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Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Do the Occupy Wall Street Protesters Want?

There have been a lot of snarky articles written about the Occupy Wall Street protesters (and their clones in cities across the United States), characterizing them as freeloaders, lazy college drop-outs, bored trust fund kids, unemployed people who would rather complain than work, etc.  Most of my research is done online, so I can read the readers' comments on most of the articles about the Occupiers.  Most of those comments are even snarkier than the articles.  A popular way to discredit the protesters is to point out that they don't have a unified message, a platform, or specific goals that can be addressed.

Full disclosure: I am not one of the protesters.  I do not speak for them.  I've not discussed with any of them what their goals or objectives are.  I do support them, and I'm doing so by publicizing what I can about them and, occasionally, dropping off a load of blankets, sleeping bags, and other needed supplies to the Occupy Boston crowd in Dewey Square.

I do not have a profile on the We Are the 99% webpage, but I am the 99%.  And this is why I'm supporting the protesters.

Earlier this week the Congressional Budget Office released a report about income disparity between 1979 and 2007.  The New York Times sums up the report's findings this way:  Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% of earners saw an increase of 275% in their after-tax incomes.  The next 19% (or the remainder of the top 20%) saw an increase of 65% of after-tax income.  The next 60% saw an increase of just under 40%, and the bottom 20% saw an increase of just 18%.

Remember, we're not talking about overall wealth growth, so the argument that wealth begets wealth doesn't apply here.  This is a strict after-tax income-to-income comparison.  Yes, things like capital gains are included, but that only applies if an asset is sold.  The value of assets that one continues to own such as a house or investment portfolios is not included.  Things like Social Security payments are included in these numbers.

Looking at Table A-1 from the CBO Report, the real dollar increases are as follows (earnings include wages, capital gains, and 'Transfers' such as Social Security, and after federal taxes are deducted):

Someone earning $15,411 in 1979 was earning $18,979 in 2007, an increase of $3,568.
Someone earning $22,851 in 1979 was earning $29,769 in 2007, an increase of $6,918.
Someone earning $30,341 in 1979 was earning $42,202 in 2007, an increase of $11,861.
Someone earning $51,613 in 1979 was earning $81,135 in 2007, an increase of $29,522.
And someone in the top 1%, earning $115,965 in 1979 was earning $252,607 in 2007, an increase of $136,642.

One might argue that the higher-paying jobs increased in complexity more than the lower-paying jobs, thus justifying a greater increase in salary over the years.  That is a valid point.  But consider the following information as well:

  • Cost of a new house
    • 1979 - $58,100
    • 2007 - $308,775
      • 431% increase
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment
    • 1979 - $280
    • 2007 - $1,368
      • 389% increase
  • Cost of a loaf of bread
        • 1979 - $.35
        • 2007 - $1.25
          • 257% increase
  • Cost of a gallon of gasoline
    • 1979 - $.86
    • 2007 - $2.80
      • 226% increase
  • Cost of a dozen eggs
    • 1979 - $.85
    • 2007 - $1.75
      • 106% increase
  • Cost of a gallon of milk
    • 1979 - $1.62
    • 2007 - $3.27
      • 102% increase
Let's take home ownership out of the equation for the moment.  Let's assume someone is paying the average rent, buying 15 gallons of gasoline each week, and is buying one loaf of bread, one dozen eggs, and one gallon of milk each week.  In 1979, that person would be paying $4,112 each year for those necessities, leaving the lowest earners $11,299 for utilities, car payments, other food, etc.  Not luxurious, or even particularly comfortable, but reasonable.  In 2007 those same necessities cost $18,926, leaving the lowest earners only $53 per year for all their other needs.  That's just not right.

