Posts Tagged “occupy wall street”

Contraception, Conviction, and Personal Responsibility

Contraception has been in the news quite a bit recently, culminating this week in testimony before Congress and calls for Rush Limbaugh's microphone over his response. Let's look at the timeline and how we got here, then I'll share my thoughts on the whole thing. (If you're in a hurry, skip to the last 2 paragraphs; but, if you have the time, read the whole thing, as it goes deeper than I have seen most analysis go.)

This issue came to the forefront of popular discussion when the Roman Catholic church expressed their opposition to the provision of the health care reform bill (AKA “ObamaCare”) that required employers to provide health insurance that covers contraceptive care. Official church doctrine regards this as sin, and requiring their hospitals and other organizations to provide this, they claim, is a violation of their religious beliefs. The fact that Rick Santorum, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is a practicing Roman Catholic (and has lived these beliefs for years), has brought this issue even into the primary process.

Some legislators, seeing this as a legitimate complaint from the church, presented legislation that would amend this requirement, allowing an exemption for employers who have religious objections to these requirements. To help combat this, a Georgetown University student named Sandra Fluke testified to Congress about how important she held contraception, and how she felt that free contraceptive coverage was an integral part of health insurance coverage. Rush Limbaugh, long known for “illustrating absurdity by being absurd” (his term), seized this testimony and ran with over-the-top commentary, using terms to describe Ms. Fluke that have people calling for his job.

Those are the facts as they now stand. Let's dig in, shall we?

The first thing we need to discuss is the term “contraception;” the literal definition is “against the fertilization of the egg” (contra = against, con-ception = fertilization of the egg). A popular synonym for contraception is “pregnancy prevention,” but that is a much broader term. Some feminists define contraception as “that which prevents birth,” an even broader definition than pregnancy prevention. There cannot be an agreement on contraception until we can all agree on what that means. We'll leave abortion out of it, as the view of abortion being contraception is a minority one, and it's not part of this mandate.

What is part of this mandate, however, are drugs that are collectively termed abortofacients; these are techniques or medicines that do not prevent the fertilization of the egg, but they prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall. RU-486, the “morning-after pill,” and certain intrauterine devices (IUDs) fall into this category. These methods of “contraception” violate not only the Roman Catholic views against contraception, but the evangelical churches' beliefs that life begins at conception - it is equivalent to an abortion. This greatly expands the pool of those organizations which would be required to provide coverage which violates their moral beliefs.

Some would say that the argument of “it's against my religion” has been made spuriously in the past, and they would be right. However, the prior misuse of this argument cannot be used to strip away the principle, long recognized in this country, that we generally do not create laws that force mainstream religious organizations to violate their consciences. I personally do not hold to the belief that contraception is wrong; however, I do hold to the belief that life begins with conception. This is described in Scripture, and has been validated with medical advances over the past few decades. So, I believe that this law is a bad law because, among its other many problems, it forces religious organizations to either violate their conscience or face criminal prosecution. In a nation founded on the principle of religious liberty, this is not something we should do.

Now, let's turn our attention to Sandra Fluke and her testimony before Congress. Her testimony brought a valuable insight into the mindset of many of her generation. She said “Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Let's ignore the math of that statement ($1,000/year?) for now and look at what she didn't say. Implicit in this statement is the fact that she feels entitled to not only practice sexual activity as much as she wants, but to be free from the consequences of that activity. That is one of the lies that now permeated a second generation. They have been told that their sexuality is best expressed by using it repeatedly, and however they choose to do it, that defines who they are. The sexually “repressed” have been ridiculed or even shunned, while the sexually “liberated” are celebrated. Thanks to contraceptive methods, they can express themselves free from the traditional consequences of sexual activity.

This is a lie. “Liberated” sexuality does not empower women; rather, it strips them of their power, instinctively inherent in the human race. It is no secret that the male of the human species is inordinately preoccupied with this aspect of his life from adolescence forward; traditionally, while the female may have wanted the same thing, she would hold back, which encouraged men to make a commitment they might not otherwise make. The old adage “Why would you buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” illustrates this principle quite vividly. 40 years out from the sexual revolution, commitment has taken a nose-dive into near non-existence. Cohabitation, hooking up, friends with benefits, and no-fault divorce now provide avenues for sexual activity that were not available to men in the past. So, rather than commit to one person, and do the hard work of changing themselves to become better mates in order to earn this gift from their brides, men can just float from one partner to another. If a partner sees something in him that, were he to change, would make him a better man, he has very little motivation to endure that change. This has led to weaker men and weaker women, and in two generations has brought us to the place where over 50% of babies born to women under 30 are now born out of wedlock.

