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Forum Post: What do we really want our country to look like in twenty years?

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 13, 2012, 1:52 p.m. EST by ARod1993 (2420)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Discounting the Occupy movement as a bunch of impotent idiots begging for free money is a serious error. I completely agree with the principles behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I feel that the dismissal of income inequality as a non-issue spawned of thin skins and jealousy is a grave error even though if they and I both succeed in life I'll probably wind up paying more in taxes than I would otherwise.

I grew up working poor in the Bronx and am currently at MIT thanks to a crazily determined mother and a strong, supportive working class community. Simply speaking from my experience and from what I've seen, poor choices may be a part of why people are poor, but they're hardly enough of the picture to just be able to point the finger at an entire population and brand them as lazy, stupid, and useless.

I'll be the first to admit that what I did was hardly in a vacuum. Not everybody has a mother who is a licensed teacher who was willing to quit her job to live as a poor housewife so that she could homeschool her children to keep them out of a failing school system. Not everybody has a father who could find and hold onto a union job with good benefits up until his son's sophomore year of high school, weather an eleven-month strike and a plant closure, and manage to get another union job within a few months of being laid off. Not everybody has a landlord willing to hold off a rent increase for a year longer than he had to to cut us a break. Not everyone knows an incredibly kind nun who just dropped off $500 at our doorstep one month when we couldn't fully make rent on time.

It is theoretically possible to bootstrap oneself out of poverty, but damn near nobody who truly got anywhere satisfactory in life came from absolutely nothing. There is always the one that does, and that person is so many different kinds of amazing it's not funny, but usually there are support systems there that you didn't see that your average bootstrapper was able to take advantage of. There are also whole communities in which the resources don't exist for those kinds of support systems to develop organically and therein lies the trap. When you have someone who comes from a broken home, spends his days in a school that doesn't teach him and where large chunks of the student body punish success, in a community where few people care and the ones that do truly have no support to offer, you've essentially spent his whole life teaching him that success is out of his reach and he'd be a fool to reach for it.

The whole point of discarding this ugly attitude about the economically less fortunate is because only then are you going to watch the kind of change that you're hoping for. Give the poor real economic support for things like going to college and/or vocational training so that they can ditch their minimum-wage job for something they can actually live on. Send their kids to strong, high-performing schools where success is expected and rewarded. Truly offer them opportunity and you'd be amazed at how fast they would take it. Now, if you give someone every opportunity in the book and they still blow it, then feel free to dump them on the roadside; I won't stop you. But until that's been done your attitude is simply part of the problem.

The other major thing we're going to have to look at is what exactly we plan on doing with our poor and our working class; as of right now, the latter (right along with the middle class) is and has been taking one hit after another due to factors like deunionization and outsourcing, and something has to be done about that. A nation composed entirely of BS's and BA's sounds like a great idea in theory, but there are groups of people who truly don't fit into that model and there has to be a better answer for them than "Go flip burgers" or "It's your fault you're underwater for trying to better yourself."

We need to have something more to our economy than just a small group of high-earning professionals with advanced degrees and a large unwashed (and presumably expendable) mass of Starbucks baristas and McDonalds employees trying to make ends meet on $7-$8 per hour, and that's going to mean forcing jobs back over here in the long term as well as a fair number of other measures including reconstruction of our national infrastructure (which would serve to provide stopgap employment until a new manufacturing industry got under way, and would create a fair number of additional permanent maintenance jobs over the long haul) if we want to fix things.

I stand behind OWS namely because I see them as the first movement with enough raw manpower and raw anger to be in a position to force these issues in the long term, and because their initial direction is close enough to mine that action towards their goals would most likely also serve the ends I outline above. We're fairly raucous and unorganized, and we're far from perfect, but as far as I can see Occupy Wall Street is the first real start in this direction I've seen on the national stage.

21 Comments

21 Comments


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[-] 3 points by ModestCapitalist (2342) 2 years ago

Very well said. The only points I want to add are that the high cost of living is directly proportional to record high profits in the energy, health care, and finance industries and the record high incomes of the richest 1%. There will always be two sides to the equation. The buying power will always be relative. We will never raise the low end out of the water without bringing the high end back down to Earth. This will always be true regardless of growth. The high and low ends don't need to be anywhere near equal. But they do need to be rational, logical, and moral. No man or woman on this planet is worth 500 times the pay of a firefighter, soldier, cop, teacher, paramedic, or garbageman.

A heavy concentration of wealth will always cause economic and social instability.

