What I like About The 99%ers

October 17, 2011

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There is a lot of praise and condemnation of the Occupy Wall Street group and other groups like them springing up around the country. Even in my small middle America town there is a group, although they go home at night and to their jobs on week days. There is a lot to like and dislike about them. They are not the demons or saints that the various bloggers, reporters and talk show host make them out to be. They are typically law-abiding people with a complaint that they do not think is being addressed by our governmental leaders.

First, the name of 99%ers. The right wing complains because they have defined that label as a claim to represent the views of 99% of the population. This claim and accusation are equally absurd. The people have identified themselves as part of the 99% of people below the highest wealth group of American society. This is an accurate description.

Second is the message. They are mad about the bailouts of companies that have outrageous bonus and pay structures for their executives. They are also complaining about a lot of other perceived injustices that can hardly be considered a cohesive or comprehensible message. I agree with the complaint about the bail outs. A lot of our tax money was spent to save failed businesses. If you are rewarded for taking risks with large salaries and bonuses, then why are you rewarded when there is no risk? A risk is an action that could result in loss. In these cases, the “risk” was to spend someone else’s money, but get paid whether you succeeded or failed.

I find it interesting that the targets are just some of the executives, not all, and that the decision makers, our elected officials, are not the targets. These protests are very similar to the Tea Party protests last year, only the identified enemy is different.

I have seen signs complaining about large loans. Why did you take out the loans in the first place? I have seen signs complaining about large debts from college. Why is that the fault of the banks? I agree that there is a problem, but the problem seems to be in our own ability to identify the root cause. If you are deeply in debt, it is you fault. You never have to take out a loan. If you college education cost a lot and you can’t get a job, blame the university, not the bank.

I was lucky, I got an education back when it was reasonably priced. I lived in my parents’ home, went to the state college, and got a degree that had the potential of resulting in a job opportunity. I have kids in college right now. Both my wife and I are working to help keep the final debt to a minimum, but it is not easy. The cost of a college education has gone up many more times than the potential income boost of having that education. Since we do not live near the state school that has the career degrees that my kids are perusing, they live in a dorm. They do not have cars, TVs, IPods, IPhones, IPads or spending money. They work every summer and some during the school year. They have cell phones, the cheapest on a family plan. They do not have texting or unlimited anything.

We own a home. We did not spend anywhere near the amount of money that the bank suggested, instead we looked at what we could afford. We own a car, but we did not start off with a new one and we drive our cars until they are too expensive to repair, not until they are out of style.

So I do agree with the 99%ers. We should not be bailing out the banks, car companies, investment firms, or governmentally sponsored mortgage organizations. I disagree with them in other ways, and I cannot tell how many I actually disagree with because of the confusion of demands. I do not believe that we should forgive any loans. I was distressed that I had to explain to my youngest child why that was a bad idea. I believe that I will repeat it here, since many of the protesters do not understand how basic banking works. If we forgive the loans, we are stealing from every depositor to that bank. That’s right, stealing. Every dollar that is loaned out comes from the pool of money that depositors have put in the bank. Apparently, the protestors think that the banks just have the money from some magical source. So if we forgive the loans, grandma suddenly has no savings.

I do agree that college costs too much. I do not agree that this is the fault of the banks. The only people you can blame are the colleges themselves. The banks do not set tuition rates. I am especially aggravated with state schools, which take tax dollars and still raise the rate at more that inflation. I am not in the business of education, but there seem to be a lot of courses and degrees that do not lead to employment. Sure you may feel good about yourself for delving into some niche group study, but if it forces up tuition that much, is it worth it?

To keep my message at least somewhat coherent, I will not even address some of the other complaints.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angry Squirrel
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 01:29:17

    I agree with you on the point that occupy movement needs to get a consistant message that is clearer. However I would have to say that while the bank bailouts were not something i agreed with either, the auto bailouts were more neccesary. Without them the entire U.S. auto industry would have failed and I don’t even want to think of what the unemployment situation would be. But yeah a clearer message is needed for OWS and who they are railing against. The Tea Party was good at that, everything under the sun is the radical left grandma killing socialist marxist nazi black muslim foriegn born facist dictator terrorist from Kenya illegally occupying the Whie House’s fault.


