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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: A Generation Of 20-Somethings Airs Its Grievances, Its Frustrations

Since GWB, all we have heard is the mantra that the US worker needs to be retrained for the future decades of new type jobs. So, if this is the case, then stop allowing universities and colleges from educating young people in degree programs that have become irrelevant. Or, bring the jobs back home and allow Americans to those jobs once again!! Or, end the Wall Street fraud of social -financial -sector- welfare free-for-all-the-elite type of arrangement! End this disconnect!!! This has become a fraud against the working classes.

From Huffington Post and Amanda M. Fairbanks 12-7-11

NEW YORK -- Since graduating a year and a half ago from the Rhode Island School of Design, Nate Barchus hasn't shaken a nagging feeling: that he's aimless.
During college, the 23-year-old illustration major had grown accustomed to feeling like a productive member of society. But ever since Barchus got his college degree, prospective employers have told him that his credentials either overqualified or underqualified him for nearly every position he coveted.
Earlier this fall, he relocated to Brooklyn from Winston-Salem, N.C., hoping that a new and larger city might offer better opportunities. But when that plan fell through, the self-described "overeducated and underemployed" Barchus packed up his belongings, and moved off his friend's couch and into lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.
"I came here for a job search and was so demoralized by the lack of meaningful jobs that I figured this was a more valuable use of my time," says Barchus, standing in the middle of Zuccotti Park in early November. "Here I am utilizing all of my skills, which is more than I could say about any job I could possibly land right now."
Prior to the early morning raid in mid-November, when the New York Police Department evicted thousands of protesters from Zuccotti Park, Barchus had been living there for six weeks.
By day, he worked as a librarian who tended to the Occupy Wall Street's library of about 5,000 donated books. By night, he participated as a facilitator of the LGBTQ caucus, acclimated to the challenges of living outdoors, and shared a tent with the five other librarians.
Barchus says he can relate to the struggles facing many of his peers. Unable to find work, he is also on the hook for about $25,000 in student loan debt.
"Our futures are on the line because of this overwhelming debt," says Barchus. "Our entire generation is behind the curve and it's been unbelievably devastating."
Barchus sees the physical occupation stage of the Occupy Wall Street movement as particularly appealing to many 20-somethings because it represents a tangible space for activism -- one that many in his generation have read about in history books but had yet to experience firsthand.
"Because we are disproportionately unemployed and a lot of us are sort of wandering around, it was great to have those spaces to bring us together," says Barchus. "Finally, we had a space to talk about what our generation is capable of doing, what our obstacles are, and learning to really find solace in knowing that we aren't alone in the struggles we face each day."
Over the past few months, 20-somethings from around the country have flocked to the Occupy Wall Street movement in droves and have found an outlet for their growing frustrations.
In particular, many current students and recent graduates are enraged over the increasing cost of tuition and rising amounts of student loan debt -- not to mention a dearth of decent job prospects for many of their well-educated and well-credentialed classmates.
According to the "State of Young America," a national poll released in mid-November, young Americans are growing increasingly unsure that they can attain the American Dream. Further, nearly half believe that their generation will be worse off than their parent's generation.
While a majority of the 872 18-to-34-year-olds surveyed still perceived a college degree as a vital pathway to success, many simultaneously reported feeling strapped by the rising cost of college.
In November, the Institute for College Access and Success, an Oakland, Calif.-based non-profit, released its annual report looking at average debt loads. Amid a difficult job market, it found that 2010 graduates owed an average of $25,250 -- with many in their generation struggling to pay off far more.
Though many 20-somethings embarked on their dream of a college education when a decent-paying job was virtually a guaranteed part of the package, the rules have changed, and a new generation is learning to readjust its expectations.
The morning of the Zuccotti Park raid, Barchus had been getting ready to close up the library when massive floodlights suddenly beamed down on the tree-lined park as hundreds of police in riot gear lined its perimeter.
Along with many of his fellow protesters, Barchus gravitated toward the center of the park to lock arms. But rather than face arrest, he moved on to Foley Square just as the sun came up.
Barchus believes the Occupy Movement has the potential to continue, but he returned to Winston-Salem just before Thanksgiving and has now resumed his job search. He's also participating in local activism by helping to conduct facilitation training for Occupy Winston-Salem. Meanwhile, he's also weighing whether to apply to graduate school in public policy. Eventually, he plans to seek public office and advocate on behalf of the 99 percent.
He credits the Occupy movement with revivifying his passion and refocusing his ambition. While he says he does his best to tune out his mother's relentless chorus of "get a job, get a job," Barchus sees a potentially larger victory at stake.
