More Thoughts on #OccupyWallStreet

14 Oct

I am resurfacing because this needed to be said.

I have been seeing increasing disdain for #OccupyWallStreet from people from all walks of life, mainly circling around the idea that they are wasting their time and not working hard enough on their own lives – basically framing them as whiny.

This reminds me of  the notion that unemployed people are lazy – something politicians were talking about a year or so ago when they were debating long-term unemployment aid, and something I frankly find very offensive.

I have met many who are very talented who are aggressively job searching and have just been unable to find a job. Many times they have a high level degree – an MBA or PhD – and employers simply do not want to pay for them right now. In some cases, as in many of the stories I see on TV, they don’t have the right tools. Sending out a million resumes cold, or showing up to a job fair is not going to land you a job, but they don’t know how to do it any other way. And let me tell you from personal experience the career services centers provided for the unemployed are no resource.

I completely agree with #OccupyWallStreet critics notion that there is an entitlement epidemic in this country. I swear if I see one more sad sob story on the news of an unemployed worker who can’t feed their family with a large flat screen behind them or complaining they can’t pay their cable bill I will scream. These are luxury items. People need to learn to live within their means – however meager they may be. As someone who has been through dual unemployment twice I know how suddenly incomes can change, but you make adjustments and keep going. Sometimes things get bad really quickly and that’s what social services, friends and family are for. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it.

Many that are giving the “dig yourself out of your own hole” message either are more intelligent than the average person, or have had opportunities that most haven’t. Because my parents helped put me through college, I have had more opportunity. I know both my husband and I much more well off than most. Read more about a metro Denver couple who had an income of $100,000 a two years ago and is now living in poverty. Or Corbyn Hightower who lost her corporate job and now sustains her family on pedal power and food stamps. This is America.

Those of us who went to public schools were at one point surrounded by all types of people in our society. Some poor, some rich. Some book smart, some not. Some good with their hands, others good with their minds. In any event, all these people need to all go out into the world and work somewhere.

Working hard, as I have learned first hand, does not mean you will get a job right now and that’s what the #OccupyWallStreet protesters are saying. There are five people for every available job out there. You do the math. And that’s assuming you are qualified for the job. There is a great job skills mismatch in this country. Workforce Investment Boards have been saying that for two years now. Instead of focusing our efforts on how to retrain the workforce, politicians and unions seem focused on grasping at shadows of jobs that have no future, and closing borders to educated immigrants who can create living-wage jobs.

I know what many of you will say to us collective unemployed – well make your own job and start your own business. I explained earlier why I have been hesitant about this – namely about giving up any rights to my unemployment compensation – one thing that is certain in uncertain times. And I know from working closely with entrepreneurs, not everyone is cut out to own their own business. It takes guts, resilience and hustle. And to be truly successful it takes good business sense, leadership and organizational skills. For better or worse, some just don’t have these attributes, and that’s why so many small businesses fail within their first three years. Just because you are good at doing something, does not make you a good business owner.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to these issues, and I still don’t know if #OccupyWallStreet is an effective use of an unemployed person’s time. What I do know is it has sparked a debate in this country and got people talking, and that will make all the difference.

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3 Responses to “More Thoughts on #OccupyWallStreet”

  1. Scott Gingold (@ScottGingold) October 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Here are two of my big frustrations with the Occupy movement:

    1) They are picketing in the wrong locations. If you really want to send a message, “occupy” the front lawns at the homes of your congressmen, senators and president. Wall Street and the banks are a tool for our elected officials.

    2) While available jobs are indeed sparse and much needed, there is another side to the story. Why aren’t people taking jobs less than their qualifications? As a specific example, friends of mine own a very successful deli in the Lehigh Valley. They are hiring, and have been so for quite some time. Despite countless ads, signs, social media posts, word of mouth notices, etc., they are not getting applicants. Why? Because if you are collecting unemployment and you will make roughly the same amount of money working for them, all too many people would rather stay at home. To be fair I understand that a percentage of these people want to remain available for interviews and networking, but I believe that this is a small percentage of the total sum of people.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly; being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Even after being one for 2+ decades there are days when I question my decision. This usually happens after we are done renegotiating our annual health insurance plan and premium increase or when I look at my tax bill.

    This weekend campaign financial reports will be released. We expected to learn in the last fundraising cycle Romney raised $14.2 million dollars, Perry at $17.2 million dollars, and Obama $70 million dollars. Considering that 1 in every 6 Americans goes hungry in America every day, and 1 in every 4 children wakes up every morning not knowing whether they will have enough food to eat on that day, how do these men spend this kind of money on campaigning when their fellow citizens don’t have food to eat? What kind of country have we turned into with this kind of value system?

    Final thought. Every week our President signs a check for nearly $3 BILLION dollars to fund wars and nation building in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Iraq. We are also now sending troops to Africa. How can we tolerate this when our own country is falling apart at the seams?

    • Vanessa October 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Excellent thoughts Scott. I am disappointed to hear your friends can’t get workers. I have applied to several part-time jobs and rarely get a call back, and when I call to follow up they either get annoyed or have no idea about the job I’m talking about.

      I just saw a story on the news the other day that a southern farmer’s raspberry crops are literally rotting in the fields because they can’t find workers to pick them. They primarily blame tougher immigration laws from Mexico, but it’s madness.

      The only thing I can figure is perhaps take-home pay is less than they are receiving on unemployment. Unemployment does not force people to take taxes out initially, even though you can get whacked at the end of the year (like we did last year). I believe at the moment the maximum per week benefit is $573. This works out to a little more than $14 an hour – almost double minimum wage. In addition, considering most families are single parent families, you have to consider they need to find childcare which isn’t cheap. I’m not saying this is right, but it’s factors to consider.

      I couldn’t agree with you more regarding Washington. I feel politicians are more out of touch than ever. I have friends who work in government and NGOs in DC and no one can recall it being so partisan. They literally cannot do their jobs. There have always been policy changes, but not to the point where it was so disruptive.

      We really need to get some campaign finance laws passed that don’t have loopholes to put a cap on this madness. And the wars and their affiliated costs drive me crazy. The defense budget is HUGE and yet no politician wants to wrangle that in the name of austerity. It’s not all the wars – there are some significant government contracts, and therefore jobs and innovation involved with it, just like NASA research, but to ask teachers and families to do more with less is maddening when we are spending so much elsewhere.

      • Scott October 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

        Great dialogue Vanessa, and I appreciate your thoughts!

        In the old days when you collected unemployment you had to report to the unemployment office on a regular basis and turn in a sheet that listed where you applied for work, who you spoke to, and their phone number. This seems to have been done away with. As a result there are no checks and balances. I do understand that many people need the safety net of UC benefits and I have no issue with this. That said, many people do milk the system.

        As for partisan and divided politics, I respectfully disagree with you. I believe, and many biography books bear me out, politics has always been this bad. The difference between then and now is 24 hour news coverage, social media, blogs, and other live interactive media fueling the fire. Imagine how much might get done with the jobs bill if there was a gag order in place and politicians on both sides didn’t have a microphone, camera or keyboard to run to.

        As for our military budget, I agree. We should be spending more on protecting people at home. I think it was Camden that just laid off 2/3 of their police force yet we have money to send forces to serve and protect in Africa. Crazy!

        We need to send ALL incumbents packing in 2012 and beyond until they start representing us, the people.

        The madness has to stop!

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