Yes, we're getting deep into this, but it is crucial that we do so, because this begins to get to the biggest problem with the Fluke generation (heh - I should copyright that). We can expect nothing different, because they simply haven't been taught, and they did not see it modeled in anything but generations so old they'd never dream of mimicking them. They see no reason for people to have a problem with this. This is also why there is such a visceral reaction when these beliefs are challenged. That doesn't absolve them of their responsibility to seek out and evaluate whether what they believe is right, but it helps to understand their thought process.

Notice also that I am not judging the character or intentions of the generation as I described it above. Even with parents teaching their children these things, and living them out in front of their children, people will make choices that are less than optimal. The above should be read as a commentary on society, not as a condemnation of its participants. Besides, assigning blame to people is counterproductive; we need to look at the decisions that were made, where they have led us, and determine what decisions we should make to get us to where we need to be. My goal is to encourage behavior that is beneficial to society.

(Wow, what a rabbit trail. OK, back to my point from 4 paragraphs ago…) Although I doubt she sees it this way, what she expressed in her testimony was a desire to choose to act however she wants, but be free from the negative consequences of her actions. This is what has provoked such a reaction from her detractors - why should I (through government-funded insurance programs) pay for your decisions, or for shielding you from the consequences of your decisions? Engaging in sexual activity is a choice; you don't just “catch” sex. (We're ignoring rape with this statement - but what kind of attitude do you have to have to always have contraception for fear of rape? That doesn't apply in this argument.)

This brings us to Rush Limbaugh, who used absurdity to greatly ridicule Ms. Fluke. He said some things that he knew were over the top; that's what he does, both to illustrate points and to garner ratings. Predictably, there have been calls for his job, and some advertisers have pulled their spots from his show. Since I started this post earlier this morning, he has apologized to her for the incendiary words that he used. (Interestingly, one of those words has been used triumphantly by feminists to describe themselves, as a celebration of their sexual freedom; if she truly is a feminist activist, one might think she would take that as a compliment. Sadly, the double-standard discussion will have to wait for another time, or this post will never wrap up.)

Just as we looked at the Fluke generation, think about the Limbaugh generation. Rush is part of the first generation that began, in large numbers, to shed the morals and values that had been with us for hundreds of years. He is now seeing the results of this, and is flabbergasted that things have gone so far so quickly. He also enjoys getting people riled up, particularly the “femi-nazis,” a group that is pretty easy to tick off. So, when we look at his statements, considering his history and background can help put his comments into their intended context. As has been proved by both the right and the left, an out-of-context sound bite can be made to say whatever one wants; however, the truth, whether exculpatory or damning, can only be determined by evaluating the statement as whole.

Are there any of you who feel that Limbaugh should have been censured, who also feel that, now that he's apologized, all his sponsors should return to his program on Monday? Now you're starting to see it. He may very well have to live with the negative consequences of his actions, even though he has apologized for them. Should his insurance company produce the lost revenue from these advertisers? Of course not - he would be crazy to suggest that they should. This is the exact same principle we evaluated above! Maybe seeing it turned on someone less sympathetic will help you understand the issue more clearly.

Personally, I believe that shielding people from the negative consequences of their isolated bad actions can be beneficial, particularly if they are allowed to experience part of those, and have to expend some effort in ameliorating the remainder. (I'm not talking about Limbaugh here; this is a general statement.) As the adage goes, “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.” People are not perfect, and they are going to make choices which bring negative consequences. Notice, though, that I started this by saying “personally.” Forgiveness is a personal virtue, not a government policy. However, even with forgiveness, it is often neither possible nor desirable to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. What people like Sandra Fluke want is for the government to spare no expense in its attempt to shield her from whatever consequences she deems undesirable. A government policy of forgiveness, paired with the equal application of the law, amounts to a tacit approval of the activity. It is not fair to forgive or shield one person and not another; some would argue that limiting it to one instance would not be fair either. It just simply does not work.

