The Real Life of Julia

Good evening everybody.  Recently President Obama’s campaign team has released a “The Life of Julia” slideshow. It shows the things that the Obama Administration has done to help young women throughout their lifetimes. However, it also sends another message. That women are dependant on government. From cradle to grave, or as I’ve heard it before “from sperm to worm.”

The latest little campaign graphics have presented a picture of a young woman named Julia. The story begins at age 3, and ends at age 67, with her having lived life dependant upon government programs and reliance on her parents. What this shows me, though, is that there is an underlying perception that independant women are unable to do what they wish, how they wish, and should be encourage to let Uncle Sam help her out.

Well, I decided to make my own version of Julia’s life… below is a recreation of President Obama’s “propaganda” with a little bit more common sense and a few less half truths tossed in there.

I hope to follow this up later with some extra details on each picture.

I present to you:

The Real Life of Julia

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Educating the “Educated”

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
-C.S. Lewis

Education is more than going to school, or going to college, or saying that you have a degree. Education is about actually learning something from those places. However, learning cannot be taught, learning can only be applied, and it can only be applied and built upon by the student. Knowledge can be taught, but even it is dictated by the source.

Education is crucial in a child’s development. It is also crucial in the development of a child’s sense of discipline, responsibility, and punctuality. It is important to remember that when you went to (or go to) school, you are not there to get indoctrinated, despite constant attempts to the contrary.

You are there to be engaged and to gain new knowledge about the world around you. You are there to learn how to participate and interact with other students. You are there to learn responsibility and realize the consequences of not meeting expectations, be them grades or assignments themselves. You are there to learn discipline, not to become a sheep ordered by a shepard with an iron fist, but a sense of respect for others, and those who are hired to teach you. You are ther to learn punctuality, when and where to be when it is requested of you, and again to realize the consequences of not meeting your part of the bargain.

You’re there to learn, not be given the answers.

Good is Good Enough

I saw an excellent quote on Google+ just yesterday that summed this up perfectly. I’ll paraphrase below:

1960s
Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s of that total. How much profit did he make, if any?

1970s
Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s or $80. How much profit did he make?

1980s
Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s or $80. Did he make a profit? Yes or No

1990s
Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s, or $80. This leaves $20 in profit. Underline the $20.

2000s+
Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, ignoring the environmental effects on surrounding wildlife and future effects on growth. It cost him 4/5s of that total, or $80 to do this, so all this destruction was for a measly $20. We will have a class discussion on the answer. (If you feel like crying, go ahead, it is ok.)

The last one may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is still made.  Education has only evolved in a technical aspect, new tools, new information, and new methods. The content, however, has been dumbed down. The mentality, that “everyone is a winner,” and that there are “no wrong answers,” has slowly crept its way into our educational systems.  This only artificially helps with graduation numbers, and looks great on paper. However, the number who graduate are less educated than those before them.

What this has led to is a plethora of “graduates” who have been given a diploma, not for success, or achievement, but for “trying.” These same students are then released onto an unsuspecting world, having been told “they are ready.” What exacerbates this problem, is that this happens not only at the grade school level, but into higher education as well.

We’ll get a little into my personal story here. I graduated high school, from a public school (having gone to public schools all my life), with honors, and had earned a scholarship to a local college. I had also been raised to push to be not only my best, but the best at what I do. It lead me to being disappointed in getting B’s on my report card, knowing good and well that a B was “good enough.” However, good enough, was not good enough for me.

This leads to the next problem that I see in today’s educational system. Parents.

Where teaching begins

Despite the fact that I may not agree with Ron Paul all that often, this quote really does make a lot of sense.

“Under the United States Constitution, the federal government has no authority to hold states “accountable” for their education performance…In the free society envisioned by the founders, schools are held accountable to parents, not federal bureaucrats.”
– Ron Paul

Home, it’s where the heart is. Not just the heart of the family, but the heart of morals, and the heart of learning. More and more, the education of children is moving towards that of the teacher and the school, and not with the parents. The responsibility has shifted from the home to the classroom. I’m not suggesting that all kids be homeschooled, but instead that when they come home from school the learning does not stop. I’m also not suggesting setting up lesson plans for the moment the kids get in the door, but for parents to actually become a part of their kids education, instead of just being the “parent or guardian” on a piece of paper alone.

