Wall Street Won’t Fix Our Problems

American has real economic and social problems. But the solution in on Capitol Hill, not Wall Street.

While we spent the day on an outing with the girls, an interesting dialogue developed in the comment threat of my “Occupy Wall Street Dirty Hippie Meme Won’t Go Away” post.

Despite the views of some commenters, there is no orchestrated campaign here at OTB to dismiss this protest. For my own part, at least, I’m trying to figure out a burgeoning phenomenon that’s been going on for about a month but only started getting significant attention about a week ago. The point of that particular post is that I’m genuinely fascinated that sympathetic outlets are focusing so much on the negative externalities. Given that large crowds typically produce a lot of waste, these people are either particularly rude and destructive or they’ve otherwise managed to alienate their target audience. I’d have expected Jon Stewart to have been trying to debunk the smelly hippie meme, not devote a really long segment to supporting it.

My default position on protest movements is that they’re mostly populated by the usual suspects who have nothing better to do and can be counted on to show up to protest any damn thing. I’m now seeing this is a younger, more urban counterpart to the Tea Party. The latter has matured into a potent political force; I’m still trying to figure out the path to that becoming the case for Occupy Wall Street, given that it seems to be aimed at the business community rather than the political class.

The Tea Party movement consists mostly of the sort of people that I grew up around and support a cruder version of my own political agenda. Electorally, they’re my allies, although ones that I view as at least as destructive as they are helpful because of their zeal. Yet, most of what I’ve written about the movement has been negative, because I disapprove of the hostile, almost war-like rhetoric and tone and because I find their agenda extreme and unworkable.

Like Doug, I haven’t quite figured out the agenda of Occupy Wall Street. But I find the movement’s incoherent agenda more amusing than a cause for derision at this point. It’s the nature of nascent movements–and often mature ones–that they attract strange bedfellows.

Doug has focused on the “We Are the 99 Percent” tumblr page, which is a series of personal stories from Occupy Wall Street supporters explaining why they are so angry. From the Political Scientist From Mars vantagepoint, much of it is silly. From a human standpoint, it’s mostly poignant.

I’m actually more sympathetic than Doug to the people whining about student loans, this despite having managed to get three degrees without taking one out by working my way through. I’m actually quite worried about the disappearance of the middle class and people who “follow the rules” still in serious of danger of being left behind.

The fellow with the topmost post at the moment is a good example: “I am 59 years old with a Master’s degree. I do not have a full time job. I have four part time jobs. I never stop working. My $40,000 in student loan debt has become $60,000 from periodic forbearance.” On the one hand, why is a 59-year-old man still paying off student loan debt? What does he have a master’s degree in that he can’t land one job? On the other hand, he probably lost his job and thought going back to school was the smart move. In this economy, though, not so much. And this is pretty sad: “I have healthcare because my wife goes to work at a job she hates everyday. We are grateful for that.”

The fellow below him is an even more sad case.

I am over 25,000$ in debt. I have serious panic and anxiety attacks but the medication costs 150$ a month. Im a single parent who can’t afford to live on my own. Half of my family can’t find work (father, neice, brother ) and the rest of us cannot afford to live on our own (me, sister, her adult son) so we live together. My daughter sleeps on a mattress on the floor in my room, and i work so much i often get less than 1 hour a day to spend with her. My other sister found work on the road, so im taking care of her two boys as well. I’m forced to call about bills each month to tell them i can’t pay till next month. I travel and work 60hrs a week as a manager, and yet i still make less than the cost of living. My mother died last year because she couldn’t afford the treatment she needed to attempt to survive, and now my father is sick as well. Im worried that my daughter will have a worse life than the hell we live in now. I have worked my life away for the last 14yrs and i can pack everything i own into the back of a pickup truck because i sold everything else to pay bills.

I don’t know anything about this man or the choices he and his family have made but it’s a hopeless existence. Even if the adults all made a lot of really stupid choices, the kids are at no fault here. But his closer gets us back to the skepticism I have about the political aims of the movement, despite sympathy for the human causes:

WE ARE THE 99% we need liveable wages, a ban on outsourcing, CEO wage caps, return of real benefits, raise min wage and freeze inflation!

The notion that we can simply pay people a whole lot more money, give them fantastic benefits, and compete in a global economy just doesn’t compute. Certainly, paying CEOs less isn’t going to accomplish this. And, of course, we’ve more-or-less wrung inflation out of our economy for three decades now. Some actually think that’s a major source of our current problems.

But I’m in agreement with Megan McArdle here:

But quibbling rather misses the point. These are people who are terrified, and their terror is easy to understand. Jobs are hard to come by, and while you might well argue that any of these individuals could find a job if they did something different, in aggregate, there are not enough job openings to absorb our legion of unemployed.

When the gap between the number of job openings and the number of people who are out of work is so large, there are going to be a hefty number of unemployed people. Maybe these people individually could have done more to get themselves out of their situation, but at the macro level, that would just have meant that someone else was out of work and suffering.

I think it’s hard to read through this list of woes without feeling both sympathy, and a healthy dose of fear. Take all the pot shots you want at people who thought that a $100,000 BFA was supposed to guarantee them a great job–beneath the occasionally grating entitlement is the visceral terror of someone in a bad place who doesn’t know what to do. Having found myself in the same place ten years ago, I can’t bring myself to sneer. No matter how inflated your expectations may have been, it is no joke to have your confidence that you can support yourself ripped away, and replaced with the horrifying realization that you don’t really understand what the rules are. Yes, even if you have a nose ring.

Indeed. About twenty-five years ago, my dad was facing that sort of crisis. He’d retired from the Army after twenty years, gotten his GED and an associate’s degree along the way, and gotten jobs in retail management. After a brutal stint with a regional drug store chain, working as many as 90 hours a week and then enduring a 60 minute commute, he’d landed a position as manager of a local electronics store. He’d turned it, in relatively short order, into a three-store chain. And then, suddenly, the owners decided to fire him and run the business themselves.

Here he was, 43 or 44 years old, having worked hard every day since he was 16 or 17, played by all the rules, and the sole breadwinner for a family. After several months unable to find suitable employment–the combination of needing to replace a moderately good income, being middle aged, and living out in the middle of nowhere–he finally used his GI Bill to go back to school and finish his bachelors degree. He thankfully managed to find a decent job in the meantime, finishing up school at nights, and was never unemployed again. But I don’t think he ever recovered from that period of fear, helplessness, and vulnerability.

I’ve been more fortunate, having not only graduated college before starting my career but going on to get a PhD. But I’ve been unemployed more than once, including a whole year between my first teaching gig and my second. But I didn’t have a family to support at the time or any villains to blame for my plight other than the odd vicissitudes of the academic job market.

The world’s a scary place right now, especially if you don’t have a job. And I know quite a few people with very good jobs who are in genuine worry about losing them with no prospect of landing in a similar situation if that happens. The economy is changing faster than it has in living memory and perhaps ever in history. And I haven’t the foggiest idea of how we’ll manage to keep the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed while competing with the likes of China and Vietnam.

