Let me start by saying I really enjoy Micah Bales blog posts.  I admire that he is trying to walk the talk.  However I can't get on the "occupy" bandwagon.  At least not yet.

When it started I read the complaints of the occupiers and recognized the legitimacy of the complaints against the present economic powers, both government and corporate.  However, I also recognized that a lot of the complaints were the result of their own poor judgment.  They borrowed money to pursue interests based on the same greed they were railing against.  I didn't hear many complaints of educational loans taken out for medical school.  Most of what I hear is about law degrees and MBA's that didn't lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  As an attorney I can state that this country doesn't need more attorneys.  If we legalized drugs in this country unemployment among lawyers (and possibly judges) would add to the country's already high unemployment rate.   Lawyers don't build houses, farm, manufacture, or do things that are constructive.  Their best purpose should be to help people understand what they are agreeing to.  However, they facilitate the destruction of families, partnerships, take part in an overly zealous law enforcement system and other negative activities all to their profit and society's misfortune.    For the most part lawyers are very bright people, quick to assess what is happening in society but unlike John  Adams, todays lawyers increasingly turn to whatever legal process will help them "make it" in their profession.  Witness the number of class action law suits that are advertising for plaintiffs and witness how much of the awards from those class action law suits go to the attorney vs. the plaintiff.  I don't want to disparage the legal profession but I want to point out that while some lawyers are altruistic most are just business men, if not by design then by necessity.  So I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone complaining about his education loans taken out at expensive private schools for law degrees or MBA's for that matter.

I have many friends who grew up in a simpler time and have fallen on hard times because the economic system they knew doesn't exist anymore.  I have repeatedly warned them over the years that they can't rely on what they used to to work anymore.  I encourage everyone to keep their lives as simple as possible and to avoid buying into the "luxury" "you deserve it" mentality that capitalism touts.  There is nothing that grieves me more then when friends (and most of my clients are friends eventually) come to me with problems that could have been avoided by simply measuring the costs before hand (Luke 14:28).

Is today's economy unfair?  Definitely!  Should we stand idly by?  Definitely not.  What to do is the question and I think that as Quakers we should strive to simplify our lives as much as possible and not buy into the country's "more is better" philosophy.  KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID applies to more than a sales pitch.  I wrote a song "Love your neighbor, think before you spend" which I think is on point.  I will contine to watch the "occupy" bandwagon, and at appropriate times I might even get on only to get off again but there is no substitute for wisdom and that's what we all need at times like this.  Fortunately it's there for the asking - James 1:5

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 9, 2012 at 7:41pm

Yes, sometimes their moral position looks like: "We came to your casino and believed you when you said we could win; now that we see it's a shuck we'd like our money back."

Basically they had to be preparing to enter one career or another... "Flunky" was not a tenable option... and neither was "rebel." That's something that's been forced on them after all their money & the ticket home went into the big social slot machinery.

No movement can be a "substitute for wisdom." I wish wisdom could have gotten people out protesting sooner, with equal determination.

There's a saying attributed to con men: "You can't cheat an honest man." I doubt it's strictly true, but their best scams work by convincing the victim that he's going to help cheat someone else. And thinking this gives them a warm feeling of justification. But does it mean that victims of a scam shouldn't call the cops?

Comment by Trevor Bending on 4th mo. 11, 2012 at 8:16am

I'm not sure if 'occupy' is different in the US from the UK but I see no shame in young people realising they made a mistake. Maybe my generation made the biggest mistakes (though I'd blame Thatcherism and Reaganomics more than myself).

If 'capitalism' (a Marxist term and not much else) means enterprise, entrepreneurship, innovation and improvement of material conditions, I'm all for it. (Not many of us want to or can go back to living in caves). No problems either with technological progress, industrialisation, health or security and modest consumption with a 'higher standard' of (material) living than our grandparents. Nor should we deny these things to those who have not yet enjoyed those benefits.

But if it means usury (or excessive interest and excessive profits), monetarism, heedless destruction of the environment, oppression, an obscenely unfair 'division of the cake' so that we or others prosper at somebody else's expense, then we need to change.

I guess we won't return generally to the material conditions of Christ's Palestine, let alone caves, but though simpifying our own life-style is a start, it is not enough. We may still need big technology and engineering (communications and nuclear power perhaps?) and 'big government' too - no solution for 7 billion of us to fancy a cottage and a cow.

But there must be sensible management - simplification, fewer demands, appropriate regulation (of otherwise 'free' markets for example - not the current regulation of so-called free markets by the IMF, WTO and World Bank which stacks everyting in favour of the US!).

We need to be modest, reasonable, sensible and caring, not selfish, greedy and stupid - and we have to help others (especially the greedy rich or average over-consuming American) to go that way too.

