problem with the Right? Simplistic bumper-sticker arguments that don’t address legitimate real-world complications? (E.g., You could get a job at Burger King and be a manager in a few months or a year.)

    Falco, this is for-realsy serious. And if you don’t have the attention span or the ability or the maturity to behave, take your ball and go home. I write long posts. If you don’t or can’t or um are too um bored um to read them, please don’t brag about it. It just makes you seem like a child.

  • To alex-the-tired:

    Behave? Whose lecturing whom? “Realsy” = mature?

    I wasn’t bragging, just trying to maximize the probability that your carefully crafted arguments were actually received by an audience.

    Think of it as friendly, constructive criticism — just like the reams of same that has given to the OWSers on this and other threads, capisce?

  • Well, yeah, general strike would have lots of power. But they don’t have the numbers, Alex. If this grows… maybe. A friend tells me Santa Cruz is getting in on it too.

    Whimsical, you urge people to play by the rules. Haven’t you noticed the rules are fixed? It’s like playing poker with a band of crooks using their marked card deck. Who wins?

    The country needs a second American Revolution. Jefferson knew it would come some day. He wanted them every generation, that way you don’t have to freaking upheave the whole damn edifice. But nobody listened to him…

  • alex_the_tired
    October 6, 2011 12:24 PM

    Falco,

    Hush now. The adults are talking.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 6, 2011 12:36 PM

    Vera,

    Two thoughts:

    1. Every populist movement (by definition) has to draw in enough of the masses to cause change. We’ll never see Universal Health Care brought into bein by one person putting a gun to one CEO’s head.

    2. A general strike by unions might not have enough people numerically, but it’s the only group I can think of that has, um, “pre-event acceptability” to pull such a move. Unions going on strike, the masses can (and will) accept as legitimate, and, possibly, support either tacitly or by also joining in, regardless of union status.

    That’s the point at which it will become a legitimate threat to the current Powers. But right now, it’s still people having a good time in a park (look, they brought a baby to dance, isn’t that adowable!!!1!) with a little protest thrown in.

  • Vera-

    No, I haven’t noticed the rules are fixed because I don’t think they are. What I _have_ noticed is a growing attitude on the part of the left that they are too “good”, too “pure” to have to play by the rules- that the system should just work the way they think it should work rather than the way it actually works – without them doing anything.

    This is typified by attacking the messenger whenever someone suggests that changing the way they play the game will get them better results. See: Falco.

    It may make them feel better, but like most of their actions, it isn’t particularly helpful in getting them what they want.

  • Well, here’s the thing, Ted: if you up-end the board, your opponent is going to pick the game you play next; and I promise you, after a few rounds of “Fascist Theocracy”, you’re going to be longing for the good old days of mere “Monopoly”.

    Such a shame, especially when the game isn’t anywhere near as lost as you think it is.

  • There already IS a well established “Fascist Theocracy” in this country and it won’t go away by putting down the heads and playing by the “Fascist Theocrat” rules.

    See 1) The Nazi Hydra in America, ISBN 9780930852436
    2) Understanding the F-Word, ISBN 9780595186402

  • PS:

    3) American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
    ISBN 0743284461

  • No, there is the framework for establishing a fascist theocracy in this country. They aren’t actually in charge- yet.

    They are, however, salivating at the thought of an attempt to up-end the board, as it will give them just the excuse they are looking for to put themselves in charge in perpetuity.

    Which, in and of itself is reason not to give them that opportunity, especially since they are still eminently beatable, if the left stops keeping its nose in the air and actually gets its shit together.

  • Whimsical: “I haven’t noticed the rules are fixed because I don’t think they are.”

    Ah-ha. Doing away with recountable paper ballots does not count (for a tiny example)? You just lost the last shred of credibility with me. Shilling for the status quo… Does status quo pay well?

    Ugh.

  • No, vera, it doesn’t count.

    The doing away with recountable paper ballots is an ATTEMPT by the right to cheat, sure, but its not a GUARANTEE of anything. They can only cheat when the election is close, after all.

    And frankly, if the left got its nose out of the air, got its shit together, and started playing the game by the rules it actually plays by, there wouldn’t be an election close enough for the lack of paper ballots to matter. Ever.

    The fact that the right attempted to fix the system is insufficient to back up your claim that the system is fixed; as you demonstrate you know by your immediately jumping to the ad hominem “shill” claim; trotted out only by people who know their arguments have lost.

    Shame, really. I expected better from you.

  • It’s not a mere attempt to fix the game. It is in place.

    I call those who lie, liars. I call those who shill on the shilling. If you don’t like being called on it, don’t do it. I expected careful thought from you, you seem to have the equipment.

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