"I think I'll always look back on this and wonder what might have happened had this movement not existed during this very crucial period in my life," says Barchus, who plans to enroll in graduate school if he can stomach the possibility of taking on more debt in order to finish. "In all honesty, it really brought me back to where I needed to be."
Occupy Wall Street first swept up Christy Thornton on a balmy Wednesday afternoon in October when she walked out of class at New York University to meet up with thousands of fellow college students in Washington Square Park.
From there, the group moved south on Lafayette Street and later linked up with tens of thousands of other Occupy supporters in Foley Square. The crowd continued snaking its way farther south, ultimately ending up in Zuccotti Park.
Later that night, surrounded by thousands of like-minded protesters, Thornton was hooked.
A 31-year-old Ph.D. student, she had watched the first rumblings of the movement from the sidelines -- by reading blogs and news stories or by scanning friends' Facebook and Twitter feeds.
But after helping to organize NYU's first student-led walkout and illegally marching down the middle of Lafayette Street and ignoring law enforcement officials along the way, Thornton says she forged a deep and abiding commitment to the burgeoning movement.
"At first, I'll admit it, I was skeptical. I didn't think it was possible for this to happen and I didn't know whether very many students would get behind it," she says. "But it was really empowering to be out there that afternoon and first take the street -- to feel that you could actually be a part of helping to change the parameter of political possibility in this country. It was addictive."
Thornton can also relate to the suffocating effects of onerous debt and looming joblessness.
All told, she says she took out about $35,000 in student loans in order to finance her undergraduate and graduate education. She still has about $20,000 left to pay off.
Thornton grew up in a one-parent working class home in rural New Hampshire. As a young child, her mother's meager salary as a restaurant line cook qualified the family for public assistance. Later on, her mother's job as a prison guard provided access to a pension and health insurance.
After high school, Thornton moved to New York to attend Barnard College. She also earned a master's degree from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. She's the first in her immediate family to graduate from college, let alone graduate school.
In the two months since participating in her first protest, hardly a day goes by when Thornton isn't engaged in some form of Occupy organizing -- whether planning for an upcoming demonstration, organizing teach-ins as part of the People's University in Washington Square Park, or participating in a working group focused on issues related to higher education and student debt.
"We feel compelled because we're here and Wall Street is here," says Thornton. During a recent three-week stretch, she says she attended an Occupy-related meeting every single day. "It's really inspiring and definitely tiring, but it's still really exciting. Zuccotti Park or not, it's about conceiving of Wall Street as an idea and not a location."
Earlier this fall, Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Fordham University, wanted to get a handle on who, exactly, had occupied Zuccotti Park. Of the 301 individuals included in a study he conducted, roughly half were between the ages of 18 to 29 years old. Among the rest of the sample, the average age was 34. Panagopoulos found the group remarkably well-educated, with 47 percent having either a four-year degree or a post-graduate degree.
But however educated and engaged the protesters might be, it's unclear how much traction the demonstrations will have going forward. Doug McAdam, a sociology professor at Stanford University, places equal importance on the movement's historical context and unique position in time.
McAdam previously studied young people who participated in Freedom Summer -- the 10-week period in 1964 when civil rights activists, many of them college students, traveled to Mississippi to register black voters. As a result, an overwhelming majority came away from the experience as more politically engaged members of society. McAdam found that it wasn't simply activism alone that mattered to these people. Just as crucial, their participation intersected with the beginning of sixties-era radicalism.
McAdam sees some parallels for Occupy activists now.
"In my lifetime, I can't remember there being a period that seems as ripe for a movement as the present moment," he says. "In many ways, this particular moment looks a lot like a Freedom Summer moment."
But unlike the sixties, when youth activism followed 15 years of unprecedented post-World War II productivity and broad-based income growth, the current environment, McAdam says, is one in which many young people are still content to watch from the sidelines. As the Occupy movement morphs from the physical encampment phase into whatever its next iteration will be, some of its youngest sympathizers are paying close attention to who picks up the mantle, according to more than a dozen young activists interviewed.
"For students, it won't have a long-term impact simply because they went to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration a few times, but because it began a process that carried them in the way that Freedom Summer started a process for the Mississippi volunteers," says McAdam.
Despite the potential for social upheaval, many young people have yet to feel empowered, according to McAdam's observations. "They're watching this unfold and hoping it can develop," he says. "But they're burdened by their own lives and their own fears about the unpredictability of their own futures."
Mikaila Arthur, a professor of sociology at Rhode Island College, recently wrote "Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education." It's about youth activism on college campuses. She sees potentially longer-term implications for some of the student participants in the Occupy movement.