My parents both worked full time while my brothers and I were in school.  In fact my dad was out of town a lot due to his job, but they were both involved with us, whether they had the time or not.  They also helped us set and stick to goals. Some goals may have seemed too high to achieve, but ever since I first read this quote, I have agreed with it.

“It’s better to aim high and miss, then to aim low and make it.”

When parent(s) start to get back into their kids lives, and not rely on the schools to do the work, we will have a more educated populace, no matter what policies go into place. There is a limit, however, to how involved a parent should get. I believe that even though kids may be young, and “easily molded,” they’re not stupid. I know that when I was a kid, I could often see through a lot of things. But a parent should be there as a foundation and someone that a student can come to with questions. They should also be there to encourage excellence, and ambition, as well as support there kids in case of failure. However, you learn from your mistakes and failures, and if you never had any, you have learned nothing at all.

The College Fallacy

College, that bastion of knowledge and learning…. pffffttt, hahaha, right.  I think Frank Zappa said it best:

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.”
– Frank Zappa

What was once a place for continued learning and a sanctuary to hone the concepts of critical thinking, is more often then not little more than “high school + more beer.” Unless you have a plan for your future, or even an inkling as to what  you want to do with your life, there isn’t a whole lot of reason for college. The general populace has been pulled into the illusion that a college education is this grand thing to have. To some extent, it is true if the plan is specialized and career-based, with a goal and future in mind. On the same hand, a discipline and focus on critical thinking, with less preaching and more teaching, would be beneficial via a college education.

However, on the other hand, book-smarts != smarts. Knowledge of a subject, and application of a subject are two completely different things. For example, I have yet to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, I’m about 3 or 4 classes away. So far, I have learned nothing more than what I had already learned on my own. I have actually helped teach one of the classes that I had, because I knew more, or at least as much, as the teacher did. Now, I’m not trying to brag, I am no genius, far from it, but when you put your focus into something, there are no excuses.

My current job is a perfect example of this. I do not yet have a degree, yet went from a third shift help desk call center position to a second level programming position, within 9 months. Why? Because I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and learn something on my own, and let my experience speak for me. I learned the program language being used over the course of about a month, on my own, with no college courses.

This leads to what I have seen a lot of in the workplace as of late.  Companies have slowly been indoctrinated into the same mentality that the populace has; that a degree is important, no matter the experience. I see former students, who have graduated with “Computer Science” degrees, filling programming and engineering positions, who know little more than how to make a webpage. Again leading to the comparison between knowledge and application.

In the end, there are pros and cons with a college education. Even those pros and cons have their own pros and cons associated with them. Maybe I’m jaded, but I feel that unless you actually have a plan for your future, or even a sketch of a blueprint, college is not going to help you.

I hope to go a little deeper into this subject in a later article, including the rising student debt bubble, and how it got to where it is.

I’ll conclude with this. Education is important, and an educated populace is the only defense against any enemy, be it internal or external. Ignorance is bliss, but only to those who don’t want to make something of themselves.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”
– Michel Legrand

Our [Mostly] Binary Nation

We have a problem in the US.  This isn’t about economics, or about social programs, or even about the issues.  It is about our party system, and how it affects our citizen’s mentality towards politics.

So many individuals view folks as either a Liberal Democrat, or Conservative Republican.  This viewpoint completely ignores any of the “gray” that lies between the two parties, not to mention the differing views within each of the parties themselves.  It has lead to a binary view, and a proliferation of idealogues on both sides.

In reality, however, there is far more complexity to our country, and some folks simply don’t want to see it.  It is not the Left or the Right, nor is it 180°; it is 360°, with maybe even a Z-axis tossed in there. Off the top of my head, I have put together just some of the different combinations available.