[-] 2 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

That is true to a fairly certain degree, as in the end most of the things that we would need to do to get a plan rolling that's along the lines of what I suggested above are going to cost a great deal of money, and that's going to have to be provided early on in the process. I'd cover it all out of pocket if I could, but I'm still just a broke-ish college student (which puts that payment plan about half a mile past ludicrous) and I don't know if there even is any one person or NGO capable of doing that. Basically, I'd strive for the dual ideal of efficiency and equality that I outlined in the post I link to at the bottom of this reply, in which real tax rates on corporations go up a great deal (and to a certain degree so do taxes on the superrich) while at the same time the government is slimmed down to a certain degree and held to rigorous efficiency standards. See this link for more: http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=585

[-] 1 points by justhefacts (1275) 2 years ago

Arod-

"There are also whole communities in which the resources don't exist for those kinds of support systems to develop organically and therein lies the trap. When you have someone who comes from a broken home, spends his days in a school that doesn't teach him and where large chunks of the student body punish success, in a community where few people care and the ones that do truly have no support to offer, you've essentially spent his whole life teaching him that success is out of his reach and he'd be a fool to reach for it."

I'd like to ask you some questions about this part of your post. Which overall I think it great. Just things that stand out to me, and probably do to others who think the way I do.

Broken homes-that isn't something that "money" fixes or the rich would never get divorced. Aside from mental illness and abuse-really-at the root of all other divorces is selfishness on one side or the other or both. (I've been there and most professionals in the divorce related area believe it too.)

"spends his days in a school that doesn't teach him/student body punishes success"

Why aren't the parents insisting on good teachers? Why aren't the parents storming the schools and occupying their school districts? Why aren't those parents doing everything in their power to push their own children to a higher place in life?

Why is it that there are communities where "few people care" about education? If parents are teaching their children to "punish educational success", then they are teaching their children that success is something bad, or evil, or undesirable. If they don't care, AND they believe that success is wrong or evil (or perhaps something they envy) then no amount of money being funneled into such a community is going to change that.

From what you are saying-there is just as much of a problem with the mentality-the "ugly attitudes" of people in communities like the one you described as there is coming from some outside of those communities. And that attitude seems to project that "we don't care, and success is evil, so any money you spend here will be sheer loss and no gain".

There are endless numbers of community "hope" projects and after school programs and tutoring programs, and "big brother big sister" mentor type programs and organizations that are designed to HELP those bootstrappers-to be the support you are talking about. College scholarships, government grants, vocational programs for low income students...Where are they? Where is the money going that is supposedly being funneled into them? Do they not exist anymore? I see more of them listed everywhere than ever before. Are they not working? Why are they not working?

As someone who also grew up poor, with a stay at home mom and later a single, stay at home mom, I know how bleak things can be. But MY mother taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. She pushed me to educate myself, to do better when I was lazy-and I was-to work hard etc. I babysat until I was old enough to get a job, and at 16 I was clerking in a store-for WAY less than $7-8 an hour. I earned my own money, bought my own clothes, paid for my own gas etc. I lived in a "community" that helped me learn wise principles and showed me examples of hard work and determination and grit. They didn't give me money-what they showed me and taught me was worth so much more.

Because of our income I qualified for a FULL government grant to attend college. BUT-I wasn't in any way ready to dedicate myself to my education (and endless homework and etc) and I knew I'd be wasting my time and the government's money if I accepted it, so I didn't. I figured the money was better spent going to another underprivileged kid who WANTED to go to college.

I've done other things with my life. I've worked when I've had to, and stayed at home as a mother when I didn't have to. I've been divorced (with 4 small children) and remarried (added two more). I put my first husband through college to a master's degree. He's done ok for himself (and pays his child support so I cannot complain). My second husband is NOT a college graduate and makes more money than my first husband ever will. We've been poor-him working nights as a security guard for the city buses, and me as the laundress at a hotel. But we've always had food, and clothing, and "enough" to be grateful that we've had it. We're "richer" now-but only because we made choices and changes to our lives that affected our income and our "outgo". We're not secure by any means, but we're far more secure than we've ever been before. And because of THAT, we've weathered the economic crisis fairly well so far.

THOSE things-skills on budgeting and how and when to use credit (and when NOT to) and growing REAL wealth instead of just "income" and how to save and where to invest etc-THATS what we should be teaching ALL of our children-in EVERY school. Solid, common sense, self-accomplished tactics that WORK no matter WHAT the economy does. It isn't just possible, it WORKS every time.

So why-why hasn't our "government" and/or our "liberal intellectual" elite been teaching us how to do it? Our children how to do it? Why is it that they-the liberal elites-are in the top 20% OR HIGHER-and not the students they mentor? The "poor kids" they devote themselves to? Why is it that they only teach anger and "oppression" and point fingers-instead of giving our children the tools they need-simple, easy, common sense tools, to succeed for themselves?