  2. kosmo
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 07:57:57

    “the auto bailouts were more neccesary. Without them the entire U.S. auto industry would have failed”

    Ford was doing just fine. It had turned the corner after bad years and were on pace for a profitable 2009 (they didn’t take any bailout funds). http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/f/financials

    I don’t think the bailouts preventing GM and Chysler from failing. I think that they did indeed fail. While GM still exists as a company, it’s because they were allowed to dump a lot of debt in chapter 11 bankruptcy and convert the obligations to the government into equity (that’s why they could run the commercials claiming they had “repaid” the loans). The stock that we own in GM is a pretty bad deal. It has to nearly double from its current price for the government to break even (not accounting for inflation or time value of money). Additionally, a lot of the jobs the money was trying to save were lost in the long run, anyway.

    Honestly, from Ford’s perspective, it would have been better for GM and Chrysler to shut down. They could have picked up facilities very cheap, gained significant power in negotiations with the UAW (since they’d be the only major player), and could probably significantly improve their market share, since there is a portion of the population that will always buy an “American” car (even in the American car isn’t actually produced in the USA).


  3. Martin Kelly
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 10:37:01

    Although there were some screamers in the TEA party events blaming everything under the sun on the President, that was not the main message. Just like the OWS crowd has people defecating on police cars. having sex in public and engaging in drug usage, that is not the main message either.

    My point is that most of America, left and right, are frustated. I claim that the guilty are NOT the bankers, but ourselves and our elected officials implementing our own selfish demands.


  4. Squeaky
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 07:42:35

    It would be interesting to know (better now) that a couple years has passed what would have happened if there would have been no bailout. It’s interesting to think about what Squirrel and Kos are talking about. Why was Ford doing fine? Why did they not need the bailout money and why are they still doing so well today? What was GM & Chrysler doing that was so wrong? Ok Chrysler still can’t be forward thinking in their design, so they seem to always be lagging behind. Maybe they should have some of those line workers smoking dope hand some off to the design engineers so they can gain a little creativity. Of course they’d be obliged with a 60 minute Taco Bell run first.

    I am really curious what would have happened. Did we do what was necessary? Did we all just bite on it out of fear and panic? I know I was really reluctant about the whole thing but I bought into the sky is falling talk. I don’t know if that was accurate or not…we won’t ever know for sure. Hopefully we can at least learn from it.

    About the OWS group…they need to go home at night, shower, urinate in a toilet, shave, get their hair did, recharge the iPod, etc. I agree it’s their right to protest. I don’t like that they’re blocking bridges and other transportation structures though. They can make their point if they follow some general guidelines of decorum and decency.


  5. kosmo
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 08:37:58

    “I agree it’s their right to protest. I don’t like that they’re blocking bridges and other transportation structures though.”

    Agreed. You might have the right to occupy a certain space, but that shouldn’t trump someone else’s right to occupy a space (or move through a space).

    A lot of the issues with the auto companies were related to benefits for retired workers. They had a huge share of the market several decades ago and rewarded the workers with some great benefits. Not only have they ceded significant market share to the Japanese (and Koreans – I bought a Hyundai recently), but the workers are living longer than expected and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing. They probably should have outsourced some of these risks, but hindsight is 20-20.

    At GM, though, I’d credit much of the problem to incompetence. Even AFTER the bailout and bankruptcy, they still had some pretty defective internal controls in their accounting department.


  6. Anonymousse
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 20:46:04

    the auto bailouts were more neccesary. Without them the entire U.S. auto industry would have failed

    So? The auto industry has been bailed out numerous times, not even counting the regular subsidies it gets. Let it fail finally.


  7. Anonymousse
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 20:52:22

    A lot of the issues with the auto companies were related to benefits for retired workers.

    I’m not at all convinced that that’s the main problem. One issue that nearly stymied the Daimler/Chrysler merger was that the Chrysler upper management was being paid 10X what the Daimler upper management was-and the Daimler upper management wasn’t poorly paid. US CEOs make a heck of a lot of money for doing not very much-and, in the case of the auto industry, doing it poorly. It would be cheaper for the government to simply promise to pay the pensions of all non-executive auto workers if the company failed and then let nature take its course.


  8. Squeaky
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 09:23:02

    What I don’t like about the 99%:

    This is just wrong.


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