  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Social Democrat
  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative Democrat
  • Socially Conservative, Fiscally Conservative Democrat (ya, they exist)
  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Social Independant
  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative Independant
  • Socially Conservative, Fiscally Conservative Independant
  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Liberal Republican (ya, they exist)
  • Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative Republican
  • Socially Conservative, Fiscally Conservative Republican

These don’t even include the fact that the words Conservative and Liberal do not necessarily mean Republican or Democrat, respectively. In addition, it doesn’t even include Libertarians, or other much smaller parties (The Rent is Too Damn High Party is one of my favorites.) Sadly, though, this is not how the general public sees it.

This is due to a couple factors. Political rhetoric, and main stream media, or even worse, a combination of the two. I see skewed article titles that pull readers in, yet don’t actually get to a point until you read all the way through it. More often then not, the title is almost contradictory to the actual substance of the article.  This happens on both sides of the road; a great example of this is the polar opposites that are made up of MSNBC and Fox News. Both are part of the problem, just as other forms of media are. This, however, leads to a shift that is becoming ever more prevalent: citizen journalists.

Citizen Journalists: Pros & Cons

With the advent of more and more social techonology, more advanced phones and video recording equipment, and an increased intrest in getting the word out, citizen journalism has grown quickly. However, there are good and bad things about this.

Pros:

  • They’re everywhere.
  • They’re individuals (or small groups).
  • They’re not sponsored (bought).

Cons:

  • Not always trained.
  • Not vetted.
  • Do not always show the “whole story”. (Often out of context)
  • Often emotionally driven.
  • Often heavily bias.
  • Lacking in coordination with other citizen journalists (unless within a group).

Basically, there isn’t an easy method to see past the rhetoric, even with the advent of citizen journalists. They’re everywhere, often right in the middle of the action. However, being in the middle of the action often attributes to fierce emotions, and when often being emotionally driven, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Nearly all citizen journalists are also individuals (or small groups), and not large organizations, and more often then not haven’t been swayed by the all mighty dollar. However, they are also not vetted, or proven, and lack any background check or leave out evidence if it is inconvenient (much like main stream media). Because of this, it is easy for a citizen journalist to be bias. I myself am not going to say that I am truly unbias. I have my opinions, and more often then not will happily relay them in my posts. I will, however, take in other viewpoints. Lastly, they are loosely connected, if connected at all.  This creates cells of ideology and snippets of news that leave out the big picture, or skew a story simply because of the absence of major points.

The problem is, these cells of ideology eventually become public view, despite the whole story never being told.

What are the alternatives?

Well, the only thing left requires much more work. It requires a want, by the public, to see the whole story. A need to actually want to see both (or multiple) sides of a story instead of being surprised when some TV station does a special on the “rest of the story”. It requires the American public to become more active in their own wellbeing, instead of waiting to be told what to believe or trust in. It requires research, beyond just an article, to learn how something has likely been spun by the media.

This is not a left or right thing, not a Democrat or Republican thing.  It is an American thing, and something that we need to realize and change.

Welfare vs Entitlement

I have noticed a recent trend in post pertaining to Welfare, Food Stamps (SNAP), and other forms of social programs.  They have really gotten me thinking.  One especially, titled “My Time at Walmart: Why We need Serious Welfare Reform“, seemed to have exploded in the comment section, bringing out folks from all extremes.  Folks who berated the author for having no compassion, to those practically asking her to marry them they agreed so much, both sides tossing out Talking Points, with little to back them up; all the way to those, like me, who really enjoyed her article, and also understood that she was not generalizing all folks on Welfare as the “welfare queens” she mentions in her post.  In fact, she clears that up within the beginning of the second paragraph, though some seemed to have ignored it.  I believe that there is a sense of entitlement that will lead to fraud, and that those who understand where the assistance is coming from, and who is paying for it, will not feel they are entitled, and therefore not commit fraud.

I believe that there may be a few points could be elaborated in the article on her behalf (though she hasn’t asked, I’ll go ahead anyway).

The author made a great many good points, and in her defense, they were simply observations from when she worked at a Walmart in Scarborough, Maine.  She did not state once, that all folks on Food Stamps or Welfare did these things she describes, nor did she have a problem with Welfare or Food Stamps in general.  Yet the comment stream exploded to the contrary.  Derogatory remarks and assumptions abound.