While some of the protesters may want perfect income equality, most of us are only trying to have a chance.  We can't do that if incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living.  The Declaration of Independence lists life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the three unalienable rights of [hu]man[ity].  Americans are not guaranteed a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, and I believe in hard work and personal responsibility.  Safety nets should be in place to prevent starvation and depravity, but not ensure comfort.  But in the last thirty years, hard work and personal responsibility are no longer enough to achieve 'happiness' (or, as I define the term in this context, the 'American Dream').  To list 'pursuit of happiness' as an unalienable right must mean that the achievement of said happiness is possible for ordinary people willing to put in the effort, and right now it's not.

I realize that the world is changing, and we are now in a 'knowledge economy.'  Presumably that means knowledge is the key to success.  The logical course then seems to be to prioritize higher education: i.e. if you want to succeed, go to college and get a degree.  In 1979 the average in-state tuition (including room and board) for a state school was $2,327 for the academic year.  In 2007 that same year's worth of tuition, room, and board cost $13,589, an increase of 484%.  Families in the bottom 99% can't save the money to pay for their kids' college education, and the kids who borrow the money won't earn enough at their non-top-1% jobs to be able to pay those loans back.  The American Dream has become a pipe dream.

What do the Occupy Wall Street protesters want?  They want people to realize what is going on.  They want people to realize that many of us are following the same rules as the much-vaunted 'Greatest Generation' followed, but the game has changed, and following those rules will no longer earn you the comfortable, middle-class lives our grandparents lived.  Following those rules now earns you a house with an underwater mortgage, a job that demands annual pay-cuts while the company is declaring record profits, the risk of having that job taken away from you at any moment, fewer (if any) health and retirement benefits, and ever-growing credit card debt just to keep food on your table.

The protesters are not politicians.  They don't have a platform.  They don't have a neat three-point plan.  They don't have the answers.  And they're not supposed to.  No one elected them to get or keep the country on the right track.  They are protesting the fact that the people who were elected to do so by and large owe their political power to the corporate and special interests who funded their campaigns, and it's those corporate and special interests that they're representing.  The protesters are not trying to 'hurt' banks or corporations or politicians.  They are trying to get banks and corporations and politicians to be accountable for their actions, and if that accountability is interpreted as 'hurt,' then I'd say there's definitely something wrong that needs to be fixed.

There's something wrong when those who are elected to represent the people can only make it to election day with the help of the rich and powerful.

There's something wrong when banks give oversized mortgages to underqualified borrowers, and sell securities backed by those mortgages as good investments, and also sell - as good investments - credit default swaps betting that those mortgages will fail.

There's something wrong when CEOs make decisions that cost thousands of people their jobs, cause millions of people to lose money on investments, and get paid multimillions of dollars as a severance package for a job poorly done.

There's something wrong when banks and corporations make mistakes and receive taxpayer-funded bailouts, but when individuals make mistakes they're told to suck it up, and are accused of being greedy, lazy, and irresponsible.

There's something wrong when interest rates punish those who behave responsibly and live within their means, but reward those who finance their spending and risky investments with other people's money.

And there's something terribly wrong when Americans look at other Americans who are exercising their rights and, more importantly, fulfilling their civic duty to question the actions of their leaders, and call them lazy, stupid, spoiled, freeloaders, etc.

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job.  It's a depression when you lose yours.  If you're not part of that top 1%, just wait: your depression will come.  The numbers have proven that it's just a matter of time.

You are the 99%, whether you like it or not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Priorities

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my daily schedule, and where all my time goes.  In that post I expressed my desire to better manage my time, make some positive changes, etc.  While I haven't yet begun keeping a new timesheet to monitor my progress, I do know one thing: it's not working.

There simply aren't enough hours in the day, and I'm trying to do too much.  I want to be a good wife, a good mother, a writer, take time to exercise regularly, and still give myself some free time to just relax and recharge.  We're planning on moving again, once we can get out of this lease, so I have to start organizing things in the house to make that a little easier when the time comes.  Much of what I'm doing I can't let go of.  My marriage--like everyone's--need's work.  My kids are very young, and need a lot of attention.  Exercise is very important for my continued existence on this earth, and I'll suck at everything if I reduce what little down time I have now.  Which leaves writing.