At the same time, I’m pretty sure Wall Street isn’t the place to look for solutions. Oh, they got greedy and stupid and had a pretty large role in creating this mess we’re in. I thought we should have let the big firms that made bad investments go under, let investors take their lumps, and then let smarter people swoop in and buy up the good assets. But they managed to convince the political elites of both parties that they were Too Big To Fail and we instead rewarded them with massive bailouts, which both made them whole and further damaged our economy.

None of that’s right.  I’m for fixing some of the flaws in the system that lets them make extraordinary profits while putting the burden of failure on society. And I’m for taxing their income as earnings rather than long-term investments. But none of that’s going to do a whole hell of a lot to fix the plight of the two 99-percenters quoted above.

Two common themes in the stories above, which run through many of the tales of woe on the site, are the crippling burden of health care costs and massive debt from student loans. These aren’t problems that Wall Street, or corporate America more broadly, can solve.

In the past, most people with good  jobs got decent medical benefits from their employer. But that was really a poor system–and one that often trapped people in their current job. Most other advanced countries have universal, centralized health benefits with some private component. We simply have to move in that direction. The current model is unsustainable. (My problem with ObamaCare is that it did little to solve the problem while actually making other aspects of the problem much worse.)

As recently as when I was an undergraduate 25 years ago, tuition at state universities was quite affordable even for lower middle class families. When I started at Jacksonville State in 1986, tuition was $400 a semester. I was able to pay that as I went through a combination of Army Reserve duty and a $100 monthly ROTC stipend.  Over the last two decades, though, most states have supported an ever-decreasing fraction of the costs, passing more of it on to the students.

Most other advanced societies see university education the way we do primary and secondary education: a necessary part of the human capital infrastructure. In many European countries, tuition is free. But those societies don’t allow every 18-year-old with a pulse in to their universities, either. Nor do most of the people who start college waste a year or two figuring out that they’re not college material. We’ve got to rethink the whole system, figuring out how to get people the education and training they need to succeed in life. Most people don’t need a classical education.

Fixing these problems will help a lot, as people will start off their working lives whole, rather than tens of thousands of dollars in debt and will at least have a safety net if they get sick. But it’s not going to do much for the nine percent who can’t find a job.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I’m not at all unsympathetic to the stories of the 99%, it’s hard not to be. The problem I see is that I don’t see what good this protest does for them other than satisfying some primal urge to vent rage and frustration. It’s certainly not going to find them a job, and it isn’t going to turn the economy around. Instead, it seems like those stories are being appropriated by the usual suspects — ANSWER, Code Pink, labor unions that are hardly blameless for the situation we are in, and various other left wing groups — to promote an agenda that does no good for anybody. Of course, history is replete with examples of hopeless people being caught up in the siren song of groups with questionable political agendas.

    Hanging out in a park and gathering around the drum circle every night might be fun, but it’s hardly productive.

  2. Pete says:

    And, of course, we’ve more-or-less wrung inflation out of our economy for three decades now. Some actually think that’s a major source of our current problems.

    James, our dollar has been on a devalued path since 1913. Even since 1971 when Nixon took the advice of his economic team to close the gold window, our currency’s “store of value” has eroded. If you define inflation as a devaluation of a currency, I don’t follow how you can make the above claim.

    Is inflation a major source of our problems? Sure, in that a floating currency introduces additional risk to business, more room for poor central bank decisions, more room for poor political policy because of the assumption that we can monetize our debt problems. This gives the economy and the people a lot of false signals. The false signals influence behavior and policy making that otherwise would be imprudent. So, while I agree with pretty much the rest of your premise, I don’t buy your assertion about inflation.

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    The notion that we can simply pay people a whole lot more money, give them fantastic benefits, and compete in a global economy just doesn’t compute.

    This is not correct. We can do what were doing before we created government policies which tranferred national income from wages to profits. Our current economic state is not happenstance, it is the result of more than thirty years focusing on the needs of “business” rather than protecting our middle-class. Your above quote also ignores developed nations like Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden and Japan which pay their people well and give them “fantastic benefits” while maintaining manufacturing sectors far larger than ours relative to the size of their economies. These countries have actual job policies rather than GDP policies which serve only a tiny fraction of the populace. Yet the OTB mantra has been that the wealthiest country in history cannot afford to even approximate those accomplishments.

    America: It Just Doesn’t Have What It Takes appears to be the new slogan the right has decided to embrace.

  4. Pete says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, is being a lawyer productive? Please explain to me how people who write the laws, interpret what they write, argue for and against what they write, then utilize the power of the state to enforce what they write, are producing anything. The field of law has is like a floating currency; its value is always in relation to some other floating value and it rarely, if ever, produces a concrete value (asset).

  5. Rob in CT says:

    I’m not at all unsympathetic to the stories of the 99%

    Coulda fooled me.

    The problem I see is that I don’t see what good this protest does for them

    The hope, I gather, is that their message is received and results in policy changes (which policies, exactly, well hell – whatever helps fix the problem. These are not policy wonks).

    I don’t have high hopes. But then I didn’t have high hopes before these protests.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    @Pete:

    Hah, indeed.

    Also, Doug, are your 5-10 posts a day on OTB productive? If they are, it’s because they spur conversation. If that’s productive, then so are the protests.

  7. john personna says:

    As I indirectly link in the other thread, here is a statistical analysis of that tumblr page. It shows more of an 18-30 movement than I expected, though as the author suggests, there could be some 18-30 weighting in both who has access and who chooses to tumblr themselves.

    (On a pragmatic level, as many have noted, the lack of specific … pigeonholing … is probably helping more than it is hurting the movement. “We are 99%” is working. You are still paying attention.)

    On the other foot, I was worried to see Tyler Cowen endorse this David Leonhardt piece as “right on the mark in my view.”

    He begins:

    UNDERNEATH the misery of the Great Depression, the United States economy was quietly making enormous strides during the 1930s. Television and nylon stockings were invented. Refrigerators and washing machines turned into mass-market products. Railroads became faster and roads smoother and wider. As the economic historian Alexander J. Field has said, the 1930s constituted “the most technologically progressive decade of the century.”

    But then:

    It would clearly be nice if we could take some comfort from this bit of history. If anything, though, the lesson of the 1930s may be the opposite one. The most worrisome aspect about our current slump is that it combines obvious short-term problems — from the financial crisis — with less obvious long-term problems. Those long-term problems include a decade-long slowdown in new-business formation, the stagnation of educational gains and the rapid growth of industries with mixed blessings, including finance and health care.

  8. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Dude, you need a more reasonable “hook.” I only made it halfway through that comment before the bigotry made my eyes glaze over.

  9. Pete says:

    @Ben Wolf: I agree, Ben. I remember my dad lamenting back in the late 60’s and early 70’s about the shift in business thinking from that of long range sustainability to maximizing profits.Quarterly returns were more important than long range planning. New MBA’s studied more quantitative analysis than behavioral analysis. The more quantitative our thinking has become, the less human it has become.