So, I’ve decided to expand a bit upon her article.  I hope to provide my point of view. As a side note though, I would also like to highlight how much gullibility, hipocracy, ignorance, and lack of reading comprehension seem to perpetrate a lot of the political comments.  It doesn’t matter what side of the party line they come from, “Talking Points” have become a bane on the existance of political debate.  But that will come a bit later.

What is Welfare, and types of Fraud

Well, by definition, welfare is:

Welfare refers to a broad discourse which may hold certain implications regarding the provision of a minimal level of wellbeing and social support for all citizens without the stigma of charity. [1]

The term itself has become a very broad subject, and in the public view actually covers several different programs.  In the public’s collective mind, it would include TANF, SNAP, WIC, and even in some cases disability and unemployment insurance; however, in reality these are separate programs.  In addition, Welfare has been associated with poverty, though to be honest, welfare was designed to be a temporary stop gap, and “social safety net” to assist folks when times get really tough.

SNAP

An example of this is SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), originally known as Food Stamps. This program is available to individuals who may or may not have a job, but fall within a certain income range, therefore qualifying them for assistance.  Specifically assistance in purchasing food.  It is administered by the US Department of Agriculture, but each state makes the decision as to how it is distributed.

SNAP Fraud

There are a few experiences that the author of the beforementioned article made, including the use of SNAP funds to purchase goods for a business.  In this case, there was a gentleman who ran a Hot Dog stand, and would come into WalMart to buy a lot of hot dogs, hot dog buns, mustard, and ketchup, etc., and pay for them with his EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card.  Each time he would make small talk about her coming to visit his hot dog stand, even handing her a business card.  So, in this case, this man is using taxpayer funded SNAP money to run his “business,” in turn converting taxpayer money into straight cash.  This, is illegal, and according to some of the comments from the author herself, she did turn him in, as she should.

However, other forms of fraud are harder to see, as well as harder to judge.  Some of them are in direct violation of the regulations set with SNAP, and others are moral decisions made by those on the program.  Let me elaborate a little bit on that.  SNAP is meant to purchase the necessities, basic sustinance for you and/or your family.  That is great, and a very good way to help those who really are caught up in a rough time, and need a little help.  However, the “moral” cases are harder to really defend.  A lot of the comments on the article continue to term the author as judgemental for accusing the folks using SNAP funds to buy steak, lobster, and premade cakes, yet they seem to not realize that these are not necessities, but “luxuries,” yet some feel they are entitled to it, and use the excuse of “what do you think that I shouldn’t be allowed to eat steak?”  There are folks, who are just above the poverty line, working, paying taxes, yet just out of reach of SNAP assistance.  There are even folks beyond that, just making it month to month, comfortable enough to not stress every minute, but not able to just go out and buy anything either.  These folks aren’t able to buy steaks or lobster, or sometimes even premade cakes from a store, because they have other obligations (rent, insurance, utilities, etc., each not subsidized), and have to still feed their families without assistance.  The moral issue here, is should those who are using money, provided from taxpayer funds, be eating better than those who are paying the taxes funding the program?  I would say no, I would say that they should at the least eat the same.  It would provide a sense of responsibility, as well as less of a reason to stay on SNAP.

Now, to make the point now, there are those who do not commit fraud (moral and literal), and truly need the assistance.  Maybe a family whose primary breadwinner had just lost their job, or a recently divorced family, or a family with dependants with disabilities, and in turn the inability to work and earn an income.  These folks are the ones that the program was designed for, the ones who respect and appreciate what has been provided to them, and understand that the government isn’t giving them this assistance, the taxpayer is.

As an extra bit of information, WIC or “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children” somewhat falls under this category as well, however is far more regulated, and much harder to fraud.

TANF

This is what is known as the “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” by definition, it:

Provides cash assistance to indigent [suffering from extreme poverty] American families with dependent children through the United States Department of Health and Human Services.[2]

This program is meant as temporary aid to impoverished families with fewer restrictions on what the money can be speant on.  It is meant to provide not only financial assistance, but also help with job placement in order to not require assistance.  Some states have implemented shorter time frames, however as a basis, there is a limit of 60 months that an individual can be on TANF. In addition to the 60 month limit, some states also limit the “adult” portion of the assistance, still allowing assistance to the children in these families.  Lastly, unmarried minor parents have to live with a responsible adult or guardian, and the paternity of children must be establish in order to receive benefits.