I've always wanted to be a writer.  I wrote my first poem and my first short story when I was six years old.  I wrote my first novel in high school.  (None of it's ever been published, and that atrocious novel never will be.)  I have a number of nonfiction books I'd like to write, and a new novel is living fully formed in my imagination.  But I don't have time to sit down and write any of it.  I've found that what little writing time I do have is going towards this blog.

I started this blog on a whim, and it's been fun.  But it's taking more time than I believe it's worth.  I'm not completely giving up on it, but I'm going to switch to posting on it only when I feel inspired, rather than every Tuesday morning (or, lately, afternoon) as I originally intended.  If you've been following me regularly, thank you, and please continue to do so, but also please be patient if it's a while between posts.

Until we meet again!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Proud to be an Authoritative Parent

Motherhood, like everything else, has its ups and downs.  There are days when my kids make me happier than I ever thought I could be, and there are days when I have to fight the temptation to just leave them at the first Safe Haven I can find.

But there is one downside to motherhood that caught me by surprise, and it's probably the aspect of being a mother that I despise more than any other: having to deal with other mothers.

Mothers are the most judgmental, arrogant, and vicious people I've ever met (and that's saying something when you remember I'm a former pastor!).  Not all of them are like that, but enough of them are that I'm dreading the day my kids start to make friends, and I'm going to have to start dealing with those friends' mothers.

Most mothers (myself included) are convinced that their method of parenting is the best.  That's obvious; why would anyone choose a parenting method they felt was substandard to another method they were aware of?  The trouble comes when they encounter a mother who shares that level of conviction, but subscribes to a different method than the first mother.  Rather than recognize that different people have different philosophies, mothers tend to view any difference in parenting approach as a judgement on their own method, and, by extension, on their own abilities as a mother.  Therefore anyone with a different approach must be exposed as a bad mother before she can expose you as one.

From what I've seen and read, the parenting philosophy most in vogue right now is "attachment parenting."  I find not only the philosophy problematic, but the terminology as well.  Since I'm not an attachment parent, does that make me a detachment parent?  Someone who is actively trying to separate from my very small children, rather than enjoy a close relationship with them?  I don't think so.  I don't think attachment parenting is necessarily bad; I just don't think it would work for my family, and I don't believe that it's the only way to raise "secure, joyful, empathic children."  I don't believe that not following the attachment parenting strategies will harm the connection and trust between me and my children, the way attachment parents claim it will.  Can attachment parenting work?  I'm sure it can, and I'm not going to condemn anyone for subscribing to that particular philosophy, especially since the social pressures to do so right now are huge.  But I don't.

Especially with how I've observed it being used in practice.  Attachment parenting is very child-centered, but according to Attachment Parenting International's website, it's not 'permissive' parenting.  However, from what I've seen from other moms who appear to subscribe to the attachment parenting philosophy, they very much engage in permissive parenting, and it's become just as much a social norm as attachment parenting.  (The fact that Attachment Parenting International felt the need to draw the distinction on their website indicates to me how much the two have become conflated.)

Generally speaking, there are three primary parenting styles: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative.  Permissive parents show lots of love and affection, accept their children as they are, and make very few demands on them.  Children of permissive parents are often spoiled with little or no self control, expect to be spoon-fed physically and emotionally throughout their lives, and are less likely to grow into independent, socially successful adults.  Authoritarian parents set rules and standards without any flexibility, emphasize obedience, rarely (if ever) show warmth or affection, and feel it's important to exert power over their children.  Children of authoritarian parents usually either rebel and escape their homes at a relatively early age (whether they're ready or not), or else remain dependent on their parents throughout their adulthood.  Authoritative parents set rules and guidelines that they expect their children to follow, but can be flexible when such flexibility is appropriate.  They exercise control over their children without being controlling, and often show love and affection to their children without fear that such expressions will diminish their ability to discipline.  Children of authoritative parents usually grow up to be independent, socially successful, and respectful of authority.

I strive to be an authoritative parent.

