Friday, October 14, 2011

Words for a debt-free college senior

This has been making the rounds on the Face-Book tonight and I find it really irritating.

(2:12:06 AM) pitchyfork: i wish i could tell her she's missing the point.
(2:12:50 AM) lakenessmonster: i wish i could make her black.

It's late and I don't want to turn this into a dissertation, so just a couple of points. 

1.) Despite presumptions to the contrary, the "99%" crowd is not asking for a free ride. Any of them who are certainly deserve censure, but they do not compose the majority. It isn't that these people don't expect or want to work hard. (I've visited the demonstrations. The staffers are working very hard.) They don't believe everything should be handed to them, either. What they want is a more even playing field. What they want is the personal accountability that this girl flouts to apply to the people who crashed the economy and brought the national underemployment rate to 20%. 

2.) In times of economic turbulence, it often isn't someone's own decision whether they are successful or unsuccessful, employed or unemployed. When the mass layoffs are announced and your name comes up, the executives probably won't care how hard you work, what you've contributed, or how many hours of overtime you put in. They see only a job title, and they put the axe to it.

3.) She's still in college. In case she hasn't noticed, a whole bunch of these Occupy Wall Street kids are college graduates suffering from long-term un/underemployment. I'm sure many of them had excellent grade-point averages and worked between classes, too. It doesn't seem to have helped them find gainful employment or pay off their loans. (Not everybody is able to secure grants, sister.) 

4.) Wait a second. Owns a car, pays for gas and insurance, pays rent, buys food, school supplies, basic amenities, etc. -- working thirty-something hours a week and earning "barely above" minimum wage. Where the fuck is she living, because I want to move there. Where I'm from, forty hours a week on minimum wage buys you someone else's couch to sleep on. 

5.) I would be very interested in knowing her economic background. Could her family afford to send her to SAT prep courses? Did she live in a wealthy neighborhood with a correspondingly well-funded public school system? Did she perchance come from a one-parent home in which she was expected to contribute to the household finances (hah!)? Can she be assured of her family's financial backing in case she loses her job and can't find another? 

6.) "Getting by" in the wealthiest nation on the planet should not require leading a life without ever making mistakes, nor should it require a superhuman effort. I don't think this is a particularly radical or unreasonable statement.

7.) Not to sound spiteful or cruel, but I sort of hope her employer decides to reduce payroll hours, putting her down to 20 hours a week at "almost" minimum wage. Then I hope she totals her car and has to have extensive surgery on a severely fractured leg. Going into debt isn't always a choice, kiddo. 

8.) If she doesn't understand why some people might be cranky about having to work two jobs to keep a roof over their heads and pay off their medical bills while their bosses' bosses get to pick which mansion they want to spend the summer in, she really needs to go back to school.


  1. I haven't seen this one... but I doubt it is authentic. Assuming it is authentic, I would dismiss it simply because guilt is meaningless as an argument. It's like telling someone who is hungry about the famine in Sudan.

  2. Whoever wrote that though is really good at getting on my nerves. I keep reading it over and over again wondering how frustrating a conversation with this person (if they exist) would be.

  3. And that's why I immediately dropped what I was doing and typed this up. I was sort of hoping that would make it go away, but IT STILL EXISTS.

  4. I can't help but pretend it exists, because I know these people are out there! "I will no blame Wall Street for my bad decisions" So is falling down the steps and breaking your leg when you're between jobs a "bad decision"? Occupy Phoenix starts this Saturday, and I've been trying to come up with something to put on a sign. Perhaps "I'd like to make a few bad decisions!"

  5. People that vote against their own interests always boggle my mind. I'm so sick of seeing "Get a job, hippies" and "Learn about economics lol" comments on my Facebook wall. The fact of the matter is that there is NO WAY I would have been able to afford college, food, and a car on my minimum wage job. I know, I had one, and it would not have covered all of it. The basic fact is that corporate bailouts shouldn't require an Amish work ethic from everyone except those on top that made the mistake. Unfortunately, people only hear what they want to...

  6. An ex-girlfriend was exactly like this. (We're not from the US but we were having an equally bad economic climate and aloof official government attitude.) While I insisted that health and education should be public and well funded and government efforts focused on diminishing the stupidly high unemployment rates instead keep bailing the big corporations, she answered that she saw no reason to give "those stupid bums that don't want to work" any kind of benefit.

    I tried to make her understand that in several cases poverty is not a choice or the result of laziness, but she resorted to call me socialist and present Cuba and the old soviet country as examples of why my ideology was not only flawed but also potentially dangerous. When I countered her logical fallacies pointing that she herself had been unemployed (and not for lack of trying) for almost a year, and that if it weren't because her reasonably well-off parents, she'd probably be experiencing the poverty she blames other people to embrace, she just stopped talking to me for days.

    I reckon the author of this note is the same kind of person and would react similarly. This is the self-entitlement of the hardworking person who can't acknowledge that he or she has been lucky in addition to his or her own efforts and consequently, denies the possibility that bad luck affected anyone worse-off than themselves.

    Note that with "luck" I'm not just talking of specific occurrences of good fortune, or narrow odds prevailing, but rather of the general quality of choices given to each. People are often oblivious at how "lucky" they are for having been born in families that were able to pay for good schooling, or even to have the luxury of proper nutrition in the vital formative years of the brain, all things that give them a much wider spectrum of choice and chance later in life than anyone raised with less privileges get.

  7. I've watched the coverage Occupy Wall Street coverage and read blogs and websites and I still don't know what it is they really want. "Level the playing field" gets said a lot but I would like someone to explain to me what that means. I saw a "list of demands" posted somewhere but I couldn't be sure it was official.