Sexual activity is certainly not the only area where we see this mindset at work. One of the major sparks behind the Occupy movement was frustration from people who got a college education, but could not parlay that education into employment. They wanted their school loans forgiven - and, with the value they were seeing from that piece of paper, who could blame them? But, again, actions have consequences. They chose to get the education in certain degrees, and at a pace that incurred debt. Their demand that others pay to shield them from the negative consequences of those decisions was met with some sympathy, but mostly derision from people who saw them as a bunch of freeloaders, protesting their poor state from their iPhones and iPads.

Let's distill all of the above down to five main points. First, the contraception provision in ObamaCare is wrong, and inconsistent with our legal traditions; it becomes more so as the definition of the term contraception is widened. Second, the nuclear family is the most beneficial for society, and provides the greatest motivation for both man and woman to improve themselves as they grow closer to one another. Third, while people like Ms. Fluke may not see it, they are expecting others to pay to shield them from the negative consequences of their actions, and this is what many people, myself included, find distasteful. Fourth, consider the context from which both sides originate when analyzing arguments, particularly those which generate a strong reaction; it may not make their argument any more believable, but it will help reveal not just what they are saying, but what they want. Fifth, while forgiveness is a positive personal character trait, it is incompatible with government policy.

I hope my analysis has helped you evaluate this issue; it goes way deeper than sound bites can convey. At its core, this is about respecting religious convictions and accepting personal responsibility. I hope and pray that my nation chooses to do both.

2011 Year in Review: The Ridiculous

This is the first (or last, depending on how you're reading these) entry in the series “2011 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” 2011 may go down in history as one of the craziest yet. It'll be tough to narrow it down to just a few things to keep this at a reasonable length - but, we'll try.

Occupy Wall Street

For me, this was an easy pick. This movement, starting in the fall and continuing in some cities to this day, stands for… well, that's part of it. They claimed inspiration from the Arab Spring, but had the minor detail that they weren't under an oppressive regime. They boldly proclaimed that they were the 99% of income earners, railing against the income inequality between themselves and the top 1%. The phrase “I am the 99%” became one of their rallying cries. The main problem with the movement, however, was the absolute lack of a goal. What did they hope to accomplish? A list was posted online, but then others said that this list was not right. I addressed some of the issues surrounding that in my #OWS, Educate Thyself series, so I won't re-hash that here.

Some claimed that this was the liberal's response to the conservative Tea Party movement of 2010. However, their rap sheet grew rapidly, including rape, homicide, public indecency, and disturbing the peace. Public health concerns grew over these encampments, evidenced by a tuberculosis outbreak in Atlanta and “Zucotti Lung” among New York's occupiers. This was no Tea Party. As some within the group tried to organize, others worked against organization, which led to confusion all around.

Then the time came to evict these protesters, which led to even more ridiculousness. Some mayors were more adamant than others, and some even spoke against their own police forces. Pepper spray flew in many cities, and on the campus of the University of California Davis. Occupiers in Portland are trying to shut down ports. As winter sets in, many of the camps have closed, but the aimless angst continues. The needed conversations regarding ridiculous executive compensation and police tactics will likely be drowned out by the shouting.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

This is a late-breaking entry, but it still happened in 2011. This bill gives the US Government the right to redirect Domain Name Service (DNS) entries for sites that host or participate in software piracy to a different site, similar to the ICE domain seizures that have been happening for a while now. There are many problems with this idea (which may sound good to some, on the surface). First, this breaks the DNS system, particularly the upcoming DNS Secure (DNSSec) protocol, which aims to prevent the DNS cache poisoning attacks that are becoming quite prevalent. Secondly, the concept of seizing an entire domain over suspected (not proven) activity circumvents due process; many large sites are approaching common-carrier status, and apart from DMCA take-down notices, aren't able to police or censor their content. It completely misses the point of how the Internet works. Creating a system like this just invites abuse, which is ironic, considering the law purports to be trying to fight it.

The main forces behind this legislation are the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), two organizations who have shown themselves clueless as to how the Internet works time and time again. This brings in the biggest problem of all. This is the equivalent of the horse-and-buggy lobby writing laws against cars, to ensure their continued existence. There were many fine buggy craftsmen, I'm sure, who were put out of work by these new horseless carriages. Those craftsmen who chose to adapt and learn new skills were successful; those who sat on the sidelines were not.

