The Power Of Carefully-Inculcated Ignorance

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and listening to folks discussing the #Occupy mobs (listening to them directly is pretty pointless; they’re remarkably incoherent), and I think I’ve found their unifying principle, their core belief that motivates the rest of their actions: Income inequality. This is their mantra, that the disparity between the income levels of the richest and poorest is a great social injustice that the government must step in and correct it.

 

And damn if ol’ agnostic me finds that religion, once again, saw this coming and warned us. Among the seven deadly sins is Envy.

 

The message isn’t “I don’t have enough,” it’s “they have more, and that’s too much.”

 

Compare them once again to the Tea Party movement. The core message there: “the government is taking too much from us.” The #Occupy rabble? “The government needs to take more from them, and give it so us.”

I’ve said before that I think I lack the “envy” gene. (Don’t worry, I more than make up for it in other areas. Going back to the seven deadly sins, I got my own share of wrath, lust, sloth, and gluttony, with occasional flashes of pride. Envy and greed, I’m good on.) But when someone asks the question “how are you doing,” in relations to finances or other matters, my first answer is never “not as good as so-and-so.”

 

Income inequality is a core aspect of our capitalist system. As the entirely-too-quotable Winston Churchill once put it, “Capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth; Socialism is the equal distribution of poverty.” But what a lot of critics miss in that is that wealth, in a capitalist system, moves. It is constantly moving. And people can, to a large degree, influence how it moves in relation to themselves.

 

I look at some of the #occupy twits and I wonder how the hell such highly-educated people (in many cases) can be so stupid — and it can’t all be the fault of our higher education system. Take, for example, the student at Vermont Law School I discovered a little while ago. He’s getting about $150,000 in debt to get a degree in environmental law so he can work at a non-profit environmental organization.

 

Yes, it’s unfair to talk about him specifically, as we don’t know his full story and don’t know how much of that education is covered by grants and scholarships and whatnot (gotcha, JH!), but the aspects of his story are general enough that they do cover a lot of those people involved or supporting the #Occupy mobs. They ran up huge student loan debts to pursue degrees that offer them almost no chance at earning a good enough living to pay those back within decades. I have no clue what a lawyer for an environmental non-profit makes, but I’d be willing to wager that it doesn’t go very far towards retiring a $130,000 debt.

 

Hang on, I think I’m about to lurch off in a wildly different direction, as a throwaway line just came back and blew up in my face.

 

I look at some of the #occupy twits and I wonder how the hell such highly-educated people (in many cases) can be so stupid — and it can’t all be the fault of our higher education system.

 

Actually, maybe it can.

 

Let me talk this out. The huge student debts people pile up is to get their education. We’ve poured a shitload of money into higher education over the past 50 years or so, and encouraged everyone and their cousin to get a college degree. Here’s where basic economics kicks in: as the demand increases for something, especially when faster than the supply, the cost goes up. And the cost of a college education has gone up astronomically over those decades, far in advance of inflation or any other rational factor.

 

As the demand increases, so does supply — but also competition. With the increased funding for college educations, through loans, grants, and other programs, the schools have gotten more and more competitive for students. Again, entirely natural.

 

But one factor that has NOT kicked in anywhere near as strongly has been cost. Colleges simply don’t compete on cost. They don’t brag about how they charge less than other schools.

 

And that is because the students don’t consider cost as strongly as they should. They are enticed to apply for grants, take out loans, or do whatever they can to get the best education they can. The end result is to get the student to not consider the cost anywhere near as much as they should, because the costs are initially picked up by others — banks, the government, family, whatever. Those costs won’t come back to the student for years.

 

In that light, it’s in the schools’ best interests to NOT give the students a solid grounding in fundamental economics, because that could cut the schools off from the cash cows. If for one instant Mr. Save The Earth In Court actually sits down and says “I’m going to be spending seven years of my life and running up about $100,000 in debt for a job that will pay me maybe $41,000 a year for starters. How the hell will I get over that and have a good living?,” then the schools are screwed.

 

It’s the same thing with health care costs. The more you separate the final consumer of the good or service from the actual cost of said good or service, the less that consumer cares about the cost. At least, in the case of health care, there are insurance agencies who are concerned about the bottom line. With higher education, pretty much no one worries about it. The student? They aren’t thinking that far ahead, and the schools make a point of NOT encouraging them to do so. The schools are the recipients of the money, so they have an interest in NOT thinking about it. The banks are getting less and less involved, as Obama has pretty much federalized the student loan business, and they know the government will suck it up anyway. And the federal government sees the students as voters, and wants to keep them dumb and happy and appreciative of the federal government that helped them get their wonderful education.