Attachment parenting, when done exactly as Attachment Parenting International lays it out, is also authoritative.  However, as I mentioned before, I've usually seen adherents to the attachment parenting model unable to exercise appropriate discipline and/or set boundaries.  Because attachment parenting places such an emphasis on not doing anything to damage the trust and connection between child and parent, many parents fear doing exactly that if they tell a child 'no' and refuse to accept inappropriate behavior.  This makes permissive parenting the social norm and expected default.

And woe to anyone who deviates from the norm.

From the perspective of a permissive parent, someone who is using authoritative methods appears to be authoritarian or even abusive.  Authoritative parents set clear boundaries and high - but reachable - expectations for their children.  Violating those boundaries or not meeting those expectations has consequences.  Most of the time it's pretty non-dramatic.  For example, my husband and I are very polite in our conversations with each other and with our children.  "Please" and "thank you" are regularly spoken by us.  My three and a half year old son (and my almost-two year old daughter, for that matter) has been hearing this his whole life.  When we ask him to do something we include the 'please' and follow it up with 'thank you.'  He knows what's expected.  When he wants something and he demands it ("Push me in!"), we ignore him.  Most of the time he'll adjust his tone and his words on his own ("Excuse me, Mama?" "Yes?" "Will you push me in, please?"  "Of course.")  If he doesn't do this on his own, after ignoring a second demand or sitting too long in silence, we'll prompt him ("How do you ask?"  "Please."  "Please what?"  "Will you push me in, please?"  "That's better.")  It's very simple, and it's pretty non-confrontational.  If he wants something, he needs to ask politely, or he doesn't get it.  We don't expect as much from our daughter, who is just beginning to use one or two word sentences, but we're still setting high but reachable expectations.  ("More!"  "How do you ask?"  "Please!")  More often than not her initial request is "More please!"  We started this at different times with our kids, depending on where they were developmentally; we don't expect more from them than they can do, but compared to so many children of the same age whose parents expect nothing from them, we seem harsh and demanding.

Often the expectations and consequences are negotiated between me and my son (my daughter needs to get a little more verbal before she can enjoy this experience).  If he puts all his toys away after lunch, I'll read him his favorite story.  "But I want to go to the mall playground."  "You would rather go to the mall playground than hear your favorite story?"  "Yes."  "We can do that, but you have to eat your lunch quickly.  If you take too long, we won't have time to go.  So if you eat your lunch quickly, and put all your toys away quickly, then we can go to the mall playground."  "OK!"  He's never not eaten and put his toys away quickly enough for me to not take him.

Such interactions require both of us to be calm and rational.  While very small children are more capable of this than many parents believe, they are also prone to temper tantrums, which is a clear violation of the established boundaries and expectations of this authoritative parent.  Simply put, I don't negotiate with terrorists, especially pint-sized ones who call me 'Mama.'  When my kids throw a temper tantrum, not only do they absolutely not get what they want, they are given to the count of five to shut down the tantrum or they go in time-out.  Both my son and my daughter do standing time-outs facing the corner (for different lengths of time, accounting for the differences in their ages and temperaments), and have been for quite a while.  Once the time-out is over, I tell them why they went in time-out, and how to avoid that in the future.  By this time they're more calm and rational, and they understand that the punishment is over now, and they're more willing to interact in an appropriate manner.  They still don't get whatever it was they were demanding; that ship sailed once the temper tantrum started.  My son rarely has to do a time-out in public anymore, because he's already learned from experience that Mama can find a time-out corner anywhere.  He's also pretty philosophical about his time-outs.  Once he's in there, the only way out is to be quiet, because he knows the clock doesn't start ticking until the screaming and crying end.  My daughter is still learning both these truths, so I'm still faced with the miserable experience of giving her time-outs in public.