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I understand what you're saying, and you're 100% right that only throwing money at the problem is not going to make it go away anytime soon; we have to be willing to do a lot more than that if we really want to start fixing things. To address your first point, I understand exactly what you're saying; half the problem in an inner-city community isn't even providing the resources but convincing the people there that you're better than the ones who came before and that you're really trying to help them rather than set them up to fail once again. I'm not really sure how to directly fix the problem of broken homes (simply because I don't know if such a thing is possible) but something tells me if you can make higher education and late marriages the norm in any community, you'll wind up with fewer single parents and those who do wind up in that situation will most likely be better equipped to weather it.

I understand what you're saying about all of the community initiatives and projects, and I would say that they are working but at this point the problem is so large that they're only beginning to make a dent in it let alone eradicating it altogether. The scholarships, grants, etc. do exist and they do work (I'm where I am right now because I got an amazing financial aid package), but there needs to be a more robust pipeline in place to get inner-city students academically qualified to take advantage of those grants, and the problem with that remains with the schools.

It's basically a vicious cycle as far as education is concerned; the school system does not provide the necessary instruction for students to get ahead, and more often than not you have a mix of apathetic teachers who are mediocre at best working in poorly equipped classrooms in schools that are often underfunded, and now even your better teachers have no real freedom to tailor their instruction methods to the students they're dealing with and so everyone suffers. Parents aren't in a position to storm the schools and demand better from the district because they wouldn't know what to ask for; I've been lucky enough to have a strong education and thus would know what to expect of my kids and when to start making a stink if the school wasn't up to par; in many cases parents know that something's wrong but don't know what's not happening or whom to hold accountable or what to demand in order to fix things.

A lot of the stuff that you're talking about in the second-to-last paragraph is stuff that schools don't normally deal with because it's assumed that it's going to be covered at home, and I don't necessarily know if there is a way to cover it inside a school; in my home budgeting/saving/etc. was a real-life lesson because we had to weigh every purchase carefully (and I still do to some extent) and it was impossible to live with my mother and not pick up general common sense along the way; I can't necessarily see how to put the latter thing in the schools but it's something everyone should have.

I don't want to see the poor remaining angry and bitter, because as long as they remain angry and bitter their situation is not going to get much better. I worry about when people complain about finger-pointing because generally speaking I find that all of those complaints conveniently surface right about the same time people go to ask them for help in changing that culture (I'm not saying that this is the case for you at all, just noting a general trend), but you're right that the poor have to be willing to invest in themselves for investment in them to have much value. I just want us all to make the first investment even if it means higher taxes and less money in our pockets at first, because then I'm willing to bet that most of them will make the second.

[-] 1 points by Samcitt (136) 2 years ago

It will be like the former United States from V for Vendetta. Interesting considering how popular the V mask is throughout Anonymous and the Occupy movement.

[-] 1 points by ShowRealHist (60) 2 years ago

Great post, thanks much. I recalled during reading it Colin Powell's bio book reason why he did not get involved in drugs or gangs while growing up in Harlem (when it was less bad than it was later): "My parents would have killed me if I did.". Big picture, here's perhaps the main USA flaw: “Condemn venal journalism for severely fooling the people” at http://occupywallst.org/forum/condemn-venal-journalism-for-severely-fooling-the-/

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

That's one of the major things that needs to be changed as well, and I've written a fair amount on here about the Fairness Doctrine, the Equal Time Rule, and attempts to establish more accurate and thoughtful journalism in the modern mainstream media. If you like I can link you to some of those posts.

[-] 1 points by ShowRealHist (60) 2 years ago

Sure, I’d be glad to see them. You mention “Fairness Doctrine” -- I believe that it effectively ended in the mid-80s, in sync with the saving and borrowing drastic trend-breaks seen in the 2nd chart here: “Real Dow & Real Homes & Personal Saving & Debt Burden” at http://homepage.mac.com/ttsmyf/RD_RJShomes_PSav.html

For what it may be worth, I feel strongly that ongoing well-apparence to the people of the Real Dow and Real Home price histories would likely, promptly ‘clean the system’. I further reckon widespread agreement with the foregoing by the reality that ‘nobody with a pulpit’ will touch it (except Shiller, of course). No way this near-unanimity is a non-con. Lots of venal professions ...