  10. @john personna:

    Bigotry? Oh give me a break

  11. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Can you find one substantial issue in your top comment, amid all the “I don’t like these people?”

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: Germany and Japan are the only two countries on that list with anything like comparable standards of living. And Japan has been in an economic crisis for more than two decades.

    Germany is an interesting case. They’ve adopted a combination of an almost unique corporatism–combining government, business interests, and organized labor into almost one unit in a very interesting way–with a mercantilist approach to imports and exports. It’s been quite successful, although it’s not at all clear it’s replicable.

  13. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    There’s an amazing irony inherent in these putative “protests,” in that they illustrate one of the key elements in fixing the mess we’re in: raising the minimum voting age. The minimum voting age needs to be increased at least to 30 and more realistically to 35. That alone would go a long way towards helping the country get back on track.

    As for Capitol Hill, the Congress has the power to take several actions that dramatically would increase net employment, wages and total incomes (e.g., tort reform, regulatory reform, environmental reform, tax reform, spending reform, entitlement reform, etc.). None of that actually will happen, however, as long as Democrats continue to wield substantial power. Hell, unemployment could hit 25% and Democrats would continue to vote in lock step against even the most basic and common sense fiscal and economic reforms. Alaskan caribou would continue to trump jobs and energy security. Largesse in favor of unions would continue to trump the needs of small businesses. People who vote for Democrats would not be able even to grasp the irony.

    There also is a major problem of demographics in the U.S. In an ironic twist that demographic problem in large part is tied to shifted social mores. Now that Mary Jane Rottencrotch spends her 20’s in slut mode and her 30’s in social climbing mode and doesn’t settle down until around age 40, there is not the potential for the 2-4 kids and therefore 2-4 future workers and taxpayers the entitlement generations will require to stay afloat. Only in the Hispanic demographic has there remained the idea of the nuclear family with material procreation. Thing is, large numbers of the Hispanic demographic are not effectively assimilated and the overall employment and income levels for that demographic systemically will lag. Ergo you have the white demographic that’s not having nearly as many kids as in prior generations and a growing hispanic demographic that’s more likely to require the government dole. Juxtapose that onto the vast numbers of the Boomers and the early Gen. X’ers, with far longer life expectancies to boot, and the numbers simply don’t add up.

    Ultimately if Democrats continue to win substantial numbers of elections then the trajectory of the U.S. is similar to that of present-day Greece. Not from the standpoint of default, mind you, given the U.S. unlike the Euro-shackled Greeks simply can devalue its currency. From the standpoint of civil unrest, economic malaise and systemic governmental dysfunction, however, there are dangerous parallels.

  14. @john personna:

    If you’re talking about left-wing groups like ANSWER, Code Pink, the tired old labor unions, and the other various socialists and anarchists who have attached themselves to this cause, I can find hundreds of reasons. Most of them boil down to the fact that the policy ideas they have — and I use the word “ideas” generously — are complete nonsense.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Washington is Wall Street. The protesters have decided to deal directly with the masters rather than their servants. I think that makes a lot of sense.

  16. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What the hell are you talking about, Doug?

  17. john personna says:

    If you ask me, Doug has one line in there that could have been the starting point for a reasonable discussion of OWS complaints, that was:

    “It’s certainly not going to find them a job, and it isn’t going to turn the economy around.”

    Well, do they have anything to complain about? Unemployment among 18-30 year olds is at a 60 year high. Is the problem that 18-30 year old aren’t serious, and are all “gathering around the drum circle?”

    Serious?

    Of course not, the whole blather about “left-wing groups like ANSWER, Code Pink, the tired old labor unions, and the other various socialists and anarchists” is about not being serious, and not even thinking about the underlying problems.

  18. @john personna:

    I understand the underlying problems well enough to know that ranting at a protest isn’t going to do anything to change them.

    As for your question, I’ve posted links to the “manifesto” and “demands” posted by the left wing groups purported to speak for the 99%’ers. They speak for themselves. Ignore them if you choose to. As far as I am concerned, they are doing a disservice tot he people they claim to be speaking for. But then, I don’t think they really care about the people they claim to be speaking for.

  19. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I understand the underlying problems well enough to know that ranting at a protest isn’t going to do anything to change them.

    lol. “ranting at a protest” is exactly your game.

    As for your question, I’ve posted links to the “manifesto” and “demands” posted by the left wing groups purported to speak for the 99%’ers. They speak for themselves. Ignore them if you choose to. As far as I am concerned, they are doing a disservice tot he people they claim to be speaking for. But then, I don’t think they really care about the people they claim to be speaking for.

    I pointed you to the statistical analysis myself. It supports the idea that this is a cohort with high student debt and low job prospects.

    I think you are ignoring that, ignoring the incredible employment hole sitting there for college graduates.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    Meh.

  21. John,

    Again I am not ignoring that. But what does that statistical analysis mean? Where are the policy proposals? You cannot just snap your fingers and fix the problems these peoples have, and yet that’s what people seem to be telling them can happen if we just demonize the evil rich

  22. john personna says:

    James, I think you see the college loan problem, and the unemployment problem, and the broader growth problem. Am I right in thinking that your main difference with OWS is that you don’t want it connected to an “inequality” problem?

    I get that “inequality” is typically a left complaint, and has often in my lifetime been overblown … but I’m not really sure that it is now, in this economy, with the benefits we’ve seen flowing from government to Wall Street.

  23. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: I beg to differ with you. You should come to Korea for a visit. It’s not the land you remember from your past life if you visited during your service years. I also would suggest that Brittain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Italy just might go on your “comparable standards of living” list–unless you are only including the living done by the “1%.”

  24. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You sure as heck didn’t talk about it, above. You wanted to talk about “left-wing groups like ANSWER, Code Pink, the tired old labor unions, and the other various socialists and anarchists”

    Do you really wonder why I push back?

  25. Because you only comprehend that part of what I say that you wish to criticize?

  26. john personna says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker:

    It is true that the “rich countries” roll has expanded drastically in the last 20 years.

  27. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You have not engaged with fact at all above. You’ve only said “I know that” when I press you, and then tried to move to a different discussion, why OWS has not produced a narrow agenda.

    They haven’t because “we are the 99%” is working, to gather attention and allies. They’d not only be foolish to limit themselves to NY concerns now, they’d also be short-changing the people showing up to protests in Florida or California.

  28. Hey Norm says:

    JP – don’t forget:

    “…gathering around the drum circle every night…”

  29. john personna says:

    Shorter: OWS will not limit themselves for the same reason Doug wants them to.

  30. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @john personna: On the subject of unemployment, trying to reason with Doug is sort of like talking to Jay Tea or G.A., or a wall for that matter.

    I remember something that my dad you to say, “the only thing you get from beating your head against a wall is a flat, bloddy spot at your browline.”

    Also, WOW! In the five minutes it took to compose and post my first comment, the loons started coming out.; JEEEZZ!