My daughter is almost two.  I realize that many parents don't even try to discipline children this young, so the fact that I do is shocking and horrifying to them.  She is also extremely stubborn (she gets it from both her parents) and has a pretty vile temper.  So when she throws a temper tantrum in public, permissive parents who would probably deal with her by hugging her, kissing her, and giving her a sippy of juice and a cookie to calm her down see me instead tell her to "shut it down" and then count to five in my sternest 'Mommy-voice.'  If she doesn't shut it down (she has been more often lately, but she still usually doesn't), I then pick her up under the arms, carry her without holding her close (partly because I don't want her to think she's being cuddled and partly because I'm trying to stay out of range of her wildly kicking feet) and plop her down in the nearest boring corner I can find, facing the wall.  Permissive parents who can't stand to hear a baby cry see me forcing her to stand in time-out while she's screaming bloody murder.  Since their default is to assume every cry or scream is a sign of genuine distress and must be stopped by hugs, kisses, and affirmation, they don't see discipline; they see child abuse.

The way I see it, there are only three possible ways to deal with temper tantrums: appease them, ignore them, or punish them.  I will not reward such behavior, even if appeasement usually is the most expedient way of getting them to stop, because it also guarantees many more of the same once the child figures out that throwing a tantrum will get her what she wants.  For a while I tried ignoring them, but that's not really an option in public, and at home they can last a very long time if merely ignored.  I also want to be consistent, and have the same response at home as I do in public.  Punishing them sends the message much more effectively that this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.  I use time-outs because I don't believe in hitting, I don't see much point in a screaming contest, and making her tell it to an empty corner is the best way I can think of to get her to understand that no one wants to hear it.  If my kids have a complaint they can tell me about it, using words.  My three and a half year old son is not shy about telling me "I don't like that" or "I don't want to."  I don't put him in time-out for that.  If it's reasonable to change whatever it is to something he does like or is more willing to do, then I change it.  If such a change is not reasonable, I tell him something along the lines of "I'm sorry, you don't have to like it, but you do have to do it" and I tell him why.  And he accepts that and does it and moves on.  He doesn't usually throw temper tantrums to protest something anymore because he knows it's only going to get him put in time-out, and he has a much better chance of changing something if he talks to me about it instead.  My daughter is still learning this.

I'm not looking for the approval of other moms.  But I don't think it's appropriate to let toddlers call the shots.  Personally, I think giving children too many choices or too much control is abusive, because life is stressful, and that's too much responsibility for a two or three year old (or four, or eight, or twelve--you get my point).  Some choice and control is appropriate--my son chooses his breakfast every morning: Cheerios or Kashi.  He picks out his shirt after I tell him whether he has to pick from the long-sleeve or the short-sleeve side of the drawer, and then he picks from two or three pairs of pants or shorts I've selected that more or less match the shirt he's chosen.  My kids have choices that are appropriate to their age, and they're learning that they have some say in the world in which they live, but they don't have total control.  Vegetables are a part of supper whether they like them or not, ice cream is a nice surprise every once in a while but never an earned reward, and temper tantrums get you put in time-out.  As they get older, they'll learn more of life's lessons, but this is a good start for now.

So if you're a permissive parent who doesn't believe that toddlers are capable of self-control, understand that while that may be true of your toddler, it's not true of mine (though if you've never expected it of your toddler, how would you even know?).  Please learn the difference between authoritative parenting and authoritarian parenting (and abusive parenting).  Also consider what you're teaching your child about how the world works, and whether or not they're in for a really rude awakening at some point.

And know that when you threaten to call Child Protective Services on a mother who's enforcing a time-out for her almost-two year old in a corner of the mall playground, you're coming across as a judgmental, arrogant, vicious ignoramus who doesn't know how to handle her own children.  (Yes, that really happened to me last week, which is why this rant is so long.  My apologies to everyone who does recognize that different parents have different philosophies, and thank you for your tolerance.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

When I first heard about the protesters on Wall Street a few weeks ago, I didn't have much optimism for their success.  Based on the YouTube videos that were circulating, I saw a crowd of mostly twenty-somethings protesting corporate greed with some recording every minor police altercation in an attempt to claim police brutality.  I agreed with their general ideas--there are few in this country who aren't angry about corporate greed--but I didn't believe they could accomplish anything (and I didn't see any real police brutality in those early videos, either).  I wasn't sure what they were trying to accomplish.  I wasn't sure they knew what they were trying to accomplish.  My husband believed (and I agreed) that nothing would change because too many people are too comfortable with the status quo.  In order for revolution to happen, there needs to be a critical mass of people who are willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the change they wish to see.  Most 'revolutionaries' today seem to be willing to 'like' a Facebook page dedicated to their cause, and maybe copy and paste a status update that they agree with, and that's it.