  8. Adam: What they're demanding is an end to economic injustice. Certainly this is a lofty (and probably impossible) goal, but it never hurts to aim high.

    A. They want a redistribution of the national wealth. It sounds socialistic, and it probably is (at least in principle), but it's going to be necessary very soon, if not right now. For the last twenty years, the tremendous majority of the national wealth has been consolidated at the narrow peak of the economic pyramid. The rich are getting richer, the poor are staying poor, and the middle class is dying out (and don't think for a second that most of them are joining the higher-income brackets). I refer you once again to some Aristotlean words about the importance of the middle class. Just because it was written 2,000 years ago does not mean it doesn't still apply today -- including the part about "when there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end."

    B. An end to wage slavery. Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. By all means, try living on that for a few months and see how you like it. And bear in mind that it's not like there's not enough money within the economy to pay people better wages -- it's just that the people at the top of the pyramid would prefer not to pay them.

    Personally, I would also like to see an end to unpaid internships. In many fields, the people doing the hiring don't give a shit about your college GPA -- they want to see you have prior experience in the field. But how do you acquire that experience when nobody will hire you because you have no experience? SIMPLE! You offer to work an entry-level job with zero compensation.

    If you come from a wealthy family, this isn't a problem. But those of us who can't afford to work for free are shit out of luck.


    I am resisting the urge to type this in caps: we are living in the richest nation in the world during the most technologically-advanced period in human history. I thought the whole reason we got to this point was so that people wouldn't have to work like dogs just to scrape by.

    If that sounds absolutely crazy to you, please tell me. Judging by some of the ATTA GIRL, HEART OF AMERICA responses to this chick's note, I really am beginning to wonder if maybe the problem is me and my perceptions of the situation, not theirs.

    C. Taking corporate interests out of government. Come on -- you don't think that when oil companies, bakers, and industrialists donate millions to political campaigns, they just give it away without asking for any favors?

    From Lobbying may be the best investment a big company can make.

    As it stands now, the United States is an oligarchy posing as a representative democracy.

    THIS basic fact is what the Occupy Wall Street crowd is so worked up about.

    (Sorry if that turned into a pedantic rant. As you can see, I am a little worked up about all this, too.)

    (will reply to other comments in a minute need to leave like right now)

  9. Jeff: It's called "confirmation bias." I just learned that today :D

    Maokun: The research would appears to back your statement. From BBC News Magazine: "The biggest indicator for success in America is not a level of merit or hard work, but the amount of wealth inherited from family members."

    And if you don't mind me asking, what country are you from?

  10. I can definitely agree with that statement. Heck, forget about "inheriting". As long as you were raised by a somewhat wealthy family, who was able to give you quality study, who had spare resources to try to interest you in playing a musical instrument, or who was able to take you to other country for holidays, make you eat lots of different good things, dress you well, provide a good computer, live in a good neighborhood and/or a multitude of other things you'll be much more prepared for life and have a wider spectrum of choices compared to someone who had less/none of that stuff. Even if your parents didn't leave you a single cent to your name.

    Have you heard the stories about poor, humble people that through a mix of hard working, determination, cleverness and serendipity made it big? Do you know why these stories are so moving, so unforgettable, so marketable? Because they are extremely rare cases and as such, notorious. We cheer when David defeats Goliath, but the fact is that for each David, Goliath had a dozen of other kids for breakfast.

    Similarly in our world, for each humble pauper that becomes a notoriety, we have hundreds of wealthy people who, unsurprisingly, succeed and hundreds of paupers that never amount to nothing and no one cares for neither group, because remaining in the class you started at it's an expected outcome. (I'm being generous with this statement, though. Studies suggest that rich people become richer and poor people become poorer as a norm.)

    Oh and a I'm from Colombia, which has had a Bush-like government -to try to put a massively complex problem in few words- for the latest 8 years.

  11. Oh, wow. "Massively complex" doesn't even begin to touch it, from what I've learned. During an internship at a publisher I did some work on a book about the Colombian situation titled "Violentology" -- which, as you've already figured, is an Anglicized version of Violentologia. The fact that the Colombian academy has a specific discipline dedicated to understanding the nation's history of civil strife almost seems incredible to me.

    But yeah. Massively complex.

    (Ah! This is the book, by the way.)

  12. Ah, yeah the violence problem in Colombia is widely known abroad and I'd dare say slightly overrated.

    Much less known are the economical and social issues, which I strongly believe are the real reason behind the infamous violent conflict. When you can't get proper education and struggle just to put food in your and your kids' stomachs, the call to become a hired gun, a guerrilla cannon fodder or a drug dealer/mule is much harder to ignore.

  13. Hm! Go figure. As you can see, most of what the media up here reports about Colombia is either related to The Violence or the drug trade. Another reminder that the truth of the situation often isn't that part which people talk about the loudest.

  14. Indeed. For example, I find much more disturbing the fact that unemployment has in the past reached up to a 33% rate than the rather arbitrary and dubious honor of being listed among the most violent nations in the earth; or I find the amount of people living in absolute destitution in our 21-century cities (as in dwelling in makeshift refuges made of cardboard and plywood and eating bone soup day after day,) much more distressing than knowing that somewhere in the wilderness some illegal armed groups are tending to their cocaine plantations.

  15. "4.) Wait a second. Owns a car, pays for gas and insurance, pays rent, buys food, school supplies, basic amenities, etc. -- working thirty-something hours a week and earning "barely above" minimum wage. Where the fuck is she living, because I want to move there."

    Yes! I also want her immune system, because it must be impervious to all illness.