Occupy This

I freely admit, I don’t get the “Occupy Wall-Street” protests.  I caught some of the local coverage of the events in Boston and, well, I laughed.  My first thought of the repeating call was, “Hey, I saw that in China before factory shifts 8 years ago.” My second thought was approving things via jazz hands well, was just way too funny.  I’m not going to deny the widening income gaps and record-setting sustained unemployment.  I’m probably one of the few people who can say “Yes, I’m making more money now than I was 4 years ago”.  Save the shoes being tossed: 4 years ago I was working for an “upscale” retailer that pays its employees via 100% commission.  And if a person makes a return? The sales people get hit: never mind if the item was used, had holes or was re-tagged.  I still have my perfectly legal paycheck for $4.83 for a weeks work (38 hours).

I get the anger: I really do.  I’ve worked contract work the past 2 years, paid for my own insurance and become a versatile rice cook.  Part of my bemusement has come from some of the comments made by the protestors: comments about graduating with 120 thousand dollars of undergraduate debt (note: if that is your LOAN payment, “state school”, “realistic expectations”, and “dumb move” are a few thoughts that spring to mind: that and your high school system really needs to teach a course on budgeting).  I get feeling disenfranchised.  My student loan repayment went UP when Sallie Mae bought my loan from Citibank.

Part of me (ok, the part that isn’t terrorized by this call-repeat jazz hand form of communication) wants to go down and poll the protestors.  How many people ranting about wages, greed and what ever else shop at a chain grocery store? Do they purchase items off of Amazon (not independent retailers who use the market front from Amazon but the distribution centers? This story was circulated on the internet a few weeks ago regarding working conditions.  And, in all fairness to Amazon, I ran into the same issue at one of my temp jobs: working in a non-temperature controlled warehouse.)  Sites that utilize the drop-ship warehouse method do not return any dollars outside of wages to local communities.  When going out for a meal, do they go to a chain or do they go  to a local dive?  In short, how much to they actually think about the economic return to their local community through their purchases.  Or, are they protesting corporate greed fueled on their Seattle-based $4.50 latte?

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10 Responses to “Occupy This”

  1. Tincup Says:

    Let me pose this question. Lets say you are an environmentalist. Now, is it possible for you under the status quo to live your life without being a hypocrite? Likewise, if you are a young person fresh out of college full of energy and high hopes, but past generations have handed you this piece of shit…can you at least voice your opinion that it stinks before going to bathroom to pinch a loaf?

    • zebrastravels Says:

      I’m not sure I even understand your question. But in response: if you entered college in the past 4 years, chances are you knew the economy was going to be in the tank (or your parents did). Encouraging a person to take out massive loans for a college education when state schools are available is child abuse. And this is the same argument that the beatnicks et all made in the 60’s, the students made in 90’s. it’s almost an every 25 year debate.

      • Tincup Says:

        My response is that IF…we were intelligent human beings…these young people would be coming out of college full of energy and excitement ready to take the human project to the next level…as opposed to being bogged down by debt and faced with problems that smash the human spirit to the ground.

      • zebrastravels Says:

        let me turn it back on you: when has this ever happened? versus being an ideal? i’ve paid back (or will pay back) close to 70K in debt. it didn’t ‘smash’ my spirit. it’s the reality of life vs. the mythology we’ve been spoonfeeding (and believing) for years.

  2. AJ Says:

    I left school with around 84,000 dollars of student loan debt, after my parents already paid half. There were very solid reasons I decided against going to a state school here. Mostly a guarantee that I would graduate with the degree I wanted as long as I didn’t fail out and I did a fast track program that made my doctorate 2 years shorter than if I had gone to a state school. Now I knew that I would have an in demand job with a high salary upon graduation when I made this choice, to take in this debt. Since my father was a small business owner his assets made me unqualified for any financial aid although his actual income at the time wasn’t that high.

    I can say that while I knew I’d have a good job when I started on this journey. I really had no idea what the real world and expenses was like. I think it’s a hard thing to grasp at the age we are when we make those decisions. At least it was for me. Growing up in a small appalachain town with underfunded schools left me naive and sheltered about the real world I think.

    I can understand the frustration with spending a lot of money on your education because the importance of education is drilled into our heads over and over… And I think sometimes it comes with a message that if you get a college degree you’ll do okay… Which at this junction is not always the case.

    I’m not saying I don’t mostly agree with you. I do. I personally feel part of the problem we face as a nation in general is the lack of responsibility people take for themselves and their own actions. The lack of drive to put one foot in front of the other and make changes. I feel like whenever anything goes wrong so many people are immediately looking for a scapegoat before ever thinking of taking responsibility for themselves. I am lucky despite my debt because I do have a stable income, but when I took on this debt… I had no idea how much it would break down to in a monthly payment and how it would affect my life. I don’t think I would have changed my decision because it was the most stable choice for me, but if I would never have jumped into such a debt without the security of a good income.