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

On the general rationale behind re-adopting the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule: http://occupywallst.org/forum/if-mainstream-media-is-broken/

On a more immediate strategy that doesn't require legislation to implement that bases itself off of currently existing structures:

http://occupywallst.org/forum/would-americans-be-willing-to-pay-for-our-own-nati/#comment-562767

http://occupywallst.org/forum/would-americans-be-willing-to-pay-for-our-own-nati/#comment-563194

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by wigger (-48) 2 years ago

I hope the entitlement mentality is but a footnote to history and we look back on this period of national disgrace and realize how embarrassing things like OWS actually were.

[-] -1 points by justhefacts (1275) 2 years ago

"poor choices may be a part of why people are poor, but they're hardly enough of the picture to just be able to point the finger at an entire population and brand them as lazy, stupid, and useless."

Absolutely true. I agree 100%.

"poor choices may be part of why people are rich, but they are hardly enough of the picture to just be able to point the finger at an entire population and brand them as evil, corrupt, and bent on world domination."

True? Agree?

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

Again, I agree. I think we've discussed it several times before; there's a particular subgroup inside the wealthy responsible for engineering this mess (although one could argue that engineering is too strong a word; it was mostly about a massive scramble for more money and more growth at any cost) that needs to be held to account and there needs to be a fundamental change in how this country does things. That is not about punishing the wealthy; it's about making sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. I've already discussed what I'd like to see from our government with you and others both here and on other forums, and I'd be glad to repost or clarify anything you wish on the subject.

[-] 0 points by justhefacts (1275) 2 years ago

Just making it clear to other readers that you tend to have a great deal more fairness and critical thinking skill than others here, while at the same time trying to avoid those "others" being able to use what you didn't say as support for what they would say. :-)

[-] -1 points by nappybegone2o12 (-31) 2 years ago

If we do not get Obummer out of office then our Country is going to be just like Greece in a couple of years

[-] 2 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

Fine, say you get your wish and we get rid of Obama. What do we do then? Where do you want to see this country in twenty years, why do you believe in that vision, and how exactly does removing Obama tie into that vision? If you can answer those questions, then even though I may disagree with you we have grounds for an actual debate. If instead your reply is as immature and uninformative as your username, then you will have told me all I need to know about you.

[-] 0 points by nappybegone2o12 (-31) 2 years ago

Obama did inherit a mess but he has made that mess a lot worse than it was before he took office

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

OK, that's a start, but you're going to have to be more specific than that. I'm also not just looking for you to give me dirt on Obama here; whether that dirt is true or not it's also so easy to find it's not funny. I'm asking about you; where you see this country in twenty years, how you plan to get there, why you believe in the methods of getting there that you do, and how exactly having Obama in power gets in the way of those methods.

[-] 0 points by nappybegone2o12 (-31) 2 years ago

To answer one of your questions "Where do you see this Country in twenty years" I firmly believe that in twenty years when we emerge from this downturn (around 2025) we will be a much poorer Nation than in the past and will be more inline with other Countries. I firmly believe that we have been sliding deeper into a depression for the past several years and also think that the latter part of this year or the beginning of 2013, we will slide into a deep depression.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I don't see that happening if we act hard and fast in the next three to five years. Basically we're going to have to slim down, batten down the hatches, and pull out all the stops if we want to make this work, but I'm not going to believe that we have no choice but to sit back and watch our own decline. There is almost always a way to turn things around; we just haven't found it yet and we need to keep experimenting until we do.

[-] -1 points by justhefacts (1275) 2 years ago

Again, I'm with you on the idea that there is always a way to turn things around and that if EVERYONE in this country was willing to slim down, live tough, and sacrifice all the WASTE (which is part of the problem) we live with-we'd right things rather quickly.

BUT-it isn't just "the rich" who don't want to slim down or tighten up or be inconvenienced in any way. There are MANY people in all brackets and in all walks of life who simply "don't care"-just like the people in the communities you talked about. THEY want "someone else" to fix it.

And there are those who BENEFIT from the existence of a "poor" class who will do everything in their power to KEEP one. And I'm not just talking about the richest 1%. I'm talking about politicians who NEED "the poor" to exist so they can play the class warfare card to keep their votes. They THRIVE simply because there are people who depend on government money etc to survive. If they actually helped these people to NOT need the government-who would vote for them?

[-] -2 points by nappybegone2o12 (-31) 2 years ago

I have been following this blog for the past few years and so far this guy has been about spot on. http://wbrussee.wordpress.com/ He was for a while been giving economic updates twice a Month until around Dec. He quit doing it because he said the depression is getting a lot closer and it was getting harder for him to write about it anymore. Although he now has agreed to maybe give Monthly updates starting around the middle of Jan. He also has a few books out called "The great depression of debt"