I should be occupying my bed right now instead of writing this post.
Over these last few weeks, I’ve been paying close attention to the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and personally I’m rather torn on the issue. I’ve stayed out of the various online debates I’ve seen, mainly because 140 characters isn’t the place to articulate something as nuanced as this. But more importantly, I really don’t have a solid opinion on the matter. I’m certainly not part of the 1%, but am I really in the 99% either? Or the 53%?
As I said, I’m torn. First off, I’m on pace to make more money (legally) this year than I ever have in my entire life. Have I worked my ass off? Damn right I have. I was putting in 100+ hour weeks for most of this year. But is my hard work the only reason I’ve been successful? Hardly. To start, I was fortunate to have parents that thought that education and technology was important, and made sure we (my brother, sister, and myself) had access to it, even though we weren’t wealthy. Also, I was lucky enough to have fallen into a field that is in very high demand right now, with no signs of slowing down. And, to top it off, I seem to have a gift for this nerd stuff. I actually enjoy doing it, and it didn’t take me $50,000 or more in college debt to prove I could do it. And I simply cannot ignore the fact that I am a middle class white male, born and raised in the US. I’ve got opportunities afforded to me that other people simply do not get, and I’m allowed to make mistakes without penalty that others simply cannot. If you don’t believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing. No money down!
With all that said, I know first hand the damage student loan debt can cause a person. I’m fully convinced that my ex-wife’s massive law school debt (upwards of $170,000) was a large contributing factor to the breakdown of our relationship and eventual divorce. While not the only cause, it didn’t make matters any easier. That debt is something she is going to have to deal with for the next 15-20 years. It was recently reported that the total student loan debt in this country has now passed credit card debt. That’s fucked up, esp since there aren’t many jobs to be had.
But overall, the biggest thing that I keep coming back to is watching folks demonize those who are involved. Not just calling them names, but marginalizing their sheer existence as though they are an overwhelming burden on our society. Sorry folks, but like it or not we made this shitpile and we’ve gotta sit in it. Doesn’t matter what side of the street you’re on, its all our problem now. We’ve allowed ourselves to be run into the ground, and no soapbox rants about “My taxes pay for that!” or “I worked my way through school, so can you!” is gonna change that.I think it would be helpful if we would all acknowledge that even when we work hard, we don’t do it in a vacuum and that we have all benefited from a variety of public policies. This is not to say that these policies are always ideal or efficient, but we can’t have a debate about things like taxes, spending, and regulation unless we start from a place of reality (and that applies to the pie in the sky claims of many of the 99% types as well). No man is an island.
But really. I should probably get some sleep.