The RIAA and MPAA have fought tooth and nail against technology for decades. (Anyone remember DAT?) They are slow to adapt. It was said that FM radio was going to kill record sales, because people wouldn't buy them when they could hear the music for free. The cassette recorder would kill album sales, because people could record music themselves. The VCR would kill movie sales, because people could record movies from TV, cable, and LaserDiscs. They've proved themselves on the wrong side of technology at nearly every turn, and they're wrong here. Their current efforts are doing two things - frustrating people like Tom Merritt (Update: Google+ is gone, and so is the link), who want to comply with the law, and encouraging piracy.

Casey Anthony

Back in 2008, a young girl named Caylee Anthony disappeared in Florida. Her mom reported her missing, and a half a year later, her remains were found. Through the police investigation, the clues they found all pointed toward one conclusion - her mother Casey had killed her and hidden her body. I won't recount all the details for that - you can see them at that link. It's not ridiculous, it's just sad.

The ridiculous parts of this, though, were plentiful. The first was the “Trial of the Century” hype; this was, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media should cover the story, they should not be the story. The trial should have been covered, but the circus that was the trial was absolutely ridiculous. The second was Casey's behavior. Her daughter is dead, she knows about it (according to her testimony), yet she's out partying like there's no tomorrow. Even if that were her regular M.O., I can assure you that if one of my children is missing, I wouldn't be occupying my usual schedule. The third was her defense - Caylee died in the pool, and she was too scared to call the police, instead dumping the child's body and instigating a huge manhunt for this child. Really? And her parents supported her in these claims! The fourth was the verdict - not guilty. There was so much wrong with this case, even if there wasn't enough for capital murder, there were lesser charges that were also found not guilty.

The narrative is drama-filled, Casey is an attractive young lady, so this story is probably not done. I wish it were. I hesitated on putting her on this list, because attention to people like this only encourages them.

CelebuTwits

This seemed to be the year when many folks found out how Twitter works the hard way. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) tweeted a picture of his (let's just say “namesake”) to a follower. Instead of using a direct message, which is private, he simply typed an @ symbol followed by the follower's name, which is public to whoever views his timeline. He claimed to have been hacked; these claims were refuted, and he admitted to sending the message, as well as to many indiscretions against his newly-pregnant wife. He resigned his seat in the wake of this.

Other celebrities had trouble with the filter that's supposed to sit between the texting fingers and the brain. Gilbert Gottfried tweeted jokes about the Japanese tsunami, and was dropped as the voice of the AFLAC duck. Ashton Kutcher tweeted his support of Penn State's Joe Paterno in the wake of Paterno's firing, which he later clarified once he learned the reasons behind. Alec Baldwin explored a New York mayoral run via Twitter, and ended up canceling his account after being booted from an airline flight for failing to turn off his iPad. His reason? Words with Friends. And, early in the year, Twitter was one of the places where Charlie Sheen's epic breakdown unfolded, giving birth to the hashtag #WINNING.

 

As with all of these reviews, this is nowhere close to an exhaustive list; but, that'll do. Some of these are ongoing; we'll hope and pray that if they make next year's list, it'll be on the good list due to their dissolution.

#OWS, Educate Thyself: Income Inequality (Part 3)

Previously in this series - Part 1: IntroductionPart 2: Credit and Banks

Income inequality. The rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street crowd really rings hollow with this 99%-er. This is certainly not a new complaint; “eat the rich” has been a sentiment for decades (or centuries). I would posit that covetousness has existed for over 6,000 years, and led to the first recorded murder in human history. It was wrong then, just as it is wrong now. Now, this is education, not church; we're not going to belabor this point too much. But, the cries of “fairness” are a moral appeal, and must be dealt with accordingly. The ultimate in fairness is that everyone is taxed the same, and paid the same wage for the same type of work. Some people believe this is way-unfair, and they seem to start with “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” and work backward just enough to make it palatable to someone who claims to desire freedom. Know, as we enter this education, that I'm much more on the former end than the latter. (See the “Welcome to the Real World” heading in the introduction.)