But now I'm not so sure.  The protests are growing, spreading, and appear to have broken the media blackout.  (I regularly read the Wall Street Journal Online, plus use the news and weather app on my phone which draws from a variety of outlets, and I didn't know anything about the protests until another blog I follow posted one of those YouTube videos three or four days after the protests began.  Now the WSJ Online is providing regular updates on its homepage.)  Additionally, the protesters have begun to focus their message.  The First Official Release From Occupy Wall Street articulates some of their specific grievances, and they are working on a List of Demands.

Now they're getting more organized, focused, and specific.  Their grievances basically amount to calling out the government for allowing large corporations to dictate US economic policy in such a way that it benefits 1% of the population at the expense of the other 99% (this is my interpretation and summary, not a statement from their document; I encourage you to follow the links above and read their statements for yourself).  And it's not just that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; it's that the poor are getting poorer because the rich are usurping power from our supposedly democratic government, drowning out the voices of the majority of the population with the money our elected representatives need for reelection, and changing the rules to benefit themselves while causing harm and injustice to everyone else.  I don't necessarily agree with all their grievances, but there is definitely enough common ground there for me to hope for their success.

But what about the concern that too many people are too comfortable with the status quo to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor?  I'm beginning to realize that people are more uncomfortable than I'd realized.  I knew things were rough; my own family is struggling to make ends meet after a prolonged period of unemployment and underemployment, and I have no idea how we're going to pay down the debt we accumulated during that time.  But I hadn't realized just how many people have already lost not only their fortunes, but their hope of ever rebuilding them.  Honor isn't what it once was, however there is enough anger against large corporations and the super-wealthy that aiding in the effort to stop filling their coffers with the hard work and sacrifices borne by the rest of us will gain honor, not lose it.  And if you've already lost everything and have no hope of ever getting it back under the current system, why not pledge your life to trying to make things better?  If the current system doesn't care about your life or well being (and it doesn't), what have you really got to lose?

Americans are sold a bill of goods.  We're taught that if you study hard, work hard, maybe even serve your country in the military, you can make something of yourself.  You can live the American Dream.  Instead we're seeing college graduates who did what they were supposed to do saddled with impossible debt loads and unable to find the jobs that were supposed to be worth that investment.  We're seeing people who have worked hard at their jobs all their lives taking pay cut after pay cut, until finally ending up unemployed and unemployable because their entire industry is virtually gone, losing their houses, their health insurance, and, eventually, their health.  We're seeing veterans ignored and forgotten once they take off their uniform (and sometimes before they've taken it off).  There are a lot of people represented in that 99% who are being screwed over by the 1%.  Rather than try to tell you their stories, I'm going to let some of them speak for themselves.

The following is only a small sampling from 'We Are the 99 Percent.'  Please go to that website and see why people are protesting on Wall Street (and elsewhere in the US), especially if you tend to believe that things aren't all that bad, and people who are complaining should just suck it up, stop slacking off, and work harder.

* I’d never been unemployed, until the company I worked for tanked a month ago. Up until then, I was living paycheck to paycheck, sharing a small apartment with my elderly, unemployed mother, making just enough to pay rent, grocery bills and medical insurance. Now we have no jobs, no savings, no health care and no furniture in our apartment; we sold almost everything we had to pay for food and rent. We both have extensive medical problems and are wondering how we’re going to pay for the medications we need to keep functioning. I don’t want sympathy, or handouts. I want a job, affordable rent and the restoration of the “American Dream.”  I AM THE 99%!!!