Below is a list with a more specific view of the program:

The purposes of the TANF program as described in section 601 of the Social Security Act are as follows:

  1. provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
  2. end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
  3. prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
  4. encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

TANF sets forward the following work requirements necessary for benefits:

  1. Recipients (with few exceptions) must work as soon as they are job ready or no later than two years after coming on assistance.
  2. Single parents are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities 35 or 55 hours a week, depending upon circumstances.
  3. Failure to participate in work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of benefits to the family.
  4. States, in FY 2004, have to ensure that 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families are participating in work activities. If a state reduces its caseload, without restricting eligibility, it can receive a caseload reduction credit. This credit reduces the minimum participation rates the state must achieve.

It is much harder to find any fraud with this program, as it is also used by states to assist in child support payments that a recipient is unable to acquire directly from the other parent.  The two systems use the same method in order to provide child support payments as well as temporary assistance.  Some fraud exists, but is harder to prevent or report, without being considered judgemental or cold-hearted, since you really cannot determine what “funds” are being used.

What is Entitlement

Now that we’re past most of the specifics, here’s where this article gets to the point. An entitlement is an expectation, a “fact of having a right to something.”  To an extent this is what some welfare programs are viewed as.  However, in reality, only Social Security and Medicare can actually be considered entitlements, as you pay into that system while you work, eventually being able to reap the benefits, upon meeting the requirements.

Despite there being some need for the other programs, they are not entitlements, not “rights.” Some would argue that the “pursuit of happiness,” as stated in the Declaration of Independance:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The statement is direct and to the point, you are provided the unalienable right to a “Pursuit of Happiness.” Happiness is not guaranteed, and never was, but the opportunities to achieve it are there, and cannot be hindered.  However, should also not be provided at the cost of another’s happiness.

Happiness, in this case, is a bit vague.  What constitutes happiness?  Is it monetary, or physical? Is it something earned or acquired, or is it something given?  Opportunities lead to happiness; however, the government should not provide opportunities to some and not others (see “all men are created equal,” which I will get into a bit later as well), they cannot pick winners and losers. We are all born with opportunities.  Some more visible, and easily acquired, but still available to all.  There comes an air of jealousy and anger, and a belief that opportunities are not equal. All opportunities are equal, but the path to them may not be. In my personal opinion, happiness is not money, or status, or klout, but rather a personal sense of worth. A feeling that what you have done, or what you have accomplished means something, and in turn helps those around you, be it just your family, or everyone around you (mankind).

Success

The sky's the limit... but expect turbulance.

However, that is not believed by everyone. Many public schools now, teach/preach that anything is possible, and the sky is the limit!….. however, they decide not to include the caveats that the sky is pretty darn high, and it is going to take a lot of work to get there.  Some schools have even removed the “ability to fail” allowing kids to try as many times as possible to get it right, even removing wins and losses from schoolyard games, or removing dodgeball cause it can hurt someone’s “self-esteem.” I assume that these changes are made to more easily pave the path to “happiness.” In reality, it ill-prepares the current generation from what the real world is like.  To the right is one of my very favorite images.  It’s a bit old, but makes a ton of sense, and proves that the sky is the limit, but you can’t just coast to get there.

Over time, this pandering to self-esteem, besides removing some parenting duties from parents, has led to a different view of how the world should work. As the picture shows, you cannot leave high school, or even college and expect a $60,000 job with a company car.  That is something that is acquired via proving yourself and showing ambition and initiative. I myself started at minimum wage, and pushed myself to learn more, do more, and show more. Eventually finding other opportunities, leading to even more chances to prove myself. This push to do better, is what got me to where I am, and continues to “allow” me to move up and ahead in my job.

The doors of opportunity aren’t locked, but they may be a bit big for their frame… so you gotta push a little.

