30 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street

  1. Adjusting for political orientation, the Stoller piece reads like the writing of those who were most enthused about the tea party back before the tea party turned into cranky oldsters who want to keep Medicare safe from the government.

  2. My point is that if I had a nickel for every time somebody gushed about an amorphous political movement that later became pointless or stupid, I wouldn’t right now be at the computer looking for tips on how to remove a toilet without flooding the bathroom.

  3. I suppose my actual point was more about the persistence of certain narratives that are applied regardless of the situation. Inexperienced people taking a stand, forging a common understand out of a diverse group, use a plunger to empty the bowl before you remove the bolts. Those kind of narratives.

  4. I personally am staying up late at night trying to figure out the relationships among the new kitchen, the laws of physics, and grits.
    I have no time to spend on figuring out the wall street protests. Am I wrong in thinking that it’s hipsters railing against the machine — with a touch of whatever is driving the tent ins in Israel?

  5. Poor kid with the $86k combined student loans/medical debt. I hope it cheers him/her up to know that if the student loans are federally guaranteed and he/she defaults, the government has already promised to bail out the bank.
    Why do we the people keep making these dumb promises to salvage deals that should involve only two parties (the lender and the borrower)? If I had my druthers, all educational institutions would have to carry at least some proportion of student loans, so that if the student eventually defaulted, the educational institutions would have the incentive to do a bit of soul-searching about what went wrong (the student was too academically marginal to be admitted, the academic program was too expensive vis a vis likely future salary, the academic area is oversaturated, etc.). The bigger universities have enormous financial resources, so some of them could almost be their own lending offices.

  6. “So that maybe eventually we could have a populist revolt built around some actual good ideas for a change?”
    Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but populist revolts tend to be built around very simple ideas (for instance, “Let’s have a pogrom!”). If you like nuance or sophistication, you won’t find it within miles of a populist revolt. Not to say that those simple ideas aren’t sometimes correct, just that I don’t think you’d enjoy a populist revolt nearly as much as you think you would.

  7. Pogrom seems a bit of an extreme example, but I suppose if you spend enough time looking at Russian history it might look that way.
    I’m still looking for William Jennings Bryan II, except without the prohibition stuff. Evolution seems very important, but it isn’t like it stops happening if nobody teaches it in high schools.

  8. Anyway, someone is trying to start “Occupy Pittsburgh” in support and the first meeting is in a Unitarian Church. If that’s the trend, things will be too calm, not too worked up.

  9. “Pogrom seems a bit of an extreme example, but I suppose if you spend enough time looking at Russian history it might look that way.”
    Here’s one closer to home:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_riot_of_1886
    According to the article, enraged Seattleites led by the Knights of Labor forcibly loaded hundreds of Chinese onto a ship to San Francisco. There were apparently a number of other similar episodes in the West in the late 19th century.
    Here’s another one (this is a link to an account of the 1919 American Legion assault on the Wobblies in Centralia, WA and the lynching that followed):
    http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5605
    Our politics are quite a bit tamer than they used to be.

  10. For now things may be tamer, but it seems fairly likely that the recession will get deeper before it gets better. The political incentives strongly urge leaders punt things down the road and the bigger issues have been getting worse because of delay. For example, how did a “too big to fail” bailout that only made the surviving banks bigger cut risk? And how do you ask for a second bailout if it is needed? Politically, you can only get a bailout in an atmosphere is crisis, but that same atmosphere makes people stop spending. And how do you do put a floor in housing prices without rewarding the worst lenders/borrowers at the expense of the cautious? If you don’t bailout the worst lenders/borrowers, how can there be that many foreclosures/bank failures without political consequences?
    On top of all this, and aside from the short term stimulus issues, the current account balance is very clearly showing that the U.S. must consume less and nobody wants to touch that issue. Standing on the street is probably pointless, but at least it doesn’t make anything worse. Plus, at least around here, it is a very “fall” kind of day and I like that weather.

  11. The biggest difference between a Sarah Palin rally and the Occupy Wall Street movement is age. The unemployment age for kids from 18-27 is 55% right now. That’s horrific. Those kids are saddled with insane amounts of college debt and they got nothing for it. I’m pissed off, too.

  12. The unemployment age for kids from 18-27 is 55% right now.
    And all the ones with good jobs seem to be the kind of unctuous, over-eager, little gunners that make me want to pour punch on the computer that scores the SATs.

  13. I was reading “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen last week, and was struck by the description of a liberal political movement whose transformation he deftly and briefly described by saying that volunteers stopped requesting information from an”overprivileged@expensivecollege.edu” e-mail account and started offering assistance from their “satansfoetus@gmail.com” account.
    The idea being, I guess, that the latter sorts of movements were more “authentic” or “grassroots” or “populist” or whatever. I don’t know if I think one is necessarily better than the other, but I think, now, for any large scale political action, I want to know the overprivileged/satansfoetus breakdown of the attendees for informational purposes.

  14. The unemployment age for kids from 18-27 is 55% right now. That’s horrific. Those kids are saddled with insane amounts of college debt and they got nothing for it. I’m pissed off, too.
    I’m pissed off to, but I think you are conflating your statistics here. 55% is not the “unemployment rate” for young college graduates saddled with college debt, or even all 18-27 year olds. (I think it is the “employment rate,” actually, last I saw, with 45% not working.) Most of those who are not “employed” are not unemployed, though.
    Lots of them are in college. Only about 17% of young college graduates are not working, but that includes stay-at-home-moms and grad students. The actual unemployment rate is about 5.5% for young college graduates (and probably less for the “good” colleges that charge 3 times as much and lead to most of the debt, but I don’t know how you’d measure that.)
    The 5.5% also understates somewhat due to graduates who are not in their chosen careers, or who are in jobs that don’t require college degrees, but I think the order of magnitude is closer to 5.5% than 55%.

