Letter to the editor:
I recently read a letter to the editor
on this site (Buffalo Rising) about why to join Occupy Buffalo. I find myself in a very similar position, and would like to write an alternate view.
I am also 22 years old, and have just graduated with an Aerospace Engineering degree. This degree has extremely high market value. According to the Wall Street Journal just this week, the unemployment rate among this degree is a measly 3.8%, with a median income of $81,000. But I have instead temporarily opted for a much lower paying job here in Buffalo with a local prominent developer because I believe in rebuilding this city more than making a great deal of money, at least in this stage of my life.
I too am living with my parents because I am not making enough to rent my own place. But I am also plenty busy studying music part time at Buffalo State College, opening up this possible future career path. Evenings are spent studying music, playing piano, or working late. I do not have time to join the Occupiers.
Furthermore, the Occupy movement is amorphous and appears without coherent strategy or focus. Some are anti- war. Some are anti-capitalism. Some are anti-Wall Street. Many don't seem to have a coherent interest in politics at all. And some actually are educated, concerned citizens.
But taking to the streets and sitting in a park 24/7 seems a very poor way to fight what is an alarming expansion of government and corporate power in the last 5 years. We live in a society, and the strength of American society is through participation, both in economy and government. Luckily, Occupy Buffalo has not become so large that it is hurting local businesses. But we're seeing in larger cities, including New York, the Occupy movement responsible for closing local restaurants, moving food trucks, and causing layoffs in the surrounding service industry.
The problem with the previous writer's letter is his lack of details of his education. Degrees in English, Business, Art, History, or similar are either too widely earned to highlight your skills to an employer, or are not applicable in the real world. There are very few engineering or hard science students at these protests because they had the foresight and the will to work for a degree that there is great demand for, even in this climate. Costs for higher education are skewed by government subsidization, and value in a degree is not guaranteed nor even sought for by most students.
The previous writer's prescription is for the government to create jobs, but what he doesn't understand is that all jobs are created by the private sector, even those paid for by governments. Taxes come from corporate and personal income and consumption. The money needs to come from somewhere. Meaningful economic growth and increased employment come from the 1% that the Occupiers spend so much time bashing. What's even more stunning is that the top 5% of wage earners pay 50% of all tax revenue. The top 50% of wage earners pay 97% of all tax revenue. The scales are already tipped heavily against the top, and increasing it any more in a fragile recovery will not help anyone get a job.
Occupiers should leave Niagara Square and instead channel their efforts toward production and political change. Organized protests are an integral part of our democratic society, and regular marches or gatherings in Niagara Square or at City Hall are reasonable reactions to our failed government. But sleeping in a tent for weeks is not acting for change, it's a desperate call for attention. The Tea Party sent nearly 40 like-minded politicians and businessmen to Washington a year ago to accomplish their goals. Occupiers should run candidates for political office with coherent goals to reduce the connection between Washington and Wall Street, stop bailouts, and re- establish an America where anyone can move up the economic ladder who has something to offer to an employer and society.
It is this attitude that has created a nation where even the bottom 99% are still in the top 1% of the entire world. Occupiers should not lose sight of this.