So, no harm us (or the affluent young) in realising our mistakes before it's too late, if it isn't already, and attempting to save the planet for equality, simplicity, peace, truth and love for our grandchildren.

Support 'occupy', join and support the 'Transition movement'. Vote and campaign for social justice. Stop calling Scandinavians or Obama 'communists'. Stop thinking we can solve our problems, let alone the planet's, by going off and living in the woods like Thoreau, though it might help a little for a few.

Not just 'what can I do?' but also what can I say, what can we do. Together, yes we can. Otherwise, not only do we perish alone but so do the planet and our grandchildren.

If, on the other hand, you think the planet (and all God's creatures) would be better off without us (humans) - that's easy, just do nothing or vote for individualism and rampant self-seving materialism.

Trevor (in Spain, from a UK/European perspective!)

Comment by Mackenzie on 4th mo. 12, 2012 at 7:25pm

Meanwhile MBA/JD isn't what I've mostly been seeing on http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/  I've definitely seen some that used their educational loans to pay for it when they were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness while in school, and I've seen a lot that are talking about bachelor's degrees -- a requirement for most white-collar professions these days. My stepdad doesn't have a degree. He runs a small meat business and says he couldn't get a job folding cardboard boxes at one of the larger ones, let alone as a salesman, without a college degree.  Now, I think it's stupid that a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for so much stuff, but I can't really fix that. Given that minimum requirement for employment, bachelor's degrees are called "investing in your future" by parents, teachers, guidance counselors...every role model the students had.

As far as students go, the main thing I see being pushed for is that educational debt be treated like any other debt in bankruptcy proceedings. Bankruptcy is bad, but if you're that bad-off, having it clear you of $1000 in credit card debt but leave you with the other $30,000 of educational debt just doesn't seem so helpful.

The other main pushes I see are:

  • Crack down on the mortgage companies that are illegally foreclosing without cause
  • Disincentivize foreclosure (mortgage adjustments are supposed to be available, but they cost the companies money, while foreclosure lets them either break even or make money, so there's little reason for the mortgage companies to make those adjustments)
  • Put Glass-Steagall back (so consumer banks can't gamble with consumers' money)

Personally, I'd also like to see some restrictions on credit card advertising. Bombarding students (who already likely have a pile of debt from their investment in their future) with credit card offers is just no good any way you slice it. 

I'm not one who's pushing for mass debt forgiveness for student loans, but I think extending the grace period on student loans from 6-months-after-graduation to a year after graduation, in light of the economy, would be reasonable. I also think countries like Germany have it right in recognizing the importance of an educated workforce by making a university education as free as a high school education.

Comment by Mackenzie on 4th mo. 12, 2012 at 7:51pm

(Should clarify: those bullet points are what I hear from people involved in my local Occupy, which is the one Micah's involved in too, not from that Tumblr necessarily)

Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 8:44am

I agree that there should be some way to put education loans back in bankruptcy.  The ironic thing about the foreclosure situation is that most people are paying their "under water" mortgages and unfortunately can't refinance to take advantage of reduced mortgage rates because they are too far underwater while those in foreclosure get to live in their houses while the foreclosure actions drag on for years.   People who don't care about their credit rating refuse to make their monthly payments so they can come under the "bailout".

This is my problem - there's no list of exactly what the occupiers want.  Without such a list I cannot make a judgment of what I am supporting.


I have worked on a few short sales for clients and the banks don't make it easy but they do work with you when you are absolutely broke.

Going into business for yourself is the Quaker way.  The whole education thing is questionable.  My children attended the local community college for half their bachelor credits while I got my first degree at a free city college (Alas, free no more) and everyone, including me back in the day, lived at home.

Comment by Mackenzie on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 11:30am

The list would vary from occupation to occupation, and among demographics within it. People with underwater mortgages have different concerns than recent graduates whose loans come due soon with no job prospects. The ones I listed above are the themes I hear from listening to people who are involved.  If you join mailing lists for your local group or visit them and chat, you'll pick up your local group's themes. There are themed groups within some of the area occupations. DC is not the only one that has Occupy Our Homes. The OOH people are where I learned about the incentives to foreclose not adjust, and about people in my area who are foreclosed on even while making their payments.

Glass-Steagall is probably rather DC-specific, but Occupy DC had a board on which people could write what they think would be a step to fixing the system, and that was one of them. But what else do you expect in a city full of wonks who can actually name legislation? Outside DC, it'd probably be a more nebulous "make the banks stop gambling our money" rather than pointing out the exact legislation enacted to do just that after the Stock Market Collapse in the 20s which was later repealed in the late 90s.