Income inequality would be incomplete without a discussion of equality of opportunity. Think back over your life; have you ever had a friend who could out-eat everyone else, but still retained their beanpole-like physique? Did you also have a friend who was always dieting, and always looked like they should be dieting? Given an equal opportunity - a pizza and birthday cake celebration, for example - these two people will have unequal results. This is exactly how it is in life. Many different people take the same high school courses; some do well, others do not. Does the fact that everyone is not the valedictorian mean that the system is not fair? On the contrary, this illustrates that given equal opportunity, different results are possible (and likely). There';s a phrase that originate with cars, but now is used for almost anything - “Your mileage may vary” (YMMV). This is an acknowledgement by car companies that, the way they drove the car, in the environment they had, that was the mileage they got; but, you may drive it a different way, or in a different environment, so your mileage may not be the same as what's printed on the sticker in the window.

A boy is pushing a bagging lawn mower, with the caption “I figured out at a young age the easiest way to get money from rich people. It's called a JOB.” Now, let's continue this train of thought. There are two people who get the same college degree; let's even say that their GPA was the same, and it was good - they graduated Cum Laude. Fast-forward 5 years, and the likelihood of these two individuals bringing in the exact same salary is very low; one is going to be making more than the other. Is this fair? That's tough to say, but just with these facts, it seems pretty fair to me. Going back to the introduction again, a college degree is a tool, and what one does with it has a lot to do with their decisions, and also has a lot to do with the environment in which they live. Think about it this way - the same hammer that demolishes a house can be used to hit a chisel to make a sculpture; and, depending on the scenario, both are important. However, the demolisher is probably not going to get paid the same as the sculptor.

How many people could you employ? I know my answer to that question - zero. I have a small programming business, and currently, I am at the point of breaking even. Over the course of 2+ years, I saw a project with potential to go nationwide fizzle and die; the work I put into that is gone, with no monetary return. I went from looking at a breakthrough project to being back to square 2 (not quite back to square 1) overnight. What am I doing? Continuing on, keeping the lessons learned in mind. I'm not camping out in front of the organization that didn't choose me, and I'm not blaming the system. But, I can assure you that there is no room in my budget for any employees at all.

Businesses can only hire people as they have resources to do so. These resource quite often manifest themselves as stores of money saved and earned via profits. There is nothing wrong with businesses making a profit, just as there is nothing wrong with you exchanging an hour of your time for a profit yourself (via a wage). (For the record - who was one of the voices saying that a rise in the minimum wage would lead to fewer available jobs? Oh yeah - me. I take little pleasure in that vindication, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point it out.)

A graphical representation of the tax burden shift from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposalTo illustrate, let's look at a hospital. Profit is a motivation even in a seemly-altruistic endeavor like health care. The operators of the hospital are responsible for hiring doctors, surgeons, nurses, nursing aides, medical technicians, janitorial staff, laundry personnel, anesthesiologists, etc. (or contracting it out). They are also responsible for purchasing beds, linens, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and a full array of drugs; they also must maintain power, water, environment, and maintenance on their facilities. (I'm stopping there; I'm sure this list is incomplete.) The janitors and surgeons are both important; however, you're not going to find a single hospital that pays janitors as well as it pays surgeons. Why? Two words - skill and education. Is that fair? Absolutely. The additional pay surgeons receive over janitors is a big reason many of them go through years and years of schooling, internships, and career-long continuing education.

Now, imagine you're the surgeon. Would you think it fair if unemployed people demanded that you reduce your pay to that of the janitorial staff? If you say you'd be OK with that, you're either naive or lying. But, these people get their way, and your pay is cut. You would be indignant that the fruits of your hard work were being demanded by people who have no claim on them. You would also no longer be able to pay the support staff necessary for your surgery practice, nor would you be able to spot the neighborhood kid the $50 to keep your yard up on a weekly basis. You would have to pull your children out of whatever private school they attend, which affects the teachers and workers at that school.

To put it as plain and simple as I can, these “rich” people you decry are the ones making our economy work. And, in our economy, you start where you start and try to improve your lot. That's the promise of America. Not everyone will succeed, but the opportunity is there for those willing to work for it. For years, one party has fomented angst against one class of people, while pillorying those who are against that party as filled with hate. (Oh wait - maybe those are big words for college-educated people…) The Democrats make people mad about people who run businesses, and cast Republicans as hating poor people. Like many items of the Democrat platform, nothing could be further from the truth. These rich people are the ones employing people and supporting other businesses; they're not sitting around their fireplaces smoking $100 bills and laughing at the peasants.