 

So that’s how you end up with many of the #Occupy mob. They have been set up, and they don’t like it. But they simply don’t understand who put them in that trap, who profits by their entrapment, and who has a vested interest in keeping them trapped. Instead, they only see that others aren’t trapped, that others have more, and that fuels their fury.

 

 

The Jerry Sandusky Grand Jury presentation
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  • Anonymous

    I’m not so concerned with the law students who say they want to get a job with a nonprofit (good resume builder, but it seldom lasts past the time their car breaks down and they can’t afford to fix it).

    The ones to think about are the art students and the other majors that give you four years of education on how NOT to do what you’re studying.  Teaching artists how everyone else did it is fine (to a point), but there’s a strong habit on most liberal arts programs towards “do it like this guy did it or you fail!”  That way, you get a whole lot of people whose only skill is to copy whichever artist their faculty adviser wrote their thesis on, with any signs of creativity beaten into a pulp.  

    The same goes for literature, and, to a certain degree, music.

    You end up with a whole lot of people who had all of the creativity beaten out of them, who are blindly convinced that they’re “original” when they make something that looks like an early Picasso with the color palette shifted 90 degrees.  Or who write a “great novel” which is nothing but a recital of  their first year out of college, with the people turned into iguanas.

    I know a lot of people with degrees in art, theater, or literature.  Aside from the ones who went into teaching, the rest are either unemployed or in fields that have nothing to do with their degree – and most don’t even practice their specialty as a hobby.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, Cirby, that kind of thing — lack of true originality — is not entirely bad.  There’s an entire realm of work for people who are creative, but not too creative, but who can provide workmanlike work that is of solid, even high, quality.  It’s called commercial work.  It’s hard work and probably not as personally rewarding as doing art for art’s sake, but it is profitable.  

      I’m not denigrating (too much) working for a profit, but there’s an entire group of folks — writers,  graphic artists,  TV producers, photographers, and so forth — who earn a good living by taking pictures of other people’s houses and weddings and/or writing songs about the virtues of dishsoap.

      • Anonymous

        …and those people should be able to get by with a high school diploma and a semester or two of junior college at $500/semester.

        • Anonymous

          Except for a couple things, Cirby.  

          First, most employers won’t look at you these days unless you have a bachelor’s degree.  And, yeah, I’ll agree with you that the employment market is royally screwed up when the de facto price of admission is about $20k in debt.  But there it is.
          Second, even if you’re going to do a commercial career, a collegiate program can give you a solid grounding in fundamentals of your art — the use of light and shadow in a painting, or how to use the latest and greatest graphic-design software.  

          When I did my undergraduate degree, I had two entire courses devoted to how to use a video editor; these courses focused no just on the technical aspects of how to lay down video, but also on all the little rules a video editor needs to follow about not breaking the plane and so forth.  Those sorts of things are a LOT more complex than you think, and, for whatever reason, neither employers nor clients want to foot the bill for training these folks in the basics of their craft.

          • Anonymous

            Actually, most employers nowadays are looking for people with good records, and only ask for degrees in positions that NEED a certain kind of education.  Most jobs, as always, don’t need degrees.

            Your justifications for “needing” a college degree come from… the people who have the most interest in convincing you to go to their college and pay them money for one.

            A funny thing: I happen to have a degree in Radio/TV/Film, and work in that field, so your comment about “a LOT more complex than you think” is, basically, pretentious nonsense.  Nobody has ever – EVER – asked if I had a four year degree of any sort, and almost everyone is surprised when they meet someone who actually has one.

            I got my first job in the field because I knew how to fix equipment, and learned everything else on the job or on my own time.  Video editing is a very specialized field (yes, I do that too, along with camera, and all the rest).  Not that many people (comparatively) work in it, so a degree might be useful – but the vast majority of people in the field are, at best, college dropouts, with quite a few high-paying folks I know who are high school dropouts who went into the field before they could even vote.

          • Anonymous

            Cirby:

            I apologize for assuming you knew little about TV and video production. I was not a video/TV specialist, but I picked up very minor skills there (on a linear editor, natch!) as part of my undergraduate degree. Still my statement is not as much “pretentious nonsense” as it seems. I’ve seen any number of of folks from outside a particular specialty assume there’s no particular type of skill or work involved in what others do. I used to be a copy editor and page designer at daily newspapers. People from other departments would say “What do you people do all night?” Apparently, they assumed that tiny little elves would lay out the newspaper.