    I bet if you did the poll…. you would be right too. Many people don’t even attempt to live within their means… When it could be a possibility if they made sensible choices. Sorry, I’m not sure I didn’t just rant without ever getting to my point. I’m a little medicated and typing on the iPhone I couldn’t read back what I wrote. ha. I had a point somewhere… But I believe i lost it between Ohio state starting to choke and the pain medicine kicking in!

    • zebrastravels Says:

      Aj, your debt load (and your debt to income ratio since I know your job and can make a guess about what you earn) makes sense as a return on investment. Plus, you graduate with a PhD in an in-demand field. I grabbed UMichigan (because it’s a top teir school) and yanked their out of state fees: $20K year. My point is that if you are going to get a 4 year degree (yours was 7?) and take all of the money out in loans, it makes MORE sense to go in-state where the fees might be less for the first 2 years and then transfer if needed to a “name” school OR pay for what you can afford.

      No, debt actualization is not an easy concept – but that is where parenting comes into play or the role of a guidance counselor at school. An individual who goest to BU to become a teacher and takes out most of his/her tuition in loans is foolish. If they enroll at BU to become a PT, OT, etc that makes more sense. I didn’t – and don’t – get the people I went to seminary with who have over $100K in debt and are ministers. The debt to income ratio will never equal out. I graduated from my undergrad degree with 40K in debt, took a job in sales (which I hated), to pay it off before going to grad school where I took out another 30K in debt. My student loand re-payment is my 3rd largest bill behind my mortgage and health insurance (i pay for my own 100%). I look at individuals in similar financial situations and think “um, how are they doing that?”.

      The FAFSA system is a joke: students HAVE to account for parental income if they are under what? 25? But parents do not have to pay a dime towards a college education – that is the issue. My parents didn’t contribute to my education yet I had to account for their income every year. It’s quite frustrating from the student perspective. Coupled with returnting to school and having zero allowance for leaving a full time job to start a full time 90 credit graduate program, I’ve never “won” on the financial aid side. I agree that the reality of how the world works isn’t something most people get until they are involved. Discussions on bills, bill paying is something that doesn’t happen. There seems to be a culture of shame in saying “I can’t afford x”.

      People are (in my mind) to quick to look for a scapegoat – and if a person is willing to say “I made that mistake” well, there are ramifications of being allowed to be scapegoated. We’ve fallen into a culture where it is always “somebodys” fault: there is a fear of saying “things just suck” or owning an error.

  3. AJ Says:

    I think you made my point much better than me lol : ) i shouldn’t try to make sense after my meds have worn off!

  4. Liz Says:

    Thank you. I agree almost completely (I love Starbucks, and don’t care how “expensive” their lattes are; quality definitely trumps price, in my opinion). I wasn’t even sure what the protests were about for weeks, and then once I had a better understanding, I started to wonder whether the protesters even know what they’re protesting.

    People asking for government help with their student and other loans crack me up. I complain about my student loan all the time, yes, but it’s a choice I made and I consider myself responsible for that debt repayment, no matter how hard it sucks. I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone for assistance. I don’t even really want to defer (but may have to if my job keeps giving me only fourteen hours a week), because the interest continues to accumulate if you do and I just want the whole thing gone as soon as possible. However, as much as it sucks having it hang over my head, it actually feels good to make those payments every month. I like being independent and taking care of my own expenses. I like being a responsible adult.

    It’s unrealistic to believe that the government should be responsible for helping people who borrowed money for school, homes, cars, or whatever else. Would these people ask to borrow money from one friend and then ask another friend to pay the first friend back? It’s irresponsible and disgusting, in my opinion, and it’s just as much so when the government actually steps in and lends a hand. It doesn’t help the economy at all.

    Now, I definitely think that there are things about our country that need to change. I think we need to focus more on small businesses and assist them so that they can hire more people. Starbucks and Google are doing a fantastic job of helping small businesses, while our government does pretty much nothing. My state — Connecticut — has virtually no programs helping small businesses, and has the lowest retention rate of small businesses in the country. I truly think that if the Occupy Wall St. people put half as much energy into pumping their fists while walking up and down the streets of NYC into helping small businesses, a huge difference could be made.

    • zebrastravels Says:

      I was reading a popular blog among my friends and the writer made a comment about how she had conversations at Wal-Mart and McDonalds with the workers about the occupy movements. Ok, if you support the occupy movements (or sustainable job creation, fair wages) how you can shop there is beyond me. Massachusetts does a decent job with small businesses but we’ve become such a culture of one-stop which is never mom and pop shops!

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