  31. john personna says:

    You may remember that the Tea Party had its most rapid growth when it also was ill-defined.

  32. Becky Hargrove says:

    “People who follow the rules still in serious danger of being left behind.” There is a lead, follow or get out of the way aspect to history that people sometimes miss, i.e. the moment when a tipping point occurs that too many people follow the rules, only to be told to get out of the way just the same. I’m glad you picked up on that, and really enjoyed your post. The demands of the 99 percent are far too vague, and new methods of survival will likely look nothing like those demands at all. Just the same, the only way civil society can be maintained is to look at new means of survival especially for those who follow the rules as long as humanly possible.

  33. I’m not talking about limits John, I’m talking about being coherent. Also, not taking a dump on a cop car would help with the whole public image thing.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Like Doug, I haven’t quite figured out the agenda of Occupy Wall Street.

    I know you hate him, but Alan Grayson explains it in 37 sec:

    “Now let me tell you about what they’re talking about. They’re complaining that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person’s been indicted or convicted for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well.”

    As to…

    I’m pretty sure Wall Street isn’t the place to look for solutions.

    As long as that bolded part is true (and if it is not, it might as well be for all the difference), well, the protesters might as well start there because Wall Street is a big source of the problems.

  35. michael reynolds says:

    As Ozark points out, it’s really very easy to understand what OWS wants. They want power to flow back out of the grip of Goldman Sachs and into the hands of the American people.

    Of course Doug understands this perfectly.

    Which is why he’s in a panic.

  36. Michael,

    The OWS problem is that they only get it half right. They don’t seem to understand that the real power is the government and that it deserves to be trusted even less than Wall Street.

  37. @OzarkHillbilly:

    As the President himself has pointed out, you cannot indict or arrest people if there weren’t any laws broken. So far, I haven’t seen anyone provide any real evidence of that. Making bad decisions isn’t a crime.

    And if Alan Grayson, who is nothing more than the left wing version of Rush Limbaugh, is who you’re pointing to as the spokesperson for this movement or whatever it is, then you’ve got a problem.

  38. Pete says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As Ozark points out, it’s really very easy to understand what OWS wants. They want power to flow back out of the grip of Goldman Sachs and into the hands of the American people.

    So what is the difference between this demand and that of the Tea Party, other than where the power resides?

  39. Stan says:

    We’ve become two nations, an American version of Disraeli’s rich and poor. This is due, I think, to economic factors and to the mass conversion of our business elite and much of our chattering class to Social Darwinism. Why this has occurred I don’t know. But it has occurred. There’s no other explanation for the brazen way the CEO’s of our major corporations divert such a large fraction of corporate profits to stockholders and to their own pockets and those of their favorite politicians. They’ve lost all sense of self-restraint, and when elements of the press or public complain about it we hear plaintive cries about how hard it is to live a decent life in New York City on only $250,000 a year and how increasing the number of people with medical insurance is turning us into a nation of serfs.

    I don’t think the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are going to change the hearts and minds of our business class and their supporters. Conversions of this type occur in novels by Charles Dickens, not in real life. There’s a possibility, however, that the demonstrations will put some backbone into the many politicians, in both parties, who really do believe in public service. If this happens, and my hopes aren’t high, we might see improvements in our rapidly failing infrastructure, attempts to make college affordable again for the middle class and the working poor, increased emphasis on providing decent vocational training for those uninterested in college, and an improved social safety net.

    All of this would have to be financed by increased taxes, primarily but not exclusively on the affluent. The chance of this happening is small, but I have more hope that it will because of the Wall Street demonstrations.

  40. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “They don’t seem to understand that the real power is the government and that it deserves to be trusted even less than Wall Street.”

    That’s absolute bull. At the heart of the OWS protest is anger over the influence that what used to be called “moneyed interests” have over the government. Wall Street faced a crisis and the government responded. The general public has been facing a crisis for several years now and the government refuses to do anything about it, almost entirely due to the actions of politicians bought and paid for by Wall Street.

    Mike

  41. @MBunge:

    The idea that these people think more government is the answer is the source of the problem to which I refer.

  42. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Pete:

    There is no difference. Liberals live in visceral terror of corporate waste and malfeasance, while conservatives live in terror of government waste and malfeasance. They are both terrified of the same thing, but are encouraged to talk past each other in an ideological manner by society and mainstream media, which does all it can to “extend and pretend” and promote gridlock while the looting of public coffers can continue. Promoting the myth of American exceptionalism is one means to this end.

  43. ponce says:

    I disagree.

    It’s out crappy current crop of greedy, stupid and herd-like CEOs that are the cause of our current economic problems.

    As a herd, they took on too much debt (or lent it out).

    Now, as a herd, they are hording cash and breaking the backs of their current employees rather than hire more workers.

  44. Rob in CT says:

    As the President himself has pointed out, you cannot indict or arrest people if there weren’t any laws broken.

    Two possibilies:

    1) Laws were indeed broken, but the government hasn’t been particularly interested in investigating & trying those who broke the laws; or

    2) Laws were not broken, which means the laws need some changing.

    Me, I’m thinking knowingly rating piles of crap “AAA” was fraudulent.

  45. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The OWS problem is that they only get it half right. They don’t seem to understand that the real power is the government and that it deserves to be trusted even less than Wall Street.

    This is the point where I just cannot follow libertarian thought because you manage to articulate a statement of faith as opposed to fact.

    Since this is a financial issue at its heart, I have a hard time seeing how the government has “the real power.” Especially since one lesson that can be drawn from the recent financial crisis is how hard it is to regulate financial products given that new packages can be invented which are outside the scope of existing regulation. This is one area where the government is always catching up.

    Secondly, from the libertarian point of view, isn’t the goal to eventually — through legislation and reduction of power — to ensure that Wall Street (the private sector) become the seat of real financial power?

  46. @mattb:

    No, the goal is to reduce the power of the state and enhance individual liberty. This would mean that nobody — not Wall Street, not Big Labor — would be using the power of the state toward their own ends, because the state would not be doing the things that it shouldn’t be doing that allow them to benefit at the expense of others and use taxpayer dollars to enhance their industries.

    As I said to someone last night, I oppose government subsidizing industry whether the company is named Exxon, or Solyndra.

  47. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So if more (any) government is not the solution, Doug, what should we do, just twiddle our thumbs and wait for Wall St. fraud and abuse to peter out on its own? I didn’t realize “status quo” and “do nothing” were the libertarian rallying cries.

    I denounce Al Sharpton so you have to take me seriously.

  48. James in LA says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug you have lost this argument today. Your goggles see things only Doug wants to see.

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, this is absolutely true (and I almost followed my post with another to point that out but decided to wait for someone (I suspected it would be you) to bring it up, because I wanted to say that…)

    The fact that Wall Street raped America for Billions of Dollars with out actually (apparently) breaking any laws and that afterward we got the weak sauce “reform” that is totally inadequate just proves how much of Washington is in Wall Streets pocket, and how deeply.

