Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy: The Financial Crisis & Jobs Not Taken

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street! OCCUPY WALL STREET!

This is the cry we've been seeing sweeping first New York - where the eponymous Wall Street exists - and then the news media and then the country. Folks, THIS is my kinda Riot!


September 17, 2011: people took to the streets en masse, specifically occupying Liberty Plaza Park (aka Zuccotti Park) in New York City, NY. The idea for this was floated by a Canadian organization called Adbusters (describing itself as 'the new social activist movement for the information age') who floated the idea of a peaceful protest to their email lists, and from there people around the world got excited. A real protest. A real, modern, peaceful protest.

If you'll notice in the initial sign put out by Adbusters at the top of this article, the first question these folks had to answers was "What is our one demand?" This is why I love this movement. These people were pissed at what is going on in D.C., on Wall Street, and all across our country, but instead of sitting out in their folding chairs with signs of Obama bearing a Hitler-stache, they decided to discuss the issues. What are their demands? Can they make it one demand? Jon Stewart - of Comedy Central's The Daily Show - attempted to poke fun at their we're a group that isn't even sure what we're protesting facade, and then flipped it around to show that these people are not mindless Glen Beck drones.


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They're calling themselves the 99%, in reference to statistics that show between 40 and 50% of wealth is controlled by 1% of the populace - with the top .1% controlling the most. Their cry is one of financial fairness, as some facts can no longer be ignored by the population or the incubator that is Washington. Namely: money has destroyed our political system. 

If your mom or dad tells you that you can be president, they're lying. You can't. Don't worry... I can't either. In all statistical likelihood, you also won't run your own successful business, nor will you climb your way to a position of wealth in someone else's. The days of starting off with nothing and ending up with a wad of cash in the bank are dwindling into memory. After the housing crisis hit, the wealth of the top 1% increased an additional 119%. The rest of us got the esteemed pleasure of experiencing layoffs and cutbacks and learned the joys of trying to subsist off of unemployment insurance. 

The only way, these days, that you can win an election is with - without exaggeration - billions of dollars. And, folks, I hate to be the one to break it to you, you will probably have to cough up at least several hundred million yourself on top of what you can get from fundraising. (By the way, this "fundraising" is mostly done on Wall Street, by Democrats AND Republicans. Everyone's hands are in the pot. Really, how many middle class families have enough to spare enough to create billions of dollars of political campaign funding?) 

The Republican establishment also seems to enjoy the cover of the wealthy, hiding behind a message of job creation. In fact, it has become a running joke amongst bloggers and cable news hosts to count the number of hypocritical times Republicans get on TV and refer to wealthy Americans as "job creators." Don't raise taxes on the "job creators" because then they won't make any new jobs. The kicker: any financial report out there is telling you that the big banks and corporations that got all that money to make sure they didn't collapse - and by extension, the country's economy - aren't creating jobs. If anything, they're either maintaining current staff, or, what is most seen, is they are letting people go in droves. Oil Companies, tech companies, the automotive industry, none of them are creating tons of jobs. Banks that were bailed out have yet to release their hold on approving mortgages. It's a buyer's market, but nobody can seem to get a decent rate, if they can even get approval at all. 

And, for the first time in our nation's history, our young Americans are extremely educated and extremely jobless. Nobody is hiring. Well, very few people are hiring. And there is a great sense of frustration from my generation that we went to school and we did what we were supposed to and we earned our degree(s) and...we're working 3 jobs to pay rent 2 years out of school, because our degree doesn't mean squat in 2011. 

It is this climate, this peripheral cloud of issues that the 99% speak about. End the Bush-era tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Let them give back a little bit more. Sure, they may own and run very successful companies, but they did so while operating under a social contract: the tax payers paid for the police and military that kept that business safe, the teachers to teach the workers, the roads to carry the merchandise, and subsidized dozens of other institutions and programs that allowed that business to employ people and flourish. No, we are not a Socialist government, nor do we want to be, but we each have made a social contract with our country. 

And, if we're going to call those wealthy folks Job Creators, maybe we should force them to create jobs. You know...here in America. Honestly, I love cheap products as much as the next guy, but I love a working economy and a low unemployment rate more. 

There are tax loopholes that allow massive companies to get away with literally paying $0 in taxes. 0. None. Nunca. Nada. Zilch. GM? Didn't pay any taxes last year. Hell, name an oil company. Guess how much they paid in taxes! Not as much as you! Perhaps, since those companies like tax loopholes so much, we should allow them to remain ONLY IF they stop sending the jobs to China and India and the various Pacific island nations. Maybe if more of our stuff said Made in America, we would feel a little better about ourselves. 

I'm loving the Occupy Wall Street folks. Many are seeing it as one of the great protest movements of modern history. (So much so that NPR did a whole show on watching to see who the next Bob Dylan or Joan Baez will be to rise up as a famous protest singer.) Watch this closely. 

In mildly related news: Americans don't want the jobs we have. Specifically, they don't - on the whole - want to do really labor intensive jobs without getting paid as though they'd gotten a doctorate in tomato picking. A delightful new story has been sweeping the news-o-sphere from Alabama about a farmer who no longer has workforce comprised of illegal immigrants, because that state just amped up their immigration policy. What news agencies are finding is that in states all along the southern border, undocumented workers are leaving. They're leaving their low-paying jobs and moving. Some to other states, but many are going BACK TO MEXICO, where they feel they can get better pay without the hassle. 

