Monday, October 17, 2011

"We are the 99%"

I was reading the website for "we are the 99%" earlier. Much of it is genuinely sad and moving. Many people are struggling, often through no fault of their own.

I think this general sense that things have gone very wrong even for the most sympathetic, deserving cases underlies much of the sympathy that many people feel for the idea of protesting the state of the economy. If you are young and have no job and debts, no wonder you are frustrated.

That is prior to any more fringe or anarchist tendencies there may be in specific places like Zucotti Square. In fact, I wonder whether some fringe movements will get a free ride on much more mainstream sympathies.

Based on a subjective reading , it appears the two biggest problems on the site are education costs and medical bills.

  • Education costs: the spiraling cost of education and the crushing burden of student dent associated with it. It just seems wrong that education costs have got so out of control. And the fact that student debt almost uniquely cannot be discharged in bankruptcy seems outright crazy
  • Medical bills: The lack of insurance or problems with insurance underlie the broader failure of the medical system. America has a crazy halfway house between public and private provision, which delivers out of control medical costs. Medical bills are strangling companies, federal and state fiscal policy, and wage growth

I don't think anyone can reasonably deny that there are serious problems in these sectors. But is it really the fault of the plutocratic 1%? Both sectors are heavily regulated or involved with government. Universities are renowned as fortresses of liberalism, or even outright leftism. Education is filled with union influence.

And Medicare and Medicaid dominate much of medicine.

That said, the existing US private medical system simply does not work, whatever some conservatives say. It is deeply inefficient. It encourages competition not on the basis of innovation or quality, but removing people from the insurance pool. It is riddled with excessive tests and defensive medicine. partly because liberal trial lawyers function in much the same way as tape worms on the larger organism.

Still, looking at the overall site, it does not seem to be a protest about inequality as such, despite the title, so much as distress that some absolute standards are harder and harder to maintain. The middle class and educated young are slipping.

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