Outside of physical or mental disabilities, legally, all men are created equal. With determination, and willingness to make sacrifices, everything can be made possible.  But it’s not going to happen at the drop of a hat. As I said above, this new viewpoints leads people to feel entitled to start at 3rd base, instead of having to take a chance at failure while at bat.

However, going any more in depth on that subject will likely come on a later post.  For now, I think I’ve got my contrast of the two subjects in place.

Conclusion….?

As a final word, at least on the immediate subject, there is a difference between welfare and “entitlement.”  There are families that truly need help.  Loss of a job, loss of a family member, loss of ability, they all happen often with little notice.  Unless you are prepared, it can be a very rough road. These rough roads, the truly rough ones, are what the programs are designed for. 

However, there are still those who believe that, since it’s there, they are entitled to it.  Not because they need it, but because it’s available.  Not because they are on a rough road, but because they want to cruise a little easier, and expect someone else to foot the bill.  These are not the majority, but they exist.

What are your thoughts?

#We are the 41% – The sound that the OWS movement is really making to the rest of the 99% (Part 1)

Alrighty, time to throw my hat in the ring. It’s time for me to put a different point of view out there maybe against, a tiny bit with the #OccupyWallSt movement.

Who are the 1%

According to the “demands” this is a movement against the top 1%.  By definition, per IRS and census records that includes anybody making $516,633 as of 2010. Interestingly this does not only include those big ‘ol Wall Street execs or brokers, but also many more… here’s a little breakdown, brought to you by the wonderfully liberal blog Mother Jones.

Who are the 1%

Who are the 1% (according to Mother Jones)

31% This includes upper management (non-finance): this is not only within “big business”, but the other 95% of corporations around the US as well.

15.7% Medical: doctors who have spent 8-15 years on a single goal, spending as much if not more than the average American, simply to get educated in their field.

13.9% Financial professionals: who again, are not all those who took bailouts or bonuses.

8.4% Lawyers: though nobody likes lawyers :-P.

4.6% Computers/Technical/Engineering: again, a group of highly skilled focused employees or even employers, who have worked to get to where they were at as well.

4.3% Not working or Deceased (WTF?). I can only assume this includes estates and those who have retired and are living off their past investments.

4.2% Skilled Sales: though I have a disdain for salesmen, those that prove their worth are in the 1% as well.

3.8% Blue collar/service: since there was nothing describing what this meant, I can’t really comment.

3.2% Real Estate: ah, real estate, this can be split into a couple of different levels. First would be those who simply invest in real estate, which includes taking risks on investments in areas that just may not work out. The other in those who actually try to sell you the homes.  The latter, if doing enough sales, can really pull in a hefty sum, but it is dependent on the location [location, location] as well as the current economic environment.

3.0% Business Operations (non-finance): Again little information was provided to go along with the chart; however I will assume that this includes Executive Assistants, Project Leads, etc.  The income would also really be dependant on the company, and the area and field in which the company operates.

2.3% Entrepreneurs: This would include those taking risks in putting their faith in their product.  A product that in most cases they created themselves, and have a personal connection with, as well as a personal investment with.

1.8% Professors and Scientists: These are some dang highly paid professors, but if they have proven themselves, then power to ’em. Again, Scientists also have to prove their worth before reaching this kind of income, unless there are shady deals in play.

1.6% Arts, Media, Sports: I assume this includes actors, professional sports teams, news casters on major networks, etc. This is an interesting bracket, as you do have to prove your worth for the position, there are also limited resources for these fields, at least to meet the standards required.

0.9% Unknown: Ok… not sure where that works out, but I guess there’s need for wiggle room.

0.8% Government, Teachers, Social Services: This, again, is an interesting bracket. Considering that they are not paid by private companies, but rather yours an my tax money. I won’t discount the worth of some of them, but the fact that they show up in the 1% intrigues me.

0.5% Farmers & Ranchers: Hard working bunch, and if you have been successful in managing your farm (be it produce, or livestock), then you have all the right to earn a wage equal to your success.