The graph running down the side of the post, as best I can tell, originated here, and was produced as an example of how bad Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan is. But, what I'd like for you to do is click on that, and look how tiny the increased tax is on the bottom 20% versus how much it saves the top 20%. (Keep in mind, #OWS-ers, that 19% of that top 20% are in your 99%.) This chart illustrates perfectly what is wrong with our tax code, and why our jobs are going to other countries. Where is the motivation to move yourself into that top 20%? (FTR, I am saddened by Cain's recent adjustment to 9-0-9 “for poor people” - this completely destroys the beauty of 9-9-9 as an equalizer.)

At this point, I can hear the rebuttals about all the greedy people who have broken the law to increase their wealth. Those people will find no quarter here with me. One of my biggest problems with immigration reform is that the focus is always on the illegals, rather than the businesses who hire them with impunity. However, this greed and illegality must be fought where it is found, not via a whole-scale war on wealth. American has her position in the world because of her wealth! If profiling is so wrong in other areas, why is tolerated here?

Bottom line - instead of seeing these people as the enemy, you should see them as people you should emulate, whose accomplishments to which you should aspire. You should stop looking at what someone else has, and start looking at how you can improve your lot in life. Chase Bank is probably not hiring many Gender Studies graduates, and Exxon doesn't have a great need for Gay and Lesbian Studies graduates. You may not find a job in your degree specialty - that's OK. Work where you can find it, continue your education (but by all means, not at the same university that failed you so much already), and quit looking around so much.

Derek Sivers, in his summary of Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice, puts it this way.

More than half of people chose options that give them better relative position : better to earn $50k/yr while others around are earning $25k/yr than to be earning $100k/yr while others around are earning $200k/yr.

Can you see the lunacy in this? Because of their jealousy and covetousness, over half the people would choose half as much pay. This is exactly what you're doing. Wake up, #OWS.

 

#OWS, Educate Thyself: Credit and Banks (Part 2)

Previously in this series - Part 1: Introduction

Credit is a big part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They want debt forgiven, some even calling for an across-the-board forgiveness of all debt. By having this demand, they reveal another area where their college education has failed them. Let's do a quick version of what they should have learned.

To illustrate, let's create a hypothetical scenario. Person 1 (let's call him “Bill”) has a business idea, but lacks the funds to make it a reality. Bill is sure that his idea will make lots of money, but he is frustrated because he cannot implement his idea. Person 2 (let's call him “Tom”) has money that he has accumulated that he is not actively using. Bill comes to Tom and asks if he can borrow some of Tom's extra money, so that he can implement his awesome idea. Tom is not sure about the purported awesomeness of Bill's idea, and is reluctant to lend Bill the money. Bill is so confident in his idea that he offers to repay Tom 110% of the money that he wants to borrow. This provides Tim an opportunity for financial gain, and he decides to lend Bill the money he needs.

This story illustrates some of the basic concepts of credit.

In our story, a 10% interest rate was enough to make Tom assume the risk that Bill's idea would generate the money Bill thought that it would.

Banks and other lending institutions have simply taken the above scenario and enlarged its scale. They take depositors' money, and lend it to those who need it. They also provide services, such as securing the money they've received, providing convenient ways for people to get to their money. For some services, banks charge fees; for some services, banks pay interest. Because banks must be able to return depositor's money on demand, they must assess risk before giving a loan. Some risk they simply will not accept; some risk they will accept, but charge the borrower a higher rate on the money to make up for it; and low risk is generally acceptable.

Student loans, a particular interest item to the #OWS set, are no exception. It is understood that obtaining an education may require money that a fresh-out-of-high-school person probably does not have. (Whether it should is a different topic altogether.) However, lending institutions see the value in having an educated populace, and are willing to extend loans to students to allow them to obtain productive skills. They realize that college-educated people are more likely to have good jobs, buy cars and homes, take vacations, and do lots of other things that inject money into an economy.

So, what's the problem with them forgiving loans? It's theft, plain and simple. Whoever was extended credit would be stealing the money not from the bank, but from the depositors of that bank. The bank is simply an intermediary set up to provide a mutually-beneficial service to both saver and borrower. (I'll tackle the class warfare aspect in the next post, but it's still their money no matter how much they have left.)

