Who are the Wall Street protesters, and why are those at the media-styled core of Occupy Wall Street protesting? There are plenty of misfits among the protesters, but others are more conventional – young people who have acquired expensive academic credentials rather than practical educations to prepare for the jobs they claim to seek.
Why doesn’t Joey have a job? Joey grew up in New York City. His parents spent tens of thousands of dollars on Joey’s college costs, re-mortgaging their co-op to see that Joey got his master’s degree. He attended the City College of New York, majoring in Sociology with "a specialization in urban issues, politics, immigration, and policy, with sub-specialties in Urban Studies and Policy, Crime and Deviance, and Social Work." Joey took his masters in "Sustainability in the Urban Environment."
In addition to what her folks could afford, Judy took out more than $80,000 in student loans to get her degree. Judy’s jobless, too. Judy also majored in Sociology, only at Columbia University where her course work included "Adolescent Society," "Art & Social Movement" and "Sociology of Emotions."
Their degree work completed, Judy and Joey have returned to the rooms in which they grew up, unhappy, unfulfilled, angry and ready to change things by any means. It’s not fair! They want their own…stuff!
Judy and Joey imagined they would live the American Dream: Go to college, get a degree, find a job, live the good life. They did their part. They got their degrees. Now it’s time for the payoff. But from where and whom will the payoff come?
Judy and Joey are striking back at the system. They have joined the rabble at Occupy Wall Street to demand what they were promised, presumably for free and without effort. They have gone downtown to join other disaffected graduates with degrees in Art History, Public Engagement, Theater Arts, Gender Studies and Literacy. They are determined to make their courses in "Women and Politics," "The Politics of Protest" and that always-fun "Freedom of Expression Seminar" pay off.
What the angry young people at OWS are doing is proving, although apparently not to themselves or each other, that their irrelevant BAs, MAs, and PhDs are BS.
There was a time when America’s economic engine produced enough entry-level jobs to absorb kids like Joey and Judy, giving them time to find their way, to gain some experience and acclimate to the real world — to get a clue. Simply qualifying for college was once a sign to employers that a kid had potential. Unfortunately for Joey, Judy and many other youngsters, the economy and American higher education have changed.
With unemployment levels already above 9% (far higher if discouraged job-seekers are counted) the economy is poised to dip into recession again. Employment prospects for inexperienced young people without job-specific degrees are poor. And college is oversold. Many young people who would do well as tradespeople have invested in college degrees which provide very few, often no, occupational advantages. Grade inflation, even at the most respected institutions, has cheapened degrees. Acceptance to a college and acquiring a degree have less meaning to employers than they once did, especially degrees in soft subjects. Economists warn of a bubble in higher education resulting from government policies similar to those which fueled the housing bubble. Cheap federal loans and grant money have helped to push tuition costs progressively — and artificially – higher, far above the rate of inflation. Unimaginably, student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in America today.
OWS’s college protesters aren’t condemning bailouts for corporations so much as they are seeking bailouts for themselves.
So, who convinced these gullible kids and their parents to spend a small fortune for a BA in Gender Studies? Did Goldman Sachs hoodwink young people into borrowing more money than their degree will ever be worth? Did Citicorp force young people to borrow thousands to get advanced degrees in "Sustainability in the Urban Environment?"
At the Wall Street Journal, Peter Wallison suggests that "[Joey and Judy’s] anger should be directed at those who developed and supported the federal government’s housing policies that were responsible for the financial crisis."
Wallison might have added the student loan bubble to his indictment of federal policies.
Because unmasking the unintended consequences of progressive policies doesn’t fit their college-acquired liberal narratives, the anger of the demonstrators is directed at capitalism, the economic system which created the lifestyles they demand. Ironic, huh?
I wish these kids well, and pray for them to endure the cold nights coming. I’m with George Will, who wrote "Here’s to a long life for Occupy Wall Street."
Adults who see footage of immature kids — and the ultra-liberal special interests which enflame them — chanting "This is how democracy looks!" know better. The OWS revival of 1968-style American street protests and occupations will cause a public backlash against the demonstrators. Sooner rather than later, the ultimate electoral price will be paid by politicians who promoted the policies which caused the negative outcomes the kids are too under-educated to understand.
We will then have a new lot of elected officials over whom we must keep constant vigil.