Unfortunately, community college can make the cost of education MORE expensive in some fields. Not all degrees are arranged for 2 years of general studies followed by 2 years of specialization. I have a BS in Computer Science, and the classes are arranged so that your specialized studies start your first semester and must be taken in a specific order that cannot be done in less than 4 years without you having pre-empted by taking some in high school or by taking some of them during the summer (which of course still requires paying for the credits)...which might get you down to 3 or 3.5 years.  I have the impression this works better in liberal arts fields, but I also have the impression engineers are having an easier time finding jobs.  My school didn't allow students to commute unless they were either married or their parents lived within a very small (5 miles? 10?) distance. That's because the zoning laws require that they house all students for the first two years (I presume the locals got sick of freshmen wrecking their places when renting them). And jeez...dorms are an absolute ripoff. $1000/mo/kid for the dorm to put 4 kids in 500sqft, meanwhile a 500sqft studio a block away rents for $1200/mo...put 2 kids in each one, save a bundle, have more room per kid.

Starting a business has one problem: startup capital. Need money to buy the supplies, rent the storefront if one is needed, set up the website, get the business cards printed... If your parents are up for bankrolling you going into business, great! But "you want me to give you HOW much money to squander away on this idea of yours?" is the response I think a lot of parents would give if they're as strapped for cash as much of the country seems to be.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 11:49am

It sounds like you're wanting the Occupy people to offer suggestions for tuning the economic engine-- when the crankshaft is broken and all that's really happening is that engine ripping itself to pieces.

Michael Hudson (There's more than one; this is the man whose site is michael-hudson.com) has some good pieces on Biblical-era Near-Eastern archeology: specifically the traditions of wholesale debt write-offs.

These became incorporated into the Jewish scriptures because they were essential, practical measures, periodically applied by neighboring kingdoms & empires-- because without them, the peasant population needed to field an army (in those times) would lose their land, become enslaved to money-lending institutions, and leave the way clear for other kingdoms to invade.

Before the first fall of Jerusalem, we have Jeremiah predicting that this will happen unless the nation repents. The major landowners agree to release their debt-slaves and the Babylonian invaders turn back. The landowners decide that they didn't really mean it, return their debtors to forced labor; and Jeremiah concludes that there is now no hope for such a nation.

Hudson has some pretty technical economic pieces on his site-- but much of it is well worth the effort, particularly what he says about the Financial-Insurance-Real-Estate "FIRE" sector dominating the economy, to such an extent that (even years ago) their daily net money-transfered dwarfed (1000 to 1) the amounts going into the 'real economy', ie those goods and services human beings intrinsically need and use. This is not what Adam Smith was writing about, back in a day when many factories in any industry were individually owned by someone actively at work in their operations-- rather than belonging to large corporations making most of their money through dysfunctional stock market manipulations. Also re the long-term destabilizing effects of compound interest & asset-price inflation (aka "wealth creation"), the interesting ways the value of buildings is estimated for tax purposes, etc etc etc.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 3:13pm

The Hutterite way of working is far closer to a religious economic practice...

Trying to practice it now, in the present context: You'd need to rent / buy space-- buy machinery -- provide for people's needs while starting up -- market a product in a time of low demand, against low-wage competition. Probably you'd need to borrow money. From whom? What's in it for them?

The Hutterites have an ongoing operation, on land they bought when things were more stable. Profit not being a big consideration, they can maintain their work during slow times.

There was a cooperative-industy movement in Europe, supposed to be promising. I have no idea how well they're doing now. Like a poet giving a reading in the lion cage?

Comment by Kirby Urner on 5th mo. 2, 2012 at 12:50pm

For me, Occupy is an opportunity to work more with Arab and Farsi speaking individuals. 

Mostly I do this indirectly as I speak neither language (though I studied Arabic at Princeton and spent quite a bit of time in Egypt, where my parents lived for 7 years). 

Portland has a large community of folks from that part of the world, thanks to Intel etc.  I'm also interested in working more with Cuba (the specific plans and proposals are posted elsewhere).

Thanks to OPDX (Occupy Portland), there's a sense of freedom to develop our own diplomatic channels and to bypass what we consider dead / dying / obsolete institutions that have failed to keep up. 

Occupiers are also working on new curriculum, with Washington High School (where Linus Pauling went) a symbolic headquarters.  We exchange info with student activists (of all ages) around the world and savor our independence and growing ability to self organize. 

Multnomah Monthly Meeting has been quite active (mostly through specific individuals) and continues to identify itself with Occupy in various ways.

As an AFSC corporation member and NPYM rep, I was able to bring some of the Philadelphia angle back to our region.  Last night at the Quakers 101 workshop I represented AFSC and focused on two pivotal historic figures, both identified with Quakers: Smedley "fighting Quaker" Butler and Bayard Rustin, of Speak Truth to Power fame. 

I'll end with a link to an interesting new movie, Occupation Nation, which suggests we're in "half time" at the moment.


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