  15. My partner and our two kids spent the day at Occupy Wall Street on Friday. They came back with tales of meeting lots of different people: environmental activists fighting hydrofracking, middle-aged unemployed social workers, teachers, and transit workers, and Iraq War veterans, among others. So: not just “hipsters” railing against the machine. The point of the diverse nature of the individuals and groups assembling near and around the Wall Street park (diverse in demographics as well as in demands) is that we have an epic failure of government to protect citizens from polluting industries, shareholder-driven corporate greed, skyrocketing health care costs, and pointless foreign wars.

  16. shareholder-driven corporate greed
    They’ve started screwing the shareholders. Or at least got much more blatant about it than they used to.

  17. I find it odd that some are so eager to cast student loan debt as non-problematic and are assuming (without evidence) that the bulk of those loans are the subsidized student loans. If the loan is in the $80,000 range, likely a great chunk of it is unsubsidized and also not subject to bankruptcy measures. And even if the latter were included, I think most would agree that bankruptcy is an unfortunate condition to most people to be in, particularly young people who are unable to find jobs in what is a recessionary period. We might conclude that they are at fault because they went to the wrong school (assuming that’s a factor, likely not directly one) or that they picked the wrong major (another assumption, also probably faulty), but the fact of the matter is that recessions are structural components of market economies and not in the power of individual students.
    And laura, sorry, I have to note — if they spent four years in college and didn’t get anything for it, I presume that you find the education, wisdom, greater knowledge, and critical thinking skills they gained if they made an effort worthless. This is unfortunate.
    Frankly, I find this raging against the Wall Street machine very exciting and well-founded, given the enlarging economic gap between rich and poor in this country. I just think that a rally where folks with power to change things (i.e., Albany/DC) might be more effective.

  18. $80,000 in debt for wisdom? Is that worth it? When a library card is free? And how much wisdom did they actually get from the overworked, underpaid adjuncts who actually teach their classes. But who am I to judge? I’m the one who squandered all of her prime earning years in grad school, accumulating tons of debt, reading obscure, though fascinating, books which were all dumped in the recycling bin before we moved, because no one wanted them. And all that wisdom qualifies me to do precisely nothing. Wisdom is all fine and good, except when you have a one year old and you’re on welfare and you live in a four floor apartment. When that happens the person who pulls the short straw puts on a tie and begs for a temp job on Wall Street.
    I also find the rallies exciting. (Interesting comment, Christiana.) I know a lot of very angry and marginally employed/not employed college grads, and I”ll glad to see them telling their story. (I’ll get back to your comment, Ragtime).

  19. heh. They’re having a sale! Yes, in between reading posts about the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’m shopping for a new chair. I’m with the people and all, but I need some place to sit, dammit!
    fixed the link.

  20. Does the fault lie with Wall Street, or with the colleges? Why aren’t they picketing the college administrators, those who admitted them, set tuition rates, and took their (borrowed) money?

  21. The colleges prepared them for the economy in 2008. But Wall Street greed and mismanagement tanked the economy and took away all the jobs the college students had been prepared for. The colleges are trying to catch up.
    I also think Laura is too harsh on colleges and especially on underpaid and overworked adjuncts. They still do a damned good job in the classroom.

  22. The economy in 2008 was an enormous bubble. Even in 2008, there aren’t many jobs which will cover the cost of a $120,000 college experience.
    Wall Street was not the only villain. Countless players collaborated to inflate property values and misstate incomes.
    Colleges bear responsibility as well. Many colleges encouraged students to take on loans–and were receiving kickbacks from the loan companies. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/opinion/08sun3.html

  23. “Colleges bear responsibility as well. Many colleges encouraged students to take on loans–and were receiving kickbacks from the loan companies.”
    Colleges have historically had a very, very cozy relationship with the big credit card companies, too.
    “Credit card companies made more than $83 million in payments to colleges and their alumni associations and foundations in 2009 as part of agreements that allowed the companies to make their cards available to students on the institutions’ campuses, the Federal Reserve said in a report Monday.
    “The report, which was mandated by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (the “Credit CARD Act”), offers the first broad look at the arrangements by which credit card companies market their products to students, alumni and others, with the help of postsecondary institutions and their affiliates. The 2009 credit card law imposed restrictions on such arrangements going forward, but also required significantly more reporting about the nature and extent of the agreements.”
    “The Student Lending Analytics blog, which first reported on the Fed’s report, offered this analysis: “The structure of these deals allowed schools to benefit as more students signed up for the cards and the higher their volume of transactions the higher the royalty that schools would receive. Should we be surprised that students had on average 4.6 credit cards and seniors graduated with average credit card debt of $4,100 based on a Sallie Mae 2009 study?””
    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/10/26/credit_card
    4.6 cards for the average undergraduate–wow!

  24. “I find it odd that some are so eager to cast student loan debt as non-problematic and are assuming (without evidence) that the bulk of those loans are the subsidized student loans. If the loan is in the $80,000 range, likely a great chunk of it is unsubsidized and also not subject to bankruptcy measures.”
    I think it is a very big deal, but I enjoy the irony of the fact that if this person defaults, that default will very likely trigger the sort of bailout that they are protesting against.
    Here’s a wild and crazy idea: let’s go back to making student loans be bankruptable, but also make sure that there is an accurate and easy to access public registry of all who avail themselves of that option. I, for one, would avoid like the plague any doctor or lawyer or accountant who skipped out on their loans.

  25. I’m sorry, but colleges that charge $97,000 for degrees in “women’s and religious studies” (see the NYT, 5/29/2010) are not preparing students for jobs in the 2008 or any other economy. It’s just a ripoff to support tenured drones.

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