Sunday, October 09, 2011

The 99%

I have been spending a fair amount of time at We are the 99% reading the stories there.  Much of it is moving and powerful and times are hard and lots of people are getting fucked, but sometimes it's annoying to read about people who undertook impractical courses of study and huge debt loads and then are surprised they can't find work.

I know it is ridiculous for someone with a PhD in Russian Literature to say that, but it's true. I wouldn't have studied what I did if it meant taking on debt. I am definitely amongst the 99% in terms of income and wealth, but I'm towards the upper end of it, and am perhaps amongst the 1% in terms of good fortune and educational attainment. I probably could have joined the 1% had I been more practical in my career choices and had that world just not seemed shallow and repulsive and just too focused on work.

And if you think America's 99% are hungry, think how hungry the 99% in China, India, Zambia, Indonesia etc.are, how hard they're working, and what they're getting back in real terms.

But a big part of our problem now is indeed that America isn't producing things the rest of the world wants to buy.  To stay affluent we really do need to focus on science and math education -- which means that people need to be focused on the potential economic returns of what they study.  I have been extremely lucky in my ability to fight my way back from being impractical, and that I chose to do it right when unemployment was very low.

But we also need support for entrepreneurship, which means that making credit available to small and medium-sized businesses is important.  And at the end of the day the government is not going to do the best job doing that. Well-regulated capital markets can and should do a good job.  Does Dodd-Frank do a good job of doing that?  Who knows, there's too much of it to say and it's not well articulated. It's better than nothing, but probably too much. Reinstate Glass-Steagall?  Maybe.

So, yes, tax reform is necessary.  Wealthy people aren't paying enough taxes, and that includes me. Yes, health care reform is necessary.  Let people keep marching, and let us all keep reading and talking.

I know I keep rambling on.  Must go play with Graham.


David Lange said...

Clark, nobody has said this better since this entire movement began. Thanks for keeping us all honest.

Graham Klarkovich Illiorum said...

Here's another take on the student loans and banks in general. Pretty extreme, but worth reading and pondering,