0.2% Pilots: I never realized these guys made that much money, but I can almost guarantee that you have to have skill and do your job well to make it into this level of pay, cause you really can’t just sneak into this field.

Who are the 1%. Well, an interesting couple of things show up in nearly ALL of the positions presented above. Risk and Skill. In order to be part of the “1%” you have to be able to prove your worth, or take risks to make the money required to be in this bracket. An interesting thing that is not shown, is what percentage of the income that the 1% makes is distributed among these different positions.

Where it all began.

Now, I’m not going to just blatantly defend all these groups. For example, several of the big banks out there took advantage of the TARP bill passed during the Bush administration. This basically bailed out “failing” banks with money from our pockets. Some of these “failures” were due to the increase in defaults on home loans that began to occur in 2007.  However, this goes a bit further back as well.  During the Clinton administration, there was a push that “owning a home is part of the American Dream, and we need to push to put every American in a home of their own.” This was flawed, as in order for every American to own a home, they would also have to be able to pay for it. Well, to do this there was a push by the Clinton administration, as well as the democratic Senate and House later in 2006, to provide these low interest loans to anybody who wanted them. This is where the blame goes to the banks for providing the subprime ARM loans, “betting” against money that was not yet there, and selling them as “safe” to any who would believe them.  Now, the blame is not all theirs, though. I myself was not sold on these loans, in fact I was immediately skeptical, and this was outside of my hatred for ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages). However, not everybody did their research, nor did they pay attention to the fine print, and instead bought into it, hook-line-and-sinker.

I’m not going to say that people were just dumb… though some obviously made some terrible decisions. But the blame does not simply belong to the “money grubbing bankers,” but those who did not do the research needed for such a large and significant purchase decision. This leads us, though, to where we are now. We are currently in a financial crisis. Our country, has slowly grown into one of “credit”, and reliant on debt, to get what we want now, instead of when we can afford it. Not only has the populace become dependent on credit, but so have several companies. And since credit is scarce now, and demand is down, there has been a heavy drop in employment opportunities in simple fields, as well as an increase of overall unemployment.

Who is doing the “Occupying”

Now, the Occupy Wall Street crowd doesn’t seem to fit into this group entirely.  (See Parsing the Date and Ideology) This site parsed all the images on the “wearethe99percent” tumblr blog. It grabbed ages and words, and numbers, and all and created some interesting graphs.  What struck me the most is the fact that a majority of those posting images about their problems were, on average 29 years old. I got a bit of a chuckle. I myself am 29. I do not have a degree (yet, still working on it, but other priorities took precedence). I do have a job, one that I left a very comfortable job working for my dad right after high school to get. These individuals, however, had a heavy focus on “jobs”, “debt”, “work”, “college”, “pay”, and “student”, including just under 120 single instances pertaining to student loans.  This really rings a bell to me.  According to the parsed numbers, a large portion of those posting on the site are either fresh out of college, or a couple of years out of college. This also appears the case in most of the images from the protests themselves.  This doesn’t truly represent the “99%.”

This is why it strikes me that these folks are not only in it for a change in how (1) government works in terms of corporate donations, and (2) how those few who screwed folks over to get to the top need to be brought into the light, but also that they want their “just desserts,” cause it’s just not “fair.”  I agree that there needs to be some limitations on lobbying, and corporate donations towards campaigns.

[As an aside, I will agree that it was a mistake that the SCOTUS ruled that corporations can be considered “people.” This was done, however, for a couple of reasons. One reason was simply the fact that it prevented the government from having control over the corporations, yet almost on too much of an absolute scale. I agree that the government has no place in how a company is run outside of work environment regulations (OSHA), and the limited labor laws already in place. However, allowing them to be “people” this also opened up another door to allow corporations to provide increasing amounts of donations to candidates or parties (on both sides of the political line). This needs to be limited, if not removed completely.

However, removing lobbying completely is not the answer. An example of this that I like to use, is the concept of a company developing an awesome new product that could save the lives of thousands of soldiers.  In order for that company to get their name noticed, and their product recognized, they have to have somebody present it to those in Congress and the Pentagon.  This is where the lobbying should end though.  Once  you’ve got your product recognized, then that’s as far as the meetings go (until the product is actually chosen to be purchased, but that is not part of the lobbying realm anyway).  This goes for social products as well.]

