For a long time I’ve wanted to put my two cents in about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I have not done so yet because I see how emotional some people are about it. The majority of my facebook friends are liberal. I see so many pro occupy stuff on facebook regularly. Even though I don’t consider myself political I’m more liberal than conservative. I’ve voted for the democratic candidate in the past four presidential elections. I do not follow the news that much, but I’m pro education, pro-choice, and I think big government spending could be a good thing if quality services are provided. But I have some problems with the theology of Occupy Wall Street.
First I’ll start that the concerns the movements bring up are legitimate. Hopefully the economy is getting better but every young person deserves the chance to work. The only way to learn work ethic, customer service, teamwork, skills, and so much more is to get an entry-level job. It use to be that once someone turns 16 they could apply to fast food, retail, or other work and get experience over the summer. Now a lot of those jobs are taken by over qualified older people out of work. Teens and college kids need those summer and part time jobs. Volunteering is not the same thing, people should be paid even if it’s minimum wage. Later in life people need career entry-level jobs. How can recent college grads compete with hundreds of experienced workers in their same fields?
There is corporate greed, and it appears that the bulk of money in our country is controlled and contained by what occupy calls the one percent. This past week Mayor Bloomberg announced his preliminary budget. I’m a librarian, and the city libraries collectively are facing about a 100 million cut, more than was proposed last year. Libraries are something that can potentially serve everyone in the various NYC communities. I’ll save my library pitch for future blog entries. I just wanted to say I was fuming when Bloomberg announced this horrible doomsday budget and at the end said the saving grace was that taxes would not be raised. What I know of the tax structure is that rich and upper middle class pay the majority of taxes while the poor do not. I’m in the middle class technically and I always get a refund of some kind. So the burden of increased taxes is by far of more concern to people that are well off. Should not having a tax burden for people that can afford it more important than city services that help educate and enlighten everyone? I think it is necessary to raise taxes to continue services. I think the Occupy people would agree that education for everyone is worth the expense.
The last point I’ll mention that I agree with Occupy is that America spends too much money on wars. I heard that about a third of the federal budget is allocated to the military. A strong military is important because we have turned into the nation that protects democracy and so forth. But a third of the budget, if that’s true, is too much. Why not allocate one-fifth or one-six of the budget to defense, and then add more money to things like education, roads, and all the other things that need to be improved.
Now I’ll state my problems with Occupy Wall Street. There hasn’t been much information since the park was shut down in fall, but I’m sure in spring it will be revamped. Basically they camped out for months, toward the end the news stated there were rapes down there, and to some degree it turned into a bad scene. I did not go down there, even though I was interested in the library they created from scratch for the protesters. A friend of mine that went down there told me the smell of weed was heavy in the air. I’m not judging these kids, but if Occupy Wall Street is a ‘scene’ or like a parking lot of a concert it does not have substance. And to camp out for a few months there, I read some people stopped their studies for this, is not the best use of time for people. I’m guessing some people had breakdowns. I think it’s harmful for some of the participants to every day encounter stressful situations and confrontations.
My main beef with Occupy Wall Street is philosophical. The whole campaign is the 99 percent against the 1 percent. While I agree that there is a vast disparity between the wealthy and poor I have a different take on it. Before I state it, one of my friends argued to me that a lot of first world countries in Europe have less poverty than we do here. So I agree that there should be more of a middle class and less poverty. But the problem with focusing a whole movement against the 1 percent is that everyone wants to be in that 1 percent. All Americans growing up through different levels of school want to attain and dream about success. For the kids that play a musical instrument look up to successful musicians. For someone that looks up to Jay Z is not looking for someone in the 1 percent, but a self-made rapper in the 0.000092 percentile. For sports the real stars make a ton of money. For kids into science can look up to Nobel Prize winners. The good thing about our country is that we award the people that are very talented and succeed. Even though people always complain about our education system compared to other countries Americans produce a large portion of game changers in the world, with technology fields and creativity fields. To tell kids that they can only make as much as their parents did or a certain amount of money would ruin their dreams. The idea that people decide what they want to do, work for it, and be rewarded for success drives people. In other countries people do what their parents do, or have to test into fields at an early age. Here people can strive for what they want, and without the benefit of potential success and financial security it would be different.
Lastly, some of the super wealthy people are innovators and game changers, and can improve the world. Andrew Carnegie financed the future of libraries at the turn of the twentieth century. Today Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are philanthropists and are doing some good things. My library has scanners from a Gates grant.
Occupy Wall Street has some good points, but I think could be handled in another way, like putting pressure on the government through letters, or media campaigns. I think they are right that there are some problems and inequalities in this country. However I think we need some tweaking to our system, and not a whole overhaul. And the basic democracy and principals of this country have worked better than anywhere else.