Another assumption regarding student loans is that the degree obtained will help this happen; with many degrees these days, a person may be no more qualified to hold employment than they were before they went to college. When I went through college right out of high school, my adviser recommended certain degrees as being more employable than others. I don't know if colleges don't have that, or if advisers these days think that we really need a ton of Fill-in-the-Blank Studies degrees; either way, that sort of degree has limited employment opportunity. If you obtained that sort of degree, and now can't get a job, you rolled the dice and lost. Now, it';s time to act like a grown up and get whatever work you can to provide for you (and your family, if you have one), and start repaying that loan you took out.

David Burge (AKA Iowa Hawk), via Twitter, provides a nice summary on this point.

Lemme get this straight. A bank lent you $100k that you handed to a college for a worthless degree, and now you're mad at… the bank?

Banks provide an important service by offering credit. If that credit is not repaid, the system collapses. If you think it's hard getting a job now, try bankrupting all the employers, and see how much more plentiful (or scarce) the jobs become.

Next in this series - Part 3: Income Inequality

#OWS, Educate Thyself: Introduction (Part 1)

This is the first in a series doing the education that the colleges which the Occupy Wall Street gang (#OWS hereafter, taken from the shortened version of their #OccupyWallStreet Twitter hash tag) failed to impart. I have two in the queue behind this one, but there may be more.

For those living under a rock, a group has been camped out in New York, protesting Wall Street. There was a list of demand published, but many protesters were quick to point out that there was no official list. However, there have been recurring themes. Corporations are greedy. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Debt is bad. People aren't hiring them even though they have a college degree. A job is a right.

Dear #OWS, your parents and your colleges have failed you. Before we dig into details of why your demands are unworkable, there are a few big-picture things we need to discuss.

Welcome to the Real World

This is where your parents have failed you. You are the generation who grew up “safer” than ever, protected from terrible things like concrete under your playground equipment, lack of head protection when you rode your bike, having to suffer the indignation of losing your soccer match because they didn't keep score, etc. You are the result of a social experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong, where a bunch of too-smart people decided that the way children were reared for generations had to change. They were going to do it better. They were going to do it more safely. They remembered how bad they felt as children, when they were picked last for sports, or struck out and helped their team lose a game; or how they were made fun of during the awkward stages as they grew from children to adults; or how they never fit in with the “in” clique at school. So, they tried to eliminate all these things. No scorekeeping, and everyone gets a trophy. “Don't say that word!” “Bullying is wrong!”

Where they went wrong is that by their attempts to eliminate bad things, they did not teach you how to deal with these bad things. I'm all for the elimination of bullying, but you can't wish that and make it go away; you should be trained on how to deal with it. In real life, there are winners and losers; there is no “no scorekeeping” option. Everyone does not get a trophy. There are attempts, and there are failures. You have tragically had your opportunities to learn how to deal with this as a child snatched from you. Now, you're behaving as children would normally behave; you're just a lot bigger. You're adults, so you think that your demands aren't childish. Sadly, I'm here to inform you that they are. Railing against the real world is futile; you are not going to change it, at least not much. You would be much better served applying yourself and learning how things work.

A College Degree Is a Tool, Not a Guarantee

Here is one area where your college has failed you. No matter what the admissions adviser told you, a college degree is not a guarantee of a good job. Even in good economic times, a college degree is likely to get you in the door, at an entry-level position. (You understand where the term “entry-level” comes from right? The level you start, when you enter a company?) The people that have been there for 10 years beg to differ with your assertion that you should start out at the level to which they have worked themselves up. And, if your degree ends with “Studies,” you're probably 1/4 as employable as someone with a degree oriented toward something a business would actually need.

The Corporations You Decry Have Made Your Protest Possible

You have utilized the services of several public and private companies. Let's take a look at the evil that's made this protest possible, shall we?

Now, what you're not going to read in future installments are claims that the “real world” is perfect. There is room for change, and there are people running companies who have no business running them. However, if you want to maintain the lifestyle in America to which you've become accustomed, or improve it, you really don't want to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I'm sorry your parents and colleges have failed you. If you stay tuned to this spot, I'll help educate you on why the things you're so worked up about, contrary to what your “I wish communism worked because it's just such a good idea” professors taught you, are actually good for you.

Next in this series - Part 2: Credit and BanksPart 3: Income Inequality