    When you say they didn’t break any laws, it as a defense of their actions. When I say they didn’t break any laws, I say it as an indictment of the system under which we operate.

  50. george says:

    Wall Street isn’t a democratic institution – in fact they’re no longer even primarily an American institution, now that most major corporations are international. They may be the puppet masters for the US (and many other) governments, but they have no reason to care about a protest aimed primarily at themselves – its not like they have to be elected, and I’m sure they feel quite secure in their profits every time they notice that a large percentage of the protesters are using iPad’s, Androids, and other expensive corporate built equipment.

    The way to change things is to cut the puppet’s strings, rather than trying to influence the masters. And that means protesting government. OWS like the Tea Party is a nice emotional release, but won’t change anything unless it refocuses.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And if Alan Grayson, who is nothing more than the left wing version of Rush Limbaugh, is who you’re pointing to as the spokesperson for this movement or whatever it is, then you’ve got a problem.

    I call “strawman” Doug. I did not point that out in any way shape or form. I pointed out the first part of his quote (and provided a handy linky thing for anyone who wanted to see if Grayson really said what I said he said) which said only what the OWS protesters are angry about and you pulled the 2nd part of his quote and ascribed it to be my position as well.

    That is not my problem, it is yours.

    (edited for clarity)

  52. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    No, the goal is to reduce the power of the state and enhance individual liberty. This would mean that nobody — not Wall Street, not Big Labor — would be using the power of the state toward their own ends, because the state would not be doing the things that it shouldn’t be doing that allow them to benefit at the expense of others and use taxpayer dollars to enhance their industries.

    But Doug, it seems like this is a discussion of multiple forms of power — i.e. the ability to act/control — not just state power. Of course the Government has the monopoly on state power.

    The reduction of state power — for example the lifting of regulations — might increase the level of “liberty,” but that doesn’t only benefit the individual. On the one had the banks would have gone under in the crash. But over the long term a decrease in regulation would lead to even more (financial) power flowing into Wall Street (or rather the world Financial sector). And I don’t see how such an increase in power would *not* in turn lead to an increase in abuses. And those abuses would come to impinge on individual liberty.

    I guess that is ultimately my issue with the libertarian viewpoint — at its core is a naive assumption that there is a zero-sum, 1:1 direct inverse relationship between state power and individual power.

  53. Pete says:

    @ponce: Ponce, don’t be so parochial. CEO’s are one part of the prblem.

  54. Ozark,

    I don’t deny they are upset. I simply suggest they need better and more credible spokespeople than Grayson, Michael Moore, and Van Jones.

  55. Pete says:

    It seems the OWS’ers aren’t all there to protest. Maybe some are looking for a meal ticket: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/gov/2618821815.html

  56. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “The idea that these people think more government is the answer is the source of the problem to which I refer.”

    How the hell do you deal with massive financial foolishness such as we saw in the last decade or so WITHOUT more government? You either need more government for stronger regulation, more government to prevent institutions from getting “too big to fail” or more government to stop them from failing and clean up the mess afterwards.

    Mike

  57. Pete says:

    @MBunge: Sure, let the fox guard the hen house. Mike, significant structural changes need to be made. Radical, simple changes. This upsets the intellectuals because unless things are complicated, they are irrelevant.

  58. ponce says:

    How the hell do you deal with massive financial foolishness such as we saw in the last decade or so WITHOUT more government?

    Well, China just executes any executives who screw up badly.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8375638.stm

    It’s amazing how much business compliance a $5 rope can deliver.

  59. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: “Deal” how, though? How is it that camping out on the lawn is supposed to change the Wall Street culture? To lessen the amount of power big donors have over both parties? To change the health insurance and education equations?

    @john personna: It’s partly the emphasis on the “inequality” problem, which I see as tangential to the actual problem that an increasingly large portion of the population just doesn’t have the tools to be competitive in the global economy. It just doesn’t bother me that truly productive people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or even Mark Cuban, Michael Jordan, and Tom Hanks are wildly rich. I’m more concerned about the Paris Hilton phenomenon, but it’s really tiny.

    Mostly, the movement seems to be about frustration about life being unfair rather than about addressing actual problems.

  60. anjin-san says:

    Because you only comprehend that part of what I say that you wish to criticize?

    You are wandering into bithead country…

  61. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    You know, in the 80’s people tried to get me excited about inequality. I dismissed them then. My thought experiment was that we always start income at zero (we don’t count net losers each year) and with growing population and GDP of course the high end will always expand. Thus, even in a healthy economy inequality (measured from bottom to top) will grow.

    I think what’s different now is that the data are telling us that it isn’t bottom from top, it really is top 1% compared to the bottom 99%. We aren’t worried here about the bottom quintile growing less slowly than the second or the median groups. It is that the 1% are raking in the wealth.

    That inequality, viewed as 1% versus 99%, is at a high not seen since 1929 is a really big deal.

  62. Racehorse says:

    It seems to me that these people (OWS) would be better off spending their time and energy in the political process: organizing, meeting, helping in campaigns, and running for office. Camping out, partying, and walking around the streets is a waste of time. Every two years, we change the government: we can fire the whole House of Rep. and get new people in. That’s the process for change – this isn’t Egypt, Libya, or Syria. I am frustrated too, but I don’t see anything that they are doing is going to help. And, just how do you “freeze inflation?” Efforts to do this in the past were disasters.

  63. john personna says:

    @Racehorse:

    If you (we) are talking about them, obviously they are working “the political process.”

  64. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug, no: power in this country comes from money. Money is the source. Political power is the commodity which is purchased.

    Thanks to the GOP and its Supreme Court we have no way to even account for let alone restrain the gusher of money going into Washington. Willing buyer, willing seller. You can’t pretend only half of that equation matters.

  65. Lyn says:

    The costs of college education and health care have risen in part because demand for them has been inflated by federal financial aid for college students and by expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor. No one is owed a college education or health care. They are both valuable things and should have a cost associated with them.

    Americans take on debt without thinking about it. Student loans are a good example of this. Why are so many people surprised when it becomes difficult to repay the loans? If a student chooses a degree that doesn’t prepare him to make a lot of $ whose fault is that?

    Medicaid is abused. There are too many people in America that have children they can’t afford to raise. As soon as their children are born the mother and child both are eligible for Medicaid. Too many people having kids they can’t afford yet they don’t pay any consequences for their actions; instead taxpayers pay.

    Wall Street doesn’t exist to fix our problems. Wall Street exists to facilitate profit. People who invest money and take risk deserve rewards. People who work hard and have valuable skills or products deserve to make money.

    I have no sympathy for the protesters. America has too many people who think they’re owed an unending amount of things.

  66. john personna says:

    Put another way James, in the 80’s the saying “the rich get richer, the poor get poorer” was not really supported by the data. Today? Well, the census report says it’s true, right?

  67. john personna says:

    @Lyn:

    The costs of college education and health care have risen in part because demand for them has been inflated by federal financial aid for college students and by expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor. No one is owed a college education or health care. They are both valuable things and should have a cost associated with them.