What's interesting about this little turn of events? Americans aren't signing up for these jobs. They're there. But on the whole, we don't want to be a bus boy or a tomato picker or a day laborer or work in the bottom floor of a factory. Unless, of course, you pay us ridiculous sums of money - you don't want to just be a plumber, you want to be a union plumber making $50/hr. 

So, to wind up, I agree with the 99%. We need reform. We need jobs. We need our politicians to not crave the millions and billions they're getting from Wall Street. We need elections to be won without putting a horcrux in every CEO's office you can swoon. We need degrees to mean something. We need the wealthy elite to do their fair share, and we need corporations to...you know...pay taxes. We need a lot of things, but - at the end of the day - we need to put people to work. 

We also need people to take the jobs that are out there, should they be available to you in your area. Just saying. 

What do YOU think about Occupy Wall Street? What do you think about how it has swept the country in various cities and college campuses? What do you think about the job situation; are there really that many jobs that Americans just aren't willing to take? 

Sound off in the comments section! Oh, and what do you think of the video below?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte
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6 comments:

  1. I agree with the 99% and I've been shouting it for a while. The rich get away with being rich when there's people like my partner and I who are going to possibly lose our house because there are NO jobs! (I am very scared about this because if we lose this home we will be living on the streets.)

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  2. I don't know about the rest of the country but I know here in Maine we're having a hard time hiring people even though our unemployment rate is still high here. The company I work for, which is in childcare and does on the job training for all certifications, has had a ridiculously difficult time getting people to even send in resumes, let alone hiring people! People have filled out applications in colored pencil, dropped them off in torn jeans a And marketwatch keeps saying "10% of people who graduate college this year won't get a job." Well, if I look around my classrooms at my school at least half of the people in my classes are people I wouldn't hire as an employer. They are lazy, they don't even do their homework, they show up for class half an hour late and then whine about their grades. I really have to wonder how many people are unemployed and are actually willing to put in the grunt work to get a job. I personally know some people in other states who are unemployed and are definitely trying hard, but around here everyone I know is simply lazy and unprepared.

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  3. I should clarify, by school classrooms I mean that I am a college student, and my classmates are on average 24 years old because the school I attend attracts alternative students.

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  4. I think #OccupyWallStreet is long overdue, but I'm glad that action is finally being taken. I fully support the occupation, and plan to march with Occupy Fredericton (F'ton is the capitol of New Brunswick, Canada) this Saturday evening. I'd go to the protest at City Hall that afternoon, but I have a prior commitment.

    As to jobs, we have a similar problem here in NB: I, and a lot of other high school/university students were unable to get jobs this year. Partly it was due to a freeze on government jobs--thanks, Premier Alward (Progressive Conservative--the Canadian equivalent of the GOP). And partly, I think the jobs just weren't there. I don't know what it's like for non-students, since I've never looked into it.

    I'll admit that I haven't been following the job situation in the States, so I can only comment on what's going on here in Canada.

    As to the video, I'm currently watching it on the Comedy Network website (anything Comedy Central gets redirected to the Comedy Network in Canada). I think it's awesome--and a great introduction to The Daily Show (believe it or not, I've never watched that show before).

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  5. I work in retail as an assistant store manager but have been looking for better employment. Things I have noticed in my job search:

    1)Companies requiring a college degree for a position that does not require a college degree to perform (call centers for example). Really?! Even if I was fortunate enough to have the money for college, I sure wouldn't waste my degree sitting in a office, answering phone for $12 an hour! In many cases,just because an applicant has a college degree does not mean they are more intelligent or capable to perform the job, it just means they had the means to pay for a degree.

    2)Not only are more companies doing background checks, they are including credit checks for positions that do not involve money or much access to corporate funds. Now, let's say you typically pay your bills but have been out of work for 6 months. Your credit rating has dropped drastically and you are trying to make things better by getting a job but they turn you away because of a number that is based on situational circumstances. I find it disturbing that you have to give so much of your personal information out before you are even hired!

    3) It seems like everyone has had to take a step down the career ladder and accept job that are "beneath" their skill or education level just to get by. Which isn't too bad unless you are already working a low level just such as retail and barely making it. Then you either end up in fast food or other labor jobs that pay so much less. You are almost better off to stay on unemployment for as long as you can because the difference in pay is very very slim and when you are unemployment you can get other assistance (such as food stamps) that you may not be able to get if you are working.

    In 2009, I was unemployed and had to get assistance from the state of Texas. What they told me was that a single person with no children can get food assistance for 3 months without a job. Then, if you do get a job, you have to work less than 25 hours a week to be considered eligible. So, if you happen to get 40 hours a week but still can't make ends meet because you work for minimum wage, the government won't consider you for the program. Way to help people out when they are trying to make their lives better:/ Doesn't not make sense to me whatsoever but yeah, I can definitely understand why some people don't rush out to take the awful, low paying jobs that are out there.

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  6. I am beside myself with joy to see the protests happening this weekend. It is wonderful to see us standing up for ourselves. I pray that Occupy joins Tea party and marches on Washington together! Really the goals are the same for the 99%, it is just the means to get there that is differing. I hope the fox newsies and those types are not able to distract us by trying to make us hate one another.

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