* I have a master’s degree from a top university and $75,000 in student loan debt. I have applied to jobs all over the country but I can’t even get an interview. My mom lost her job in 2010 and hasn’t been able to find anything since. I don’t know what we will do when her unemployment runs out. I’ve given up all hope in having a future. I am the 99%!

* I am educated, hard working and responsible. I am employed full time and have been for all of adult life. And yet I struggle each month to pay my bills, to feed my dog, to keep gas in my car. I dream of grad school, of a job in social services or ministry to make this world better than I found it. And yet, I am trapped. I am chained to my mortgage, to my unsellable home, to my mediocre job, to my city. Sometimes I feel a failure to be part of the first generation that will not exceed the accomplishments of the last and yet everyone I know works so hard. Just to get by. Our priorities have gone so astray in this country. We have lost sight of the importance of community and equality. Of justice and forgiveness. Of generosity and faith. Of democracy and hope. We got lazy and distracted and entitled and we didn’t realize that a few people have been making greedy decisions that would and do negatively affect the lives of the many. It’s time to wake up. To pay attention. To stop worshiping the dollar and start worshiping each other again. All of us. Together, being the change. My name is Emily Wheeland and I am one paycheck away from homelessness. I am the 99 percent.

* Single mother. Living with my parents, who own a small business and are barely scraping by themselves. Neither has health insurance or savings. My grandparents have spent their savings on medications. My daughter’s father joined the military to get a degree in a field he doesn’t want to study in, because it offers job security. He is stationed overseas for 2 years and is missing his daughter growing up…she asks for him almost every day, if she will see him soon. She won’t, not because he can’t get leave from work, but because we can’t afford tickets. We stay married for health insurance and assistance with my college. I have $15k in medical debt (collections) and terrible credit. He owns my car and we live off of his child support while I am in school. My parents provide free childcare so I can go to school. EVERYTHING I have—roof over my head, financial aid for my classes, my car and financial security, are all due to someone else’s generosity. I am grateful and scared. When will I be able to support myself so I can feel safe? Will this degree be worth it? I can’t tell my daughter she can be anything she wants to be. I can’t even guarantee she will have clean air to breathe or a school that isn’t underfunded and understaffed. WE ARE THE 99%!!!

* I’m 50 years old. I am one of the lucky ones! I’ve worked since I was 16, I’m a decorated US Military Vet. I’m well educated and work in the IT field and haven’t had a raise in five years. My wife is a school teacher who has lost $5000.00 of her salary due to budget cuts. Wells Fargo started foreclosure proceedings after we missed a payment, they would not talk to us until they successfully foreclosed on our home, then socked us with legal fees and refinanced making us upside down on our mortgage. To make ends meet, I’ve had to take a better paying job out of state, leaving my wife and child (a foster care adoption) in our home we cannot sell and cannot rent. I’ve been tuned down for insurance even though I’m healthy. I’m looking for a 2nd job so I can move off of my friend’s couch because with my wife and my combined salary I can’t afford a cheap efficiency apartment. WE ARE DOING WELL! WE ARE THE 99%

In a land where everyone is equal, the stories of the people above should not be true.  But they are.  The needs of the 99% are not equal to the wants of the 1%, and rather than majority rule, the 1% is calling the shots.  Why does my husband pay more in personal income taxes than the multinational corporation he works for pays in corporate income tax?  Why do banks make risky investments and get bailed out with public money when those investments fail, but individuals with pension funds that believed the banks about the safety of those investments have to accept their losses and start over from scratch?  Why was the man in line in front of me at the pharmacy last week told that they couldn't fill his valid prescription from his physician because it wasn't on the 'approved' list from his insurance company, and it would take three days for them to get authorization?  When he told the pharmacist that he couldn't wait three days for this medication, he was told to call his doctor and see if he could be prescribed something else.

According to the Supreme Court, corporations are 'persons' just like anyone else.  All persons are equal, but apparently some persons are more equal than others.