"In some ways, this involvement is helping them to crystallize the notion of the lives they want to live," says Arthur. "It's giving them a chance to question whether maybe life isn't so much about following in the path of a career and a suburban house, but finding a new way to live that enables them to express their values."
When it comes to actionable next steps, the Occupy Student Debt campaign is as clear as any of the demands put forth by the student backers of the Occupy movement.
The debt campaign urges borrowers to begin defaulting on their student loan payments after one million individuals have made a similar pledge. Since going live just over two weeks ago, 2,345 individuals and counting have signed the debtors' pledge.
"Since the first days of the Occupy movement, the agony of student debt has been a constant refrain," Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU, told a crowd gathered in Zuccotti Park in late November.
Ross, a member of the Occupy Wall Street education and empowerment working group, sees his salary as inextricably linked to debt loads hanging like albatrosses around the necks of many of his young students. He thinks the Occupy movement helped shape students' concerns about their debt and encouraged them to speak up about it.
For the time being, Thornton and many other organizers are focused on keeping the momentum alive so that it might survive the winter. She says she envisions public and private college students rallying to make continued linkages between rising tuition, student debt and joblessness.
At the rally in Washington Square Park rally in early November, Thornton stood alongside many of her public and private college peers who had also walked out of class to join a citywide protest. Over and over again, to anyone who would stop and listen, the group called out: "Students and workers, shut the city down."
In New York, the student-led portion of the Occupy Wall Street movement began earlier this summer, when students at public colleges began protesting the increasing cost of tuition. As part of a group called New York Students Rising, student activists at the City University of New York and the State University of New York planned a system-wide walkout on Oct. 5.
Word quickly spread to other schools and other cities. In New York, students from the New School, Columbia University and New York University joined the walkout. Almost overnight, a Los Angeles-based grassroots group called Occupy Colleges sprung up. Its aim: to get as many schools in other parts of the country to similarly show their support by walking out of class.
Over the course of the last two months, Occupy Colleges has organized periodic acts of protest as a way of showing solidarity, with students at various campuses coordinating walkouts and teach-ins -- and with student activists now spearheading physical occupations at nearly a dozen college campuses.
Whether protesting $300 annual increases in tuition at Baruch College, a public school, or $50,000 per year debt loads at nearby New York University, a private school, the increasing cost of college is an issue on which public and private college students have found common ground.
At Occidental College in Los Angeles, Guido Girgenti, a 19-year-old sophomore, spent much of the fall helping to organize acts of solidarity in alliance with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"This is the movement we've been waiting for," says Girgenti, who grew up in a middle-class home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and chose Occidental after it offered him the most attractive financial aid package.
Despite his relative privilege, Girgenti sees the basic standards of middle-class life -- like owning a house or sending his own children to an elite university -- as less and less of a given. Although he attends a private university, Girgenti feels strongly allied with many of his peers attending nearby public colleges.
"Like myself, a large portion of middle-class private university students are now seeing that their self-interest is deeply entwined with the self-interest of working-class students at public universities and community colleges," he says. "The community college student working two jobs in order to get by is no different than the private college student amassing tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt in order to graduate."
Girgenti said he thinks the future of the student-led movement hinges upon the acceptance of a shared vision and destiny, especially during a time when many share a collective generational anxiety about the world they're about to inherit.
In addition to helping organize events on campus, Girgenti says he regularly participated in Occupy Los Angeles, until the eviction of protesters last week. Every Saturday, students from eight public and private colleges would gather at City Hall in downtown L.A. to hold cross-campus assemblies. Talk of rising tuition and debt loads frequently ruled the day.
The vision, according to Girgenti, is for the cross-campus network in L.A. to morph into a regional one that eventually expands into a national network. The immediate challenge is to find a new public space where students can continue to meet and organize.
"If we're really going to build a national movement, we have to continue building a coalition of private and public college students to help restore our democracy," says Girgenti, who, in future years, wants to become a full-time, professional organizer. "Students are the ones who are going to push the envelope to do what's right. We're at a stage in our lives where we can take time off to get arrested during acts of civil disobedience, to go to marches, to have the courage and conviction to participate wholeheartedly in this movement."