            Before I went to graduate school (for a field where it’s absolutely required), I interacted a *lot *with graphic artists, journalists, copywriters, and designers. Obviously, their professional portfolios were their most valuable assets. But even with those portfolios, to a T, they reported to me tha they would not be able to get their feet in respective doors without having their four-year undergraduate degrees. Indeed, advertisements would say “X years of experience, plus a college degree,” or “Y years of experience and a college degree.”

            All of that said, I should point out that for these folks, their college degrees were often not true liberal-arts degrees at all. Rather, their study of film, graphic design, writing, or what have you was of a much more
            practical bent — essentially four years of what amounted to advanced
            vocational training, with just enough history and theory to justify a “BA”
            designation. And their vocational work transformed into their earliest
            work portfolios.

            I’ve discussed arts degrees with folks on here before, and one thing that
            emerged was that for a number of artistic majors, pursuing an art degree
            was simply a way to better perfect skills they had honed since they were
            young children through practice practice practice and the occasional gig.
            Graduating college simply meant that they were professional members of
            their local arts communities. They benefited from schooling mainly because
            it gave them a way to put that final shine on their abilities in an
            environment where they risked poor grades, rather than penury, for not
            performing perfectly.

          • retired.military

            The military is always hiring.  No college required.  Free health care, free food and boarding.  Even free clothes.

          • Anonymous

            If we’re talking about ordinary job-seekers, fine.  But from what I’ve seen, if the military takes in the average #occupy protester, I would seriously question the military’s hiring standards.  

    • retired.military

      The only degrees which the govt should have any part in funding are doctors and nurses.  Nohting else gets a federal dime.  Make certain courses in math( calculas, and advanced math not basic math they need to learn that shit in high school), science (chemistry, biology physics, not global warming or studying the mating habits of tsetse fly), and writing (f*ck englist lit and poetry etc) should have their costs 100% tax deductible.   Everything else if you want to take than you pay for.  That 150k degree in basketweaving comes out your pocket and not mine.

  • You root cause analysis for #occupier motivation is well supported by the conversation I had with one yesterday.  She is the daughter of a clergyman and lives in a comfortable northern Virginia suburb.  When I made a crack about her maybe living in a McMansion (common there), she exclaimed “Do I look like a rich kid?”  When I said simply “Yes” her reply was “I don’t have the teeth of a rich kid!”  Her teeth?  Really? Apparently She’s been spending all this time at Camp Stinky McPherson square because of a deep seated resentment she has around how her parents handled her dental care, or something.  btw – she’s the lovely young mother who was caught on tape using her toddlers as human shields …

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/watercooler/2011/nov/8/picket-video-occupy-dc-protesters-racially-harasse/

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t we have a conversation here once about colleges using tuition as status? A college that doesn’t charge much can’t be a decent college. One that takes your arm,leg and first child is one that can not be anything but the best college. At least that is the psychological reasoning most people have. It may not be so prominent during this obama economy. 
    Personally I just want the decent one so I can have that paper saying I have an engineering degree. Community for two years and then jump into a four year to finish up. I haven’t got the years these younger kids do to put into paying off a bunch of loans.

  • Anonymous

    The Occupy “mobs” at least have inkling of the truth.  For example, check out what happened with MF Global, and how customer accounts were looted in gambles to keep them afloat.  Naked theft. 

    Y’all, on the other hand, are whistling past the graveyard.  Odd, because it is a great opportunity to show how poorly Obama and Holder have done.

    I guess you all have common masters on Wall Street, though.
     

    • Commandante,

      I was completely unaware that I had a master (besides the Beautiful & Talented Mrs. Accountant).  I am not surprised that MF Global went down.  Mr. Corzine showed that he was a stereotypical Democrat when he governed New Jersey – spending other people’s money.  He took the same attitude back to the business world and found that he can’t raise taxes on anyone, so he ran out of “other people’s money” a lot faster than if he had been in government.

    • Anonymous

      “The Occupy ‘mobs’ at least have inkling of the truth. ”

      No, they really don’t.  They think that a socialist model will work, and it’s been proved time and again that it doesn’t.

    • Anonymous

      What “truth” would that be?  That there are (gasp!) crooks in the world who, either with a knife in a dark alley or a briefcase on Wall Street will try to steal other people’s money?
      SHOCKER!

      I know that I’m absolutely clear in my own mind and I think that I can speak for everybody else here as well that the idea that some people are criminals NEVER occured to me.