    Other countries make it work.

    People who don’t want to make it work here seem to have an odd logic. They’ll agree “we are the greatest country on earth” but “we shouldn’t expect to have what those others have.”

  68. Scott O. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    The guy taking a dump on a cop car was actually a Libertarian attorney who was protesting against OWS. How do I know? Same way you know he was part of OWS.

  69. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    How is it that camping out on the lawn is supposed to change the Wall Street culture?

    Were we talking much about the need to restrain Wall Street a month ago? No. Are we talking about it now? Yes.

    It’s already accomplished one goal: reminding Democrats that they are not supposed to be the second Goldman Sachs party after the GOP. And it’s put Wall Street overreach back on the political agenda.

    Given the small size of the groups and their lack of message discipline, and the fact that they’ve been universally ignored or derided by the media, I’d say they’ve been pretty successful.

  70. sam says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Given the small size of the groups and their lack of message discipline, and the fact that they’ve been universally ignored or derided by the media, I’d say they’ve been pretty successful.

    Dave Weigel: When the Tea Party is falling all over itself to make it absolutely, positively, and in no uncertain terms completely crystal clear and beyond a shadow of any conceivable doubt that OWS is not in any way shape or form or under any scheme of conceptualization the Tea Party of the Left–and does so in an effort to raise money–OWS has made it.

  71. george says:

    Given the small size of the groups and their lack of message discipline, and the fact that they’ve been universally ignored or derided by the media, I’d say they’ve been pretty successful.

    At what? Convincing people that Wall Street is behind a lot of our financial problems? I don’t think anyone doubted that before.

    Wall Street has no reason to change anything because of the protests – the protesters are wearing cloths manufactured by corporations (generally overseas), using communications devices manufactured by corporations (generally overseas) such as the iPod to spread the word. I suspect they look out there, and if anything think “Hm, not bad, this sells a lot of news, good for our communications bottom line.”

    Moreover, most of Wall Street is global; what’s going on in America is just another provincial concern, no reason to change the overall picture. The solution is to cut the ties (via laws) between Wall Street and government; expecting Wall Street to do itself because some people are mad at them is simply naive.

  72. Ron Beasley says:

    They should be protesting the SCOTUS. The only way things are going to change is :
    1. Get the money out of politics
    2. End corporate person-hood
    Wall Street now owns politicians.

  73. MBunge says:

    @Pete: “Mike, significant structural changes need to be made. Radical, simple changes.”

    Certainly. For example, taxing capital gains at the same rate as other income would be a radical, simple change.

    Mike

  74. Moosebreath says:

    Will Doug even recognize himself here?

  75. ponce says:

    I understand the underlying problems well enough to know that ranting at a protest isn’t going to do anything to change them.

    This is a shocking insight from a guy who posts over 1000 tweets a week, most of them rants.

    Perhaps Doug’s obvious hatred of the OWS is more personal than he’s letting on?

  76. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Thank you. You have been making excellent points all through this thread.

    This last point is perhaps your strongest. At last, we are finally talking about Wall Street as the source of the power imbalance. OWS accomplished this, which is no small feat.

  77. Scott F. says:

    @ponce:

    It takes a certain amount of gall to mock people camping in the streets from the comfort of one’s couch. It seems to me that even one night sleeping on concrete gives someone a stake in the debate that is not due to anyone spouting off on a blog (myself included).

  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t deny they are upset. I simply suggest they need better and more credible spokespeople than Grayson, Michael Moore, and Van Jones.

    On this Doug, we are in complete agreement.

    I nominate myself. After all, I am so much more reasonable, intelligent and articulate than those three.

    (I can hear the gagging and hacking already and I haven’t even hit “Post” yet.)

  79. KansasMom says:

    I don’t think anyone in this thread has linked to this yet. Who is more reflective of OWS, Jesse LaGreca or some random guy rubbing his butt on a cop car?

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/is-jesse-lagreca-becoming-the-public-face-of-occupy-wall-street/

  80. Janis Gore says:

    Is there a witness to say that the man in the photograph in the other post did shit on the police car?

    To my eye, he was examining his genitalia.

  81. Scott O. says:

    @Janis Gore: I think he’s a typical NYC homeless guy, probably mentally ill.

  82. Rob in CT says:

    I read over this the first time…

    In the past, most people with decent jobs got decent medical benefits from their employer. But that was really a poor system–and one that often trapped people in their current job. Most other advanced countries have universal, centralized health benefits with some private component. We simply have to move in that direction. The current model is unsustainable.

    James, are you of the opinion that single-payer (with additional coverage available in the market) is the clear choice? It sure sounds like it. And hell, your critique of the PPACA sounds similar to those I hear coming from the Left.

    I’m pretty sure OWS doesn’t expect Wall St. to fix anything. I’m 100% sure, in fact, that what they hope for is action in D.C.

  83. Stan says:

    @James Joyner: What about Sweden? And the list could have included France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, … . We’re the only industrialized country in which a major political party still believes in laissez-faire economics and a libertarian approach to social problems.

  84. Janis Gore says:

    His clothes were well-coordinated and clean to be a homeless guy. But he was older. At my age, I’m becoming an authority on slack thighs.

  85. ponce says:

    It takes a certain amount of gall to mock people camping in the streets from the comfort of one’s couch.

    Scott,

    Agreed.

    I think Doug realizes this, but oddly, his ironic response to OWS is to post 50-60 anti-OWS tweets plus several anti-OWS blog posts and countless anti-OWS comments a day.

    Here’s a nice summation of OWS goals for those right wing bloggers still pretending not to “get it:”

    http://www.politicususa.com/en/alan-grayson-occupy-wall-street

  86. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, I realize the post I’m responding to is not the most recent one you’ve posted, but I wanted to comment on the idea you started with before it moved too far in the discussion. The big point of the protest isn’t to come out with policy proposals – in fact, when people who want to effect significant change start with policy proposals, the discussion inevitably gets threadjacked (to borrow some Internet parlance) by those who wish to derail it quibbling on some minor detail of it.

    The effective movements, when you see how the Tea Party has effected change, start with the populist anger. You get a bunch of people standing up saying, “We’re goddamn angry that we’re being ignored!” and show that you’re not some group to just be bought off with some trifling legislation. I don’t want the people who are occupying Wall Street to be proposing policy changes – if I talked with them, I’d probably think 3/4 of them are utter morons who don’t understand the complexity of the systems they want to effect change in. The key, though, is that I don’t disagree with their sentiments: Wall Street is running the political agenda and it’s hurting the rest of us who could use some assistance. You don’t see the Tea party protestors actually shouting anything coherent (let alone policy proposals), yet they’ve been influencing and controlling the debate since the media started treating them seriously

    When the people with all the money help get representatives who believe that money equals free speech, that gives the extremely wealthy people more free speech in the language that matters most in elections: the fundraising needed to blanket your message across every medium in your district. Occupy Wall Street isn’t made of policy experts or groups designed to organize, it’s made of people who are sick of watching guys in tricorne hats and good incomes get treated as the default political activist group in our country. It’s a lot harder to get 50 people without a lot of extra income to chip in $100 each than it is to get one extremely wealthy person to chip in $5000 to a cause, but that’s what it’s come down to. The less they let themselves get divided by having policy proposals up front instead of resulting from their protests, the better.

