Recently, a group of largely youthful protestors have been “occupying Wall Street.” There has been a great deal of controversy in the press about the goals of the protesters: do they have coherent demands? Are their positions reasonable and consistent? Do they even know what they want?
David Maris, a health care equity researcher, posted an article on Forbes recently (http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2011/10/07/some-say-occupy-wal...). Maris interviewed and polled the protestors, which does seem like a reasonable way to figure out what they want.
Maris is quite sympathetic to the protestors, claiming:
“There has been a lot said about the lack of vision, lack of specific demands, and a disparity of beliefs and goals among the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the media in the past several weeks. A survey of the protesters shows that none of these criticisms are true.” Maris suggests that the protestors are unified in many of their goals. What are the goals that impress Maris?
• 80% of those polled said that the rich should pay higher taxes and that it’s fair that approximately the top 10% of tax payers pay more than 70% of the taxes in the US and about 40% of employed people pay no income tax.
• 93% say that student loan debt should be forgiven
• 98% believe that healthcare should be free
• 98% believe that Insurance companies make too much money and some of their profits should be taken to pay for more healthcare for others
• 95% believe that drug prices should be controlled
• 32.5% think the government will do a bad job managing healthcare
• 44% believe that instead of spending money on ObamaCare, we should spend it on jobs today, while 30% believe that we should do both, and 27% say ObamaCare was fine use of money
• 88% agree with the statement that “The government should put some controls on CEO pay – like limited to 20x or 30x the lowest paid employee.”
• 93% believe that communications like cell phone and Internet access should be a right and not just reserved for the rich and we should have free internet and cell phone service as a national goal.
• 54% do not believe that the Obama stimulus program was a good idea.
I do agree with Maris that the protestors are unified and consistent in their demands. What they want is stuff for free: free health care, a free college education, free Internet service, and a free cell phone. They also feel that 40% of the American people should pay no income taxes, but the rich should pay more. So the rich and corporations should pay higher taxes, but not the protestors, who would undoubtedly prefer to be in the 40% that pay no income taxes.
After reading this survey, I have even more contempt for these puerile, moronic protestors than I had initially. Most of the protestors, if the videos I’ve seen are any indication, are quite young, early 20s or so. Most of them are used to receiving free healthcare, cell phones, Internet service, and an education from their parents. Now they want the government to give them free stuff just like their parents always have. Their attitude is that of an adolescent: “I hate the government, but the government should give me stuff.” Or an angry teenager: “I hate you Mom, but give me money to go to the mall.”
To be fair, I can see why they want their student loans repaid. After all, many of them probably went to left-leaning universities where they learned about gender studies and identity politics, and now they’re 80 grand in debt, learned nothing useful, and can’t get a job. Most employers want you to be able to do something or make something; they don’t care about your identity, or whether your ancestors were oppressed.
Some of their frustration may be based on the fact that jobs are hard to find, although that problem does largely coincide with the election of their hero Barack Obama (a fact that seems to confuse them). Furthermore, if you get past the give me stuff for free aspect of their platform, they are a bit confused. They love Obama, yet they don’t like the bailouts or the stimulus plan (essentially the primary economic policies of the Obama administration).
The lefty protestors like to describe their antics as an American Autumn, which is of course a reference to the Arab Spring. This terminology is unintentionally ironic. Spring precedes the summer and new life; autumn precedes the winter and death. It would be fair to say that if the protestors succeed in their aims it probably would be the autumn of America as a major power. Giving handouts to lazy hipsters is not good social policy. A middle class American being forced to pay back his or her student loans is hardly as oppressed as an impoverished Egyptian living in a police state off $3 a day.
“Handouts for middleclass hipsters” should be the slogan of Occupy Wall Street. Pay my student loans. Pay my healthcare. And my favorite: access to a cellphone and the Internet are a right! I wish they would elaborate more on that right. Do they have the right to an Apple cellphone because it’s cool? Siri sounds great! Or should my taxes just be gently raised so they can obtain a free android handset? Perhaps a different slogan for these oppressed hipsters could be: an iPhone in every pocket!
Robert Bee is a freelance writer and a professional librarian living in New Jersey. He can be reached at Rightrob@republibot.com