Some tents have already been dismantled and removed, and some of those that remain have been sprayed with black spray paint: 'MOB TENT.' Getting kinda crazy like something’ bout to jump off, man we bout ready to mob out. . . Maybe. Maybe not.
The ending will not be easy, I'm afraid. Those to whom I spoke did not suggest that they would not go easily or peaceably. Let 'em try, one said, you'll see, you'll see. Ain't goin' easy, not me. No amount of coaxing, no generous smiles, could convince him to elaborate beyond a tight-lipped hard-eyed stare.
The once green grass is sludged with mud, ground with trash. The library is open for business; the cook tent compressed, but still serving. The Kid Zone has been reoccupied by a teenager, sound asleep in the only chair. No matter. I glimpse only two children with parents who carry a film camera.
Seeing this flyer taped firmly to a pillar, I complete the sentence aloud . . . and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, turn to a young man standing near by and ask him what grievances he would list if petitioning for redress. He wrinkles his brow and shrugs.
Whatever, who cares, don't matter . . .
But you're here. You must care, I say. We do have the right to petition for a redress of grievances, so why can't we put our heads together and come up with a list of potential actions that would make an immediate and real positive difference in the lives of the many, the 99%? We can avoid the trap of exhaustively listing everything, find one or two really really important issues and focus on those. Why not start with asking for the forgiveness of student loans and a health care system that serves all?
Start somewhere and start simply.
Public schools are closing, and public universities are rapidly becoming unaffordable for most working class families. The University of California – Berkeley estimates that a student should expect to budget quite a bit more than $30,000 to cover tuition and living expenses for 9 months of study. Who can afford that? Students are then cajoled into accepting damaging loan agreements. Cheerful financial aid counselors convince would-be borrowers that a college degree will guarantee generous salaries that will allow them to pay off these loans, but if this scenario of higher wages for college grads was once true, it is no longer. Just ask one of the hundreds of unemployed college grads who sit writing in coffee shops or those who are currently underemployed waiting tables or ringing up purchases at supermarkets everywhere. You’ll get an earful. I spoke to a public servant today who borrowed $15,000 to go to school, has been paying what he can afford, and now years later owes $28,000. Such loan practices are immoral and just plain wrong. In some cases, if all the interest paid month by month is added up, the original money borrowed has been repaid.
Forgive these usurious student loans now.
Students graduating with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt cannot actively participate in society. Burdened by high monthly payments on absurd debt, they cannot get loans to start businesses, mortgages to buy houses. Forgive those loans and thousands of people would instantly have more disposable income. A simple stimulus that might kick-start the economy. Then, make education a priority. Establish real and reasonable federal subsidies for public education. Make sure all public schools are adequately funded, and then perhaps the absurd loans will no longer be necessary.
Who knows? Perhaps if freed from paying ridiculous monthly payments on student loans, young people just might be able to afford medical insurance, but I doubt it. That system is still in need of major reform and focusing on private health insurance providers is a mistake. We need federally funded healthcare.
Despite the passing of the recent health care bill, medical care remains elusive. For many, health care is simply unavailable or grossly inadequate (despite the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses working in clinics and public hospitals). Too many still cannot afford insurance, including me, and it's not a matter of waiting until the healthcare bill kicks in. That insurance will be no more affordable in two years than it is now.
Three years ago, I could pay $283/mo for moderately useful health insurance from Kaiser-Permanente. Today, if I could even buy a similar policy -- 20+% of applicants are denied -- the cost of that same policy, including a hefty deductible ($5000- 7000/yr), would be more than twice that.
Both medical insurance and care are excessively expensive in part because healthcare in the US is an under-regulated and unashamedly for-profit business that has lost sight of any real responsibility for fostering and creating community. Unfortunately, there are now more who want that profit to expand ad infinitum than there are those who are content to accept modest profits that might allow for modest lifestyles. Drug manufacturers and insurance companies are making money hand over fist, and health care, when available, is suffering.
The answer? Establish now a federally subsidized one-payer healthcare system that will guarantee the health and the welfare of all by making medical care available once again to everyone, not just those who can afford to buy expensive health insurance.
The United States is rich and powerful nation, and the United States is us -- we the people. We do have both the funds and the expertise to do this. It’s a matter of recognizing and organizing our priorities. A peaceful strong nation needs to invest in its future by educating its citizens and ensuring their health. We have a responsibility to demand that our tax dollars be used to support the education, health, and welfare of the American people. If we stop spending billions on weaponry and war, we can start spending billions on education, health, and life.
Occupy the mind and nourish the body politic.