      / sarc

      Frankly, Jay Tea hits the nail on the head: to the extent that anybody knows exactly what the pack of unwashed, violent hippies want, it’s somebody else’s money.  In that regard, Corzine is one of them.  The only difference is that they are too damned lazy to steal for themselves; they want Uncle Sugar to do it for them.

    • Corzine and Company broke the existing rules.

      Is the solution to that to impose more rules?  How does that make sense?

      Or instead of letting peoples’ money be looted by corrupt Democrats, should it be seized and distribute to the masses, Chomsky?

      • herddog505

        Exactly.  It’s like gun control:

        “ZOMG!  Somebody committed a crime with a gun!  Quick!  We gotta take guns away from everybody else who DIDN’T commit the crime!”

        Although in this case, it’s a bit more like:

        “ZOMG!  Somebody ripped off investors and took their money!  That’s OUR job!”

        • retired.military

          Actually since the OWs crowd has violated laws they should automoatically be outlawed (per democrats logic regarding guns and guns dont even break laws.).

          • herddog505

            Oh, but they haven’t violated laws: they are “speaking truth to power”! Protest is the highest form of patriotism, you know.

            / sarc

      • Anonymous

        Maybe try enforcing the rules to start.  That’s a reason to protest.

        • Anonymous

          Geez, Chico, that’s exactly what a bunch of us have been saying about the #Occupy mobs all along. Just enforce the rules they’re violating left, right, center, up, down, etc. Maybe then a lot fewer people would be dead, injured, or sick, a lot of businesses wouldn’t be hurting, and a lot of places wouldn’t be so thoroughly trashed. Welcome to the club!

          J.

        • retired.military

          Oh the rules like umm having permits to protest?  You mean those rules which you state they shouldnt have to follow.

          Chico you cant even becalled 2 faced.  You have to be at least 4 faced and stuck on a pole on a barn so you spin every time the wind blows.

    • retired.military

      Can the common masters on wall street crap Chico.  It gets old.

  • Anonymous

    I think that the unifying force of the Occupy movement is that they are afraid that our economic system is in danger of collapse.  The Tea Party folks are angry because they have to pay for the fraudulent debt that was amassed during the housing bubble.  The Occupiers are angry because that fraudulent debt has taken away their economic opportunity.  They clearly don’t know how to resolve the problem.  But neither does the Tea Party.  They just want to lower their taxes.

    • Anonymous

      Not.

      • Anonymous

        Are you saying that the Tea Partiers don’t want to lower their taxes?

        • Anonymous

          Tea Partiers don’t “own” “their” taxes – the want less government and less taxes.
          Flea Partiers don’t own any responsibility for their plight and want government and more taxes to solve their plight.

    • Anonymous

      No.  Lower taxes is a happy byproduct of shrinking the size of the federal government by getting it out of things that are neither in its constitutional purview nor a good idea to start with.

      “Hey, if we get rid of HUD, Fannie, Freddie, and other agencies, not only will we save all the money we’re spending on them, it will also help prevent another housing bubble and resulting crash!  What a two-fer!”

      • Anonymous

        We are currently borrowing about 40 cents for every dollar we spend.  So you are going to have to cut over 40% of the government to stop borrowing and lower your taxes.  Do you have a specific plan to do this?

        • Anonymous

          How about eliminating the govt agencies/programs that do the same thing?

          For example, the GAO “found 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality; 80 to help disadvantaged
          people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help
          people understand finances.”

          Fifteen federal agencies collectively administer at least 30 food-related laws,
          according to the GAO.

          I could go on.

    • retired.military

      ” think that the unifying force of the Occupy movement is that they are afraid that our economic system is in danger of collapse.  ‘

      No they think they arent going to continue to ride the gravy train on someone else’s dime.

    • Anonymous

      Typical, clueless, the tea party is about SPENDING not taxes. But how would you know that?

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for clueing me in.  Just listening to those folks I got the idea that the spending reductions were the means to lower their taxes.  I guess that it was just coincidence that the movement mushroomed right after the bailouts of the investment banks.

    • Anonymous

      backfired-

      “The Tea Party folks are angry because they have to pay for the fraudulent debt that was amassed during the housing bubble.”

      And the much larger debt accrued by  Barakulus.

      Once again the left has proven devoid of substance much like Obama’s suit.  

      • Anonymous

        Yes, they are also angry about the stimulus.  But the bubble debt is much larger than the stimulus debt.  One is private debt and one is public.  The bubble debt is what caused the current de-leveraging and the bailouts that seemed to trigger the Tea Party movement.

        By the way, people who disagree with you may not be lefties or liberals or even evil.