Occupy Homes and Occupy DC

Here are excerpts from Full story here.

Occupy Movement … Stronger than Ever?

OWS: Down, But Not Out …

While some might assume that the Occupy movement is dead – given that scenes of large protests have been absent from the news recently – but the truth is quite different.
As Zero Hedge notes today:
The city of Cleveland has passed a resolution endorsing the Occupy movement, calling on congress to reform financial regulations, and to prosecute the big banks. The vote passed 18-1. Other cities have passed similar resolutions.

Here is Cleveland City's resolution: 
(C OF C 125-174
Resolution No. 1720-11
Council Members Cummins, Westbrook,Zone, Cimperman, Cleveland, Mitchell,J. Johnson, Brancatelli, Brady, Polensek,Pruitt, Conwell, K. Johnson, Dow.FOR ADOPTIONDecember 5, 2012
Recognizing and supporting the principles of theOccupy Movement and the peaceful and lawful xercise of the First Amendment as a cherished andfundamental right in the effort to seek solutions for economically distressed Americans at the federal,state and local levels; committing to work with the Jackson administration to take steps to minimize economic insecurity and destructive disparities in theCity of Cleveland; and requesting our County, Stateand U.S. elected leaders generate solutions for economically distressed Americans.) 

(Seattle Joins Los Angeles, San Francisco and Buffalo In Supporting Occupy Protests

The Seattle Times reports today:
The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution in support of Occupy Seattle that calls on the city to examine its banking and investment practices, home-foreclosure patterns and the financing of local elections.)

Richard Eskow writes:

Widespread criminality … created the Wall Street mortgage boom and led to our ongoing financial crisis. [There is] overwhelming evidence of illegal activity on the part of big banks, [yet] none of those banks’ executives have been prosecuted.
As ugly as the situation is, there is some logic behind the government’s actions — and its inactions. They’re acting on a tragically incorrect (but internally coherent) set of assumptions that can be summed up in one sentence. It goes something like this:
“To preserve the health of the American economy, banks must be allowed to keep preying on their consumers.”
That’s it. That’s the logic.
But there are two exciting ‘Occupy’ developments this week that could change the equation — ‘Take Back the Capitol’ in the District of Columbia, and Tuesday’s ‘Occupy Our Homes’ events around the country. Think of them as complementary actions: One is taking place at the site of our greatest government power. The other is bringing the action to homes where people have been victimized by bankers.
The thinking goes something like this: Our largest banks are too big to fail, and since we lack the will or the motivation to break them up or regulate them we must protect them at all costs. We’ve propped them up with TARP, quantitative easing, and $7.7 trillion in secret Federal Reserve loans, but they’re still shaky as hell. If we prosecute any of their executives, their stock prices will fall and they’ll collapse again. And they’ll take the entire economic system with them.
That leads to some grotesque miscarriages of justice. Nobody at Wells Fargo has been indicted for money laundering, for example, despite the fact that the bank has paid millions to settle charges of laundering cash for the Mexican drug cartels that have murdered more than 35,000 people. As an experienced bank investigator working for the Senate observed, “There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure.”
Some powerful folks are afraid the banks will fail if they’re forced to write off the bad loans on their books, or to stop profiting from loans sold deceptively or irresponsibly.
TARP may be over, but there’s another massive bank rescue going on. Who’s funding it? We are. Every time we pay a usurious interest fee on a credit card, we’re propping up the banks. Every time we make another month’s payment on an underwater mortgage, we’re propping them up too. Every time we pay an overpriced consumer loan of any kind, we’re making another payment into the consumer-funded bailout that’s keeping the big banks afloat.
It would be great if politicians in Washington stopped using American consumers to subsidize banks that shouldn’t even exist. But they haven’t. That’s where “Occupy Our Homes” comes in.
It’s also a day for helping people in our communities who have been victimized by predatory lending, criminal bank forgery, unfair or illegal foreclosure practices, and other bank abuses that victimize the public. Occupy Minnesota has already occupied an illegally-foreclosed home, and plans to do the same thing with another home tomorrow. Here in Los Angeles, where an inspiring victory has already taken place, OccupyLA will help two brave families re-occupy their illegally foreclosed homes.
What will happen if consumers stopped blaming themselves? What if they demanded that the banks take responsibility for their irresponsible and/or predatory lending? What if they refused to stop this country’s perverse economic role reversal, where customers have become the ATMs while banks keep making the withdrawals?
If 10% of America’s homeowners declared a mortgage strike it would rock the banking world. If everybody paying exorbitant credit card interest declared a moratorium on payments all at once, Wall Street would change forever.
Think about it: “Occupy ALL Our Homes.” “Occupy Our Credit Cards … Our Payday Loans … Our Buy-and-Drive Loans …” I’m not saying these are necessarily the right tactics, although they very well may be. But what’s most important is that we understand that consumers have far more power than we usually realize – provided we act together.
Many of Washington’s leaders will cringe at the thought, of course. “That could hurt our biggest banks,” they say. It would be tempting to reply, You say that like it’s a bad thing. Here’s a better response: Then start planning to break them up in an orderly fashion. We’re done living a life of indentured servitude just so we can subsidize their greed.
Those are the discussions that we should be having. If powerful people on Wall Street and in Washington aren’t worried about Occupy Our Homes , they’re not paying attention. But with any luck, they soon will.
(If you are understandably squeamish about deadbeats not honoring their debts, please read this.)
Occupy is also attempting to shut down all West Coast ports on December 12th.
Occupy protesters have started to arrive in Washington, D.C. to protest political corruption, and are aiming for one million tents set up by January 17th.
A top Republican strategist – and the world’s top expert on framing mainstream Republican ideas in language which persuades people, Frank Luntz – said (via Think Progress):
Luntz told attendees that he’s “scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” The pollster warned that the movement is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.” So the pollster offered some advice for them about how to fight back. Here’s a few snippets of what he said [:]
Luntz instructed attendees to tell protesters that they “get it”: “First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
(The other top framing expert – George Lakoff, a liberal – supports OWS.)
And Democrats are feeling the anger of the Occupy protesters as well, given their complicity in selling out the people to benefit the big banks and support for police state tactics against the American people.
While police have resorted to brutal military tactics to try to shut down the protests, such tactics have drawn world-wide condemnation, including condemnation from the United Nationsformer police chiefs (and see this), and the inventor of pepper spray.
And do you know how the police have denied protesters the use of megaphones as a way to try to silence them (hence the famous “Human Mic”)? There’s a new iPhone App the ‘Inhuman Microphone’which circumvents the megaphone ban by unifying all the smart phone speakers into one voice.
So Occupy is down, but not out … and arguably growing stronger than ever.
While the general media may be ignoring the latest peculiar twist on the “Occupy” theme, or in this case the ““, Bank of America is taking it quote seriously. As a reminder, “Tuesday, December 6th is the National Day of Action to stop and reverse foreclosures.
The Occupy Homes movement is holding actions around the country in support of homeowners and people fighting to have a home. Find an event near you and join in our day of action tomorrow!. There are actions happening in over 20 cities nationwide. Events are taking place in Brooklyn, Buffalo and Rochester New York; Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Petaluma, Sacramento, Paradise and Contra Costa California; Lake Worth, Florida; Atlanta, Fayetteville, and DeKalb Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Bloomington, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Detroit and Southgate Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.” And if you have not heard about today’s protest on the conventional media that is understandable: as BAC says internally, this event “could impact our industry.” ........
here is more from This is why we have Occupy Wall Street--

60 Minutes: Fraud Caused Financial Meltdown, But There Have Been No Prosecutions