My wife and I both come from (different) upstate New York factory towns. My family moved to San Jose when I was nine. Mary moved to California after high school, while her brothers stayed in Rochester and went to work for Kodak. In the early ’70’s, that was a reasonable path to choose. Kodak was a solid Dow Jones company and historically, one of the first to offer generous benefits to workers.
Over the last three decades, Mary and I have gone back for fun, for weddings, and funerals. Rochester isn’t the same city. Weeds grow in the parking lot of many silent factories. Birds fly out of smokestacks once touted as the tallest in the country.
Kodak is a textbook example of a successful company blindsided by a “disruptive technology.” But textbooks are the last thing on the minds of many of Kodak’s 38,000 retirees. Late to the digital party, there is now talk of Kodak going bankrupt, and unfortunately, Kodak retiree health care is tied to the company’s fortunes. http://www.npr.org/2011/10/12/141257737/the-picture-isnt-pretty-for-some-kodak-retirees
There are way too many stories like this in the news. This one caught my attention because I know the town a little bit, and know people who are affected, people who played by the rules and now find themselves getting screwed. A week from now, their story will be forgotten.
I found myself thinking again of the Occupy Wall Street protestors and some reactions from our “leaders” to their attempt to give people like the Kodak workers a voice.
According to Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Eric Cantor has called the protestors a “mob” and denounced them for “pitting Americans against Americans.” Mitt Romney accused them of “waging class warfare.” Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” Senator Rand Paul fears the protestors will start taking iPads from the rich, and according to the talking heads on CNBC, they are “aligned with Lenin.” http://www.sacbee.com/2011/10/11/3973680/plutocrats-fearing-scrutiny-demonize.html
Hard times bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. These days I find myself paraphrasing the Serenity Prayer – asking for “the wisdom to know the difference.”
I readily admit that I don’t follow any news source very closely, and when a friend sent me an Occupy Akron invitation on facebook I had no idea what it was. (I live in NE Ohio, Akron is that largest big city to where I’m from.) It seems to me from reading your post and the Sacramento Bee article you posted that these Occupy Wall Street protests or whatever are nothing more than peaceful ways of people voicing their opinion about a system that is broken in many ways.
I can’t fault the banks or other companies who have abused the systems in place to make obscene amounts of money, lets face it, they were in a position to take advantage of several loopholes in the system and they did so producing outstanding results for them. It has just come to the attention of many people that the system has flaws, and if no one is ever allowed to point out the flaws of a system, then nothing will ever change.
I can also fully understand both sides opinions on this. The large companies who have used said loopholes don’t want to give up what they have made in their careers. And who would? As long as they legally obtained everything they have (even if the system was flawed) I see no problem with them fighting to keep what they have. On the other hand, quite a few people are now able to see the flaws in the system and are upset about it, primarily because they themselves hadn’t been in a position to take advantage of it. I’m sure that everyone who participates in one of the Occupy sit-ins would staunchly oppose them if they were on the other side, and vice-versa