Finally – The 99% Are Not Going To Take It Anymore

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Education, Opinion

Tagged: , ,

Published on November 14, 2015 with 3 Comments

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By Jill Chapin

November 14, 2015

At long last, we are hearing from an impressive amount of young people across the country that is fed up with the 1%. Those with an embarrassment of riches say with a straight face that this country can’t afford to lift those at the bottom of the economic spectrum to free them from shamefully low minimum wages and crushing student loans.

I was in college in the sixties, and for decades I have missed the passion of my generation back then to rock the boat to make ourselves heard. It seems like twenty-somethings today have anesthetized themselves to being trodden upon by the obscenely wealthy and the powerful. Worse, college kids don’t vote when their own interests are at stake, or they oddly vote for those who don’t have their best interests in mind. And when the dust settles after the elections, they seem to slink away and wonder when help will arrive.

Well, it seems that help has just arrived for these promising yet heretofore inertia-challenged young adults, and guess what? Their saviors are right in front of their mirrors. After hibernating for far too long, this up and coming generation has awakened and is roaring back, mad as hell. As well it should be.

Million Student March is demanding free tuition at public universities, the cancellation of all student debt, and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.

While these are extraordinary demands, it’s a good starting point for negotiation. They certainly won’t get more if they begin by asking for less.

The cost of tuition today is downright incomprehensible. Inflation has not gone up high enough in the past four decades to warrant its bone-crushing weight on young shoulders. Also, the quality of education is often not what it used to be, with more TAs teaching and fewer professors in front of the class. Classes are often full, forcing many into an extra semester to satisfy their graduation requirements, and the cost of textbooks would be laughable if it weren’t so debilitating to college financing. If they accomplish nothing else, students should at the very least get an itemization of the allocation of their tuition fees because they don’t seem to be making their way into the classroom.

Regarding their demand to cancel all student debt, I admit to entertaining this fantasy myself. What would happen if all students put a hold on repaying their student loans while they wait to see how their schools might restructure their debt such as forgiving some of it and lowering or eliminating the interest? I have never endorsed an entitlement mentality that this demand resembles, but when so many universities have mega billions in endowments, this sense of massive hoarding of funds makes me rethink all I once believed.

Their demand for a $15 minimum wage is not a doomsday scenario for our country as those at the top of the money heap would have us imagine. Ironically, it was not those clamoring for a higher wage that galvanized my support for them; it was the likes of billionaire Donald Trump who outrageously said our country can’t afford it. If those of us who can afford the luxury of dining out or staying at a vacation hotel, then we likely could also afford to pay a little more for that meal or hotel room if minimum wages went up. We wouldn’t like paying more, but we could.

Maybe we’d be more amenable to paying more for some things if we knew that the real purchasing power of the minimum wage has decreased substantially between 1968 and 2009, as these wages didn’t keep pace with the increase in consumer prices. Further, a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research as reported in the Huffington Post said the minimum wage should have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 if it were to have kept up with increases in worker productivity.

No one seems to be talking about the increased spending that would follow with more money in the pockets of minimum wage earners. And reigning in tuition and offering student loan forgiveness would also encourage spending, enabling graduates to buy a car or a home. The durable goods they would need would put money in the pockets of more merchants. Taxable goods would put more money in state and national coffers. This is not trickle down – this is bottom up.

College students are the breadwinners of the future. How much bread will they be able to earn if we are only offering them crumbs in their hungry years?

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, “If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!” and a children’s book entitled, “My Magic Bubble.”

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  • R94110

    Let’s just hope the students don’t go on strike. The impact of that would be . . oh wait, there wouldn’t be any.

  • Richmondman

    Make sure that all students who get their debt paid off pass their classes first. And BTW – this “1%” BS is just that….

  • Greg

    Do the rich make the poor? or do the poor make the rich?