Anyway, back to the subject. These folks are not really protesting the 1% cause they have all the money (cause they do not, though they do have a large portion of the nations wealth), but instead because they did not get “what they were promised.” It is another point that really strikes me.  Nothing is promised.  The Declaration of Independance provides the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It is what the US is based on, the ability and “guarantee” that you can live life, have liberty, and pursuit what you feel will provide happiness.  What it does not guarantee… the happiness itself. They are generalizing all of the 1% as those money grubbing sleazy bankers… though, yes they do exist, they are only a percentage of that 1% (a portion of the 13.9% in fact). They vilify the rich as hating the poor, and not wanting anybody to succeed, so that they can make more money. However, in reality, a majority of that 1% got there out of hard work, risk, sacrifice, and a grasp of how to have faith and appreciation in what they do.

There are those in the “We are the 99%” crowd at these protests, that are truly in trouble financially, out of no fault of their own; however, looking at the numbers, they are fairly scarce.  But we can’t truly identify that, as there is nothing backing up the stories and anecdotes that the protesters claim, instead we have to take them at face value, and not question them… cause if we question them, we’re just awful people, and 1% sympathizers.

The Rest of the 99%

I am a strong proponent that in order to get ahead in life, you can’t simply float along, and expect things to show up on your doorstep. Here is a little bit of history on my part. I am 29, married, with 2 kids. I currently have a nice home, not too big, and not too small, and also paid for on a fixed rate mortgage. It is the second home that my wife and I have owned since we were married. We both grew up working for everything we have. I have not yet finished my degree, as family came first, but when I was in college those first few years, I also worked to pay for it. The first year was paid for by a scholarship that I had acquired from applying myself to my studies, and graduating with honors, and in turn being recognized for it. I can imagine some folks saying that I was lucky, yet I will rebute that by saying that I also applied for the scholarship; I recognized an opportunity, and took advantage of it, not expecting it to just be handed to me because I did good in school.

After school, I went to college, working the entire time. In fact my first 1 or 2 years consisted of me getting up and either going to class or going to work (depending on the day of the week), and then upon completing either class or work, going back to class for an evening course.  It’s part of the sacrifice that I mentioned earlier. You can’t expect to move ahead without sacrificing something now, for something better later. I grew up with a love for computers (ever since I first played on my dad’s IBM 8088). So, after looking at the job field, and finding the niche that I wanted to specialize in, I went for a Computer Science degree. One problem though, computer science can only get you so far, so I began to learn some web programming on the side (on my own time), partially out of necessity, but also out of a growing enjoyment in it.

I won’t say that I didn’t have any fortunate opportunities though. I had several other options in work; however chose to help my dad out in his company (that he had created along with one of his fellow teachers).  This did provide a very open area for growth; though, I still had to work hard, and meet deadlines, and follow the rules, I was also able to work on expanding my knowledge base. I did not work there forever though.  In fact I gave up that very comfortable job, and took a risk in a new field, getting my foot in the door of an engineering company. I didn’t start part way up the ladder either.  Instead I started on 3rd shift call center help desk.  Not the most glamourous position, but it did get me in the door.  I also didn’t simply do what my “job description” said I was to do, I also pushed outside of that comfort zone into other areas, eventually getting my name, and in turn my resume, noticed by some of the upper management.  It then lead, after only 9 months, into me getting in to the web programming position I am in now.

This is where I am now.  My wife and I had started our family, and instead of spending my time in class, I decided that it would be more beneficial to me and my family to work and “bring home the bacon,” than to finish classes that I simply could finish later, once we had settled in.

The rest of the 99% who are not at these protests do not necessarily all agree with the protest crowd. In fact a lot of us are at work trying to make ends meet, or trying to get ahead via hard work and determination.

Conclusion of Part 1

For now, this is going to be a bit open ended. I hope to get a bit further into the subject in Part 2, including where jobs come from , and starting at the bottom.

I’d like to leave you with this quote:

The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.
– Benjamin Franklin