ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



October 2011



The 99%

Written by , Posted in Politics

I have been wanting to post something on here for awhile, but I’ve kept putting it off. Should I write about the trials of my latest move? The ineptness of the Sallie Mae system in processing automatic debits? The challenges – and benefits – of living with someone?

All of those topics reek of naval-gazing. And this is a blog, so I suppose that would be okay. But seeing the post today by a friend who I highly respect but find I disagree with on some social issues spurred me to post on this instead: the 99%.

The post in question is the one that’s been making the rounds on Facebook and other media sites: it’s in the same vein as the “I am the 99%”, but it’s clearly a mockery of it. Instead of posting the image, I’d like to address, point by point, the issues raised in the note. I think it’s a great way to frame the discussion, as so many of the attempts at zingers the writer shares actually illuminate the very problems the authors chooses to ignore.

I am a college senior about to graduate completely debt free.
That’s fantastic! I too graduated college completely debt free. I was lucky in that my parents and family members had the foresight to set aside money for my education. If it weren’t for them, I would have had to attend a different college (one that was not as good a fit for me as the one I ultimately attended), or taken out a lot of loans

I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage.
I too worked during college. Seems we have some things in common. Interesting though – that minimum wage you point out you barely exceed with your pay? You realize that’s something put in place to ensure that workers aren’t entirely exploited. Without that minimum wage, the job that helped you make it through school may not have paid enough. You’re certainly lucky that some people who came before you had the foresight to think about some sort of social safety net to help people just trying to get by.

I chose a moderately priced in-state public university.
That’s a great choice. You know that public universities are paid for with public funds, right? A mix of tax dollars and tuition. The tax dollars invested in education used to be seen as an investment in our future – an investment in people like you. Unfortunately, because of our current budget situation, which originated in many ways with the financial industry failures, many in-state universities are seeing serious cuts, and shifting the cost of education further to students. So while you may be attending a ‘moderately priced’ university right now, the economy may mean that the tuition of that university is going to go up. And up. I suppose you could choose to ignore the impact this will have on the people who come after you, since you got your education, but some of us are concerned not just about ourselves, but about the next generation. And the generation after that.
I started saving $ for school at age 17.
That’s awesome. Where did the money come from? Did you have a job? Were you lucky enough that you were able to save the income you earned, as it was not needed by your family because your parents were laid off? If so, congratulations. I hope you recognize this is not everyone’s reality.
I got decent grades in high school & received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition.
Really? That’s great. I got decent grades too – a 4.0, actually. But the in-state schools in my state (over a decade ago, when the economy was still good) did not offer scholarships to me to cover 90% of my tuition. The National Merit Scholarship I received would have covered about one quarter’s worth of tuition at an in-state school. Again, when tuition was lower than it is now. I hope you realize that your experience, while true for you, is not applicable to everyone in your position, nor even people who were ostensible in a better situation (if we’re counting higher grades as ‘better’).
I currently have a 3.8 GPA.
Sweet! What’s your major? I’m assuming you’ve chosen a reasonable one that couldn’t in any way face job shortages. Like finance, perhaps? I mean, when I was in school, a four-year-degree in finance with a 3.8 GPA would mean nothing but high times ahead! Unless, of course, your chosen industry goes under, and the jobs are not available to you. What will you do then?

I live comfortably in a cheap apartment knowing I can’t have everything I want.  I don’t eat out every day or even once a month.  I have no credit card, new car, iPad, or smart phone — and I’m perfectly OK with that.
Most people know they can’t have everything they want. Do you realize this? I don’t think you do. This entire posting of yours gives me the impression that the information you’ve received in your life suggests that the only reason someone might want for something is because they failed. Do you realize this is not the case? That people can work as hard as – or harder than – you and still not get ahead? That they can cook at home every night, take public transportation and use a phone from the 90s and still not have enough money to get ahead? I hope this isn’t news to you. Oh, and here’s a little tip about life – having a credit card is actually a good thing. It helps you to build credit, which you’ll need at other stages in your life. If you have no loans and no credit card I suggest you look to get one and start building yourself some credit. Otherwise you won’t have a chance to buy a home any time soon …
If I did have debt I would not blame Wall Street or the Government for my own bad decisions.
Why do you associate debt with a bad decision? Some debt can be quite good. Student loans are an example – if one is in a state where tuition has had to increase as a result of the financial crisis, or if one is not eligible for a scholarship that covers housing and books, they may need to take on some debt to get that education. Additionally, the problem is not your “own bad decisions.” The problem is having the right information to make informed decisions. Lawyers and people with degrees in finance should not be the only ones who feel safe getting a home loan, but that sometimes seems the case these days. Philosophically, I wonder: do you think someone is at fault if they make a decision with information they did not know, and realistically probably could not know, was bad? 
I live beneath my means to continue saving for the future.
That works as long as you have no unexpected expenses. What happens when your first job doesn’t offer health care, and you, being responsible, self-insure, but with a plan that has a pretty high deductible. One slip down the stairs could wipe out that savings. What if the job you find requires a long commute, and your used car breaks down? Or when, like me, you end up having to spend nearly $2,000 to address dental problems, even though you’ve been taking care of your teeth and going to the dentist every six months your entire life? Shit happens, and all the planning in the world can’t change that. Living beneath your means to save is obviously a good idea, but the idea that this will somehow make you immune from future trouble is a bit naive.
I expect nothing to be handed to me, and will continue to work my @$$ off for everything I have.
Are you really working your ass off for everything you have? You have a 3.8 – is that in a difficult major? An easy one? Did you choose a field that came naturally? Did you have supportive parents, or teachers, or friends to help you through high school? College? And even if you didn’t, why do you feel so entitled? Why do you think that all you have is solely because you worked hard? Those scholarships you received – you know you got them and someone else – possibly someone who works JUST as hard as you – did not. So that person worked their ass off and didn’t get the handout you got. Why do you feel superior to them? And why do you seem to think that treating people fairly, treating them like human beings who deserve honest information, is equivalent to an underserved handout? Is honesty in business now some sort of privilege reserved only for a few people?
That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Perhaps. But reality should show you that it isn’t always how it works. Just because it seems to have worked for you so far doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay that way.
I am NOT the “99%” and whether or not you are is your decision.
You’re the 1%? Really? Congratulations on the billions of dollars! Oh, you meant that figuratively, right? Well guess what – you may choose to live in ignorance and assume that you have what you have solely because you work hard, and anyone not doing well just made a bad decision, but the rest of us, those who live in reality, we know differently.

And when you can’t find a job, or lose your savings, or find that a decision that seemed good at the time was based on bad information, we will still be here for you. Because the 99%? We care about other people. Perhaps you could look into that – it’s a pretty awesome way to live.

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