  87. Moderate Mom says:

    Let a middle-aged, upper middle-class mother of two in their early twenties weigh in.

    My husband and I worked our way through college, in the same manner that James did. When I started, tuition was $225 a semester and my books typically cost more than my tuition. Working full time during the day, and going to school at night and on Saturdays, I was able to not only pay my school costs, but pay expenses associated with the purchase of a car and living in an apartment on my own as well, all without taking on any student loan debt. Realistically, that’s just not possible anymore. The question is, what can we do about that?

    The only way college costs will go down is if less people go, and the best way to do that is to cut back on the availability of student loans. No one should be able to borrow a hundred thousand dollars to obtain an education, if that education will not pay off almost immediately in terms of being able to pay off the loan. Not everyone is cut out for college, and we certainly need more electricians, welder, plumbers and other skilled trade positions. Hell, my plumber charges $85 an hour and my electrician is almost as expensive. Those are honorable jobs and well paying too. More kids should be directed to the trades, rather than always steering them towards college.

    My oldest just completed her Masters in Journalism and is currently searching for a paying job. In the meantime, she has taken an unpaid internship with a magazine in another city. Fortunately, she has friends in that city and can live with them for a nominal amount of money, which her father and I will furnish. However, there is a limit to our largess. She has six months to find gainful, paying employment, or she can come back home. There is available employment for her here, working for the family business. She isn’t interested – it’s “boring” and isn’t her “dream job”. We have told her that no one is guaranteed to get their “dream job” and having a job that will put a roof over your head, food on your table, and provide health insurance is a lot more important than than following one’s muse.

    The youngest is still in college, also majoring in Journalism. Just like with his sister, we tried to talk him into picking a major that seemed, to us, a little more practical. As with his sister, we’ll provide support for a limited time after graduation, as he also searches for his “dream job”, but as with her, that time will be limited and there is always a spot for him in the family business as well. Bearings might be boring, but selling them does a good job paying the bills.

    What I see with the kids in Occupy Wall Street reminds me of my own kids. Not wanting any job, but the job to which they feel entitled. A “dream job”, which they may have run up tens or thousands of dollars worth of debt to prepare themselves for, much of the time a “dream job” that never really existed in the first place. What the hell kind of job does an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies or the ilk prepare you for? These days, what does an undergraduate degree in English, History or Psychology, or other Liberal Arts studies, prepare you for, other than the ability to go on to graduate school for a Masters degree?

    What I also see in those kids protesting, are a bunch of young adults I wouldn’t hire to walk my dog, much less to work in my office. If they show up at interviews with their nose rings, tattoos, dreads and hipster clothing, who the hell do they think will hire them? Appearance counts in the job search, and it seems like a whole bunch of youngsters didn’t get the message.

    Do I feel sorry for them? Yes, to a degree. I can sympathize with with the feeling of helplessness, but I think many of the unemployed are not quite as helpless as they feel. There is nothing wrong with starting at the bottom, showing what you’re made of, and working you way up. I started out answering phones for a law firm. Within a few years, with the completion of my degree, I was running a department of 30 employees for an Investment Bank. When you fall down, you pick yourself back up and try again. You don’t just sit on the ground, railing about how unfair it all is.

  88. Janis Gore says:

    Two journalism majors? Yikes! Shoot them now.

  89. Rob in CT says:

    Does anyone know where one can find data on the % of college grads with various types of degrees, over time?

    I’d love to see what % of college grads were getting liberal arts degrees, engineering degrees, etc. in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Oh, and trade school diplomas too.

    Maybe my google-fu is failing me today, but I don’t see a handy chart that lays this out. It seems to me that such a chart would be important if one is arguing that people getting liberal arts degrees is a big problem.

    Also, are there tons of job openings for people with allegedly more useful degrees? If not, having more engineering grads isn’t going to help. It may help a given individual, but in the aggregate the problem of unemployment would remain.

  90. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m on my phone and can’t link too well, but there is data in this old thread:

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/unemployment-and-education-2/

  91. michael reynolds says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    What I also see in those kids protesting, are a bunch of young adults I wouldn’t hire to walk my dog, much less to work in my office. If they show up at interviews with their nose rings, tattoos, dreads and hipster clothing, who the hell do they think will hire them? Appearance counts in the job search, and it seems like a whole bunch of youngsters didn’t get the message.

    I’m looking through the fog at San Francisco right now. There are a bunch of start-ups over there that wouldn’t hire someone in a suit and tie.

  92. john personna says:

    Though again to show that record under 30 unemployment originates in bad degrees, you should show they have record bad degrees.

  93. Janis Gore says:

    @michael reynolds: I’ve a sister-in-law in Portland, OR, whose niece is a remarkable looking woman with tattoos and piercings. She is way up the ladder at Microsoft. Doesn’t hurt that she’s a math whiz.

  94. michael reynolds says:

    This hypocrisy on student loans coming from older folks (my generation) is really obnoxious.

    1) These kids have spent their entire lives being told that if they worked hard, got the grades and went to college, they’d be all right. They’ve had that message pounded into their heads every day of their lives. Now it turns out to be bulls–it and we laugh at them for believing it? Stupid kids: you never should have believed us.

    2) Those kids should have seen that a journalism degree was worthless? Really? You mean the way our generation saw that we were spending money we didn’t have? And pretending it was all going to be paid for by cutting taxes? We are the most deluded people you can imagine. We’re the dumbasses who fell for Reagan and GOP magical thinking. We’re a generation of heedless, reckless, irresponsible, money-wasting cretins and we’re dissing them?

    3) Those derided, jobless kids are going to be socked with a lifetime of higher taxes to pay for us. Maybe we should think about that before muttering about those lousy hippies. You’d better hope they find work, you smug bunch of twits, because when we’re 80 and needing our butts wiped it’ll be those kids paying for it.

    4) The reason student loans are handed out like candy is that we’ve set up a system where the loan is guaranteed by the government but the bank collects the interest. It’s yet another give-away to the banks. Who wouldn’t want to loan out risk-free money?

  95. john personna says:

    That old thread makes great reading. I haven’t talked too much about how this protest proves my old point, though it does. Kids would be better off with better degrees, or in some cases no degree.

    But even though I started there I have trouble seeing the whole under 30 problem in those terms

  96. CB says:

    More kids should be directed to the trades, rather than always steering them towards college.

    excellent point that deserves to be noted.

  97. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: Not to mention that these protestors aren’t dressed for a job interview — they’re dressed to camp out on a protest. The notion that because they dress this way for OWS means they would wear the same clothes to a job interview is drawn on nothing except her own prejudices.

