During the Great Depression, my grandfather, a native of Missouri, traveled from state to state for work. In 1937 he drove himself and his family from Kansas to California to get a job, which he did. He made it to California with Kansas air in the tires. This is significant for two reasons. One, tires rarely lasted that long back then. And two, it was the highlight of the entire venture because that’s how low expectations were.
Similarly low expectations are commonplace among the millions now looking for any job and any place to live. Unlike those who worked diligently to survive the Great Depression, the under- and unemployed today have also to contend with forking over an ever greater percentage of meager incomes to taxes while those few who incurred all this trouble in the first place cry foul at the idea of having to pay any taxes at all, much less as much as corporations paid just a couple of decades ago.
There is a reason there are a record number of college dropouts and graduates with a record amount of debt; there’s a reason for the record number of home foreclosures; there’s a reason why so many people are out of work – and none of it is because they did anything different than their parents and grandparents. It’s because the system in place now is not the system that was in place when their elders went to school, bought homes, secured work, or even opened a bank account.
Well-to-do politicians and corporate leaders over age 40 love to tout their hard work, college degrees (or their success sans degree), home ownership, and having held multiple jobs to get where they are today. What they don’t tout is how much easier it was, rather, how much less constraining it was for them to get all of that done. Many didn’t graduate with debt because tuitions weren’t through the roof and/or their parents could afford to pay their tuitions. Those who did borrow didn’t graduate with more interest on the debt than the debt itself, and the majority were able to pay off those loans in a timely manner because there were jobs available. Home ownership did not include the massive and convoluted debacle of fine print that has come to define the now-common predatory contracts. Holding three jobs was actually doable when today’s corporate leaders and hopeful/incumbent politicians were working their way up. To get those jobs they did not have to endure credit checks and “personality” tests (for which there are cheat codes), nor did they already have to have a job to get one. Even the banks, forever regarded as a necessary evil, were legally confined and could not bilk millions out of billions.
As a 49-year-old watching what my well-to-do peers have done and are doing, I’m shocked at the lack of gratitude they have (specifically for how they got to where they are) and the ease with which they financially execute one person after another as if this economic crisis was some kind of humane human safari. To hear Herman Cain tell it, those making less than a million a year are fair game, and they’ve only themselves to blame if he and his ilk are successful in picking off every last one of them.
The system that was in place when Herman Cain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Michelle Bachmann were going to school, buying homes, and looking for work is not in place today. When they were coming of age, many of the ways in which the consumer and student could get pounded in the ass were not only minimized by law, they were flat out socially unacceptable. Now, after decades of deregulation and under the guise of “too big to fail” and “free market,” the number of ways the consumer and student can be sodomized is so maxed out that soon corporations and our own government are going to have to look elsewhere for fresh meat. At what point do you suppose these two entities (corporation and government) will be the only ones left to destroy, and which one do you think will win? And will it be a win for the rest of us either way? History says no, and that’s why many have taken to the streets.
So what that the OWS protesters and their ilk have not as yet articulated their frustrations and demands in what corporate/government-speak? Had Howard Stern asked pointed questions of the peasants and laborers of the French Revolution as he did the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters, he’d have come away with just as many, “Uhhh…”s then as now. Too, let a stranger stick a microphone in anyone’s face and ask them about something very near and dear to them and see how many don’t start with “Uhhh…” – to include Howard “Uhhh” Stern himself. If the multi-national protest against the unholy marriage of corporation and government does last, we are now looking at the early days of a French Revolution-esque movement on a global scale.
Much like the French Revolution’s early opposition, Herman Cain asserts that those victimized by this economy are wrong to blame corporations for their troubles and that they should move their protest to the White House – the pinnacle of which he says is also free of blame: the government.
Heads up, Herman Cain and those like him: The French Revolution incurred a lot of dead among those who opposed the revolution, and unlike the French working class poor having only themselves to lean on for support, the “Occupy” movement is no longer confined to George Washington’s back yard. You can balk at what you think is an empty, short-lived, misguided threat; or you can prepare for the natural and logical consequences of a hard-working populace that is completely fed up.