I actually have hopes for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now, before you dismiss me, let me explain.
I hope that one of the things we’re seeing down at Zuccotti Park is the first rustlings of what will eventually (though maybe not in our lifetime, comrades) become a full fledged revolution — not against capitalism but against what Rush Limbaugh likes to call Big Education and Michael Medved calls the Educational-Industrial Complex.
This is really what most of these kids are angry about, isn’t it? Most of them — except for the usual complement of old lefties and sundry off-their-meds street people — are, as many reporters have noted, college grads. One fellow interviewed last night on the Michael Medved radio show, for instance, was even a J.D. (Tellingly, he was not working in law — a symptom of the lawyer glut.)
They’re mad that they “can’t get jobs.” As Herman Cain points out, surely they can get some kind of job right now — just not in a trendy place like New York, Boston, or Seattle (cities where the Occupy movements have sprung up). In that time-honored Grapes of Wrath–esqe tradition, they could put Ma in the flatbed and set off cross-country to look for work. The job will probably be a low-paying one, and conservatives would do well not to sugarcoat this fact. Wages for entry-level and semi-skilled workers have barely budged in ten years. I credit this to employer’s wariness about hiring anyone at all. Hiring people (and all the litigation risks they present) is simply too risky unless that hire is obviously going to enhance the bottom line. Risks on the young and the untested are simply unacceptable in a tight economy tied down with regulation.
In short, if an Occupy Wall Street kid is ever inclined to look for work, the job he finds is not likely to be the groovy one he and his beleaguered parents envisioned when that $200,000 was shelled out for a four-year degree in poli-sci or women’s studies.
So, Occupy Wall Street kids, you’re right — there are some sleazy characters out there! But I wish you’d turn that laser of your rage on the educrats hiding behind their ivy-covered walls; the ones hawking the notion that without a four-year college degree, you’ll end up the gutter; the ones exploiting fear to sell a product that grows more expensive, and more shoddy, every year.
We haven’t had a bad enough economy to test this proposition in a while — an economy that forces employers to hire only the most essential workers — but what we are seeing these days is that a four-year liberal-arts degree is completely non-essential. The only twentysomethings I know who are gainfully employed and living like men, with their own apartments, cars, and girlfriends, are in the building trades. My upstairs neighbor has more work than he can handle designing and installing sound systems in large places like auditoriums and shopping malls.
If there’s going to be a revolution in this country, I would like one part of it to look like this: Vocational schools would be opened again (and celebrated, not marginalized) and parents would tell junior that a four-year degree is off the table unless he knows exactly how he can use it.