  98. michael reynolds says:

    If we “direct kids into the trades” and that doesn’t work, just like when we directed them to college, do we still get to ridicule them when they realize they’re screwed?

  99. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The German or the Nordic models?

  100. Kit says:

    @CB: Not as great an idea as you might think. I’m a young guy in the rust belt who, for want of a new hobby, took a few semesters of welding at a local night school trade program. Our instructor, a teacher at the high school that offered the course, had spent 20 years as a union welder before the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs cost him his job.

    He commented that for a skilled trade that used to pay $17/hour when he’d started with pay increases moving wages to $20-$25/hour for experienced union workers, and then showed us job postings for $12/hour for non-union contract positions. So, no job security, no benefits, and barely a liveable wage for work that would consist of wearing a heat-protective insulative suit (which means that it keeps heat in as well as it keeps heat out) outside in 95 degree heat with 90% humidity for long days with managers who have incentives to push against breaks, lunches, 8-hour work days and other work-stopping events that are encouraged by OSHA in a right to work state… you’ll understand if I’m not as optimistic about learning trades being a better route to take than college.

  101. ponce says:

    The only way college costs will go down is if less people go, and the best way to do that is to cut back on the availability of student loans.

    Well…U.S. college students could start taking video conference courses taught by Indian and Chinese professors for $10/hour.

    By coincidence, the two best professors I had way back when I was in school were from India and China. Not sure why, but they certainly took different approaches to teaching than my American professors(*cough* grad student slave labor *cough*) did.

  102. steve says:

    “No, the goal is to reduce the power of the state and enhance individual liberty. ”

    Reinhart and Rogooff showed that when you liberalize banking rules. ie create more liberty, they create banking crises. The modern libertarian hardly knows the difference between license and liberty. I prefer the older guys who understood that there is also a moral element to economic decisions.

    ““The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is The People vs. The Banks.” Lord Acton

    Steve

  103. steve says:

    “The only way college costs will go down is if less people go, and the best way to do that is to cut back on the availability of student loans.”

    There has been a huge influx of foreign students. This may not be true. Also, we know engineering, science and business majors who cannot find work. This is not just about liberal arts grads.

    Steve

  104. CB says:

    @Kit:

    good point. i suppose i was reflecting purely on personal experience, in that i was one of those who was pressured to pursue college without really understanding what it took or what other options i had. but i readily acknowledge that the trade professions arent all roses.

  105. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: The Human Development Index puts South Korea, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Norway, and a few dozen others in the same bracket as the United States, Taiwan isn’t listed because it is not recognized by the United Nations, but it’s quite clear America is not economically exceptional. I’m not sure what your point is about Japan, as it has been where we are now for over 20 years and still provides high pay and healthcare for all at half the price we pay.

    http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/

  106. sam says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    What I also see in those kids protesting, are a bunch of young adults I wouldn’t hire to walk my dog, much less to work in my office. If they show up at interviews with their nose rings, tattoos, dreads and hipster clothing, who the hell do they think will hire them? Appearance counts in the job search, and it seems like a whole bunch of youngsters didn’t get the message.

    No matter how long the argument against, sooner or later, it’ll come around to aesthetics.

  107. Janis Gore says:

    We won’t be going anywhere as a country until we get out of these wars. I think we’re more depressed than we know by them after ten years.

  108. American has real economic and social problems. But the solution in on Capitol Hill, not Wall Street.

    James, if you think solutions our economic solutions are going to come from Capitol Hill, how you can in good conscience still call yourself “Outside the Beltway” is beyond me.

  109. Moderate Mom says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Michael, my oldest got both her BA and her Masters from Ole Miss. Now, she’s a pretty bright cookie, and loved going to school there, but as long as you have a pulse, you can get in. Granted, you might not be there for long if you can’t cut it, but you can waste either your parents’ or the government’s money for a couple of semesters before you fail out. And Ole Miss is not the only school doing that by far. And that is a huge part of the problem. When we were young, college was meant for kids that had the academic background to thrive in college. These days,too many freshmen arrive on campus unprepared for the rigors of a college education, requiring remedial coursework prior to taking freshman courses in English, Math, Science or a foreign language. That is the result of expecting everyone to go to college.

    And yes, those kids that are pushed into college, without the necessary academic background to be successful at it, have been shortchanged. They were shortchanged by the crappy educational system that is currently in place. They were shortchanged by a government that makes it too easy for anyone to get a student loan. They were shortchanged by a government that has made it impossible to bankrupt a student loan under any circumstances. And they were shortchanged by a society that no longer values or encourages honest labor.

  110. James Joyner says:

    @charles austin: I’m not sure I follow. We created a government back in 1789 to, among other things, provide for the common welfare. While government isn’t the solution to all problems and is the cause of others, it’s the only mechanism for global solutions to some problems.

    Government shapes the rules of the game. They have, for example, contributed mightily to the student loan debacle by incentivizing massive loans to all manner of people who had no business taking them out and no means of paying them back. Who but government is going to fix that?

  111. Ben Wolf says:

    @charles austin: We have specific policies that desperately need to be changed. It can either happen on Capitol Hill or it can happen with revolution in the streets, but the lesson of history is that people will only tolerate so much inequailty before they snap en masse. . . I, like James Joyner prefer the government solution to the guillotine but that won’t happen so long as the aristocracy have total control of the political process. So we’d better hope a sufficient number of the world’s most dishonest people (American politicians) can breiefly wake up to the disaster they’re courting and do something. If this isn’t settled on Capitol Hill then all bets are off.

  112. anjin-san says:

    They were shortchanged by a government that makes it too easy for anyone to get a student loan. They were shortchanged by a government that has made it impossible to bankrupt a student loan under any circumstances

    Apparently the parents have no blame at all in this. Got to love those “personal responsibility” conservatives.

  113. john personna says:

    @anjin-san:

    Well, I think as a whole other subject, the college system is on a horribly wrong track. I argued in these pages (going back years?) that “affordable education” should mean low tuition, it should not mean monster loans.

    And it seems that the gimmick the pols (of both parties?) used to create a loan model for “affordable” was pretty cruel. As I understand it, government guaranteed loans to a greater and greater pool of applicants, but it also made that debt “un-sheddable” not even by bankruptcy. The “guarnatee” was really a guarantee to lenders that they’d make money, even if students were still carrying debt 50 years later.

    (Maybe I’ve got some of the details wrong it that, but I think I’ve got the picture right.)

  114. Moderate Mom says:

    @anjin-san:

    I don’t know if these kids complaining about being saddled with so much debt are the children of Liberals or of Conservatives. One thing I do know, however, is that my husband and I have toted the entire note for our children’s education. One has come out of school, and the other will come out of school, debt free. So I guess we exhibited “personal responsibility”. And no, I have never received a single tax deduction or credit for their tuition. Our income is too high.

  115. anjin-san says:

    @Moderate Mom

    Well, if these people are not as special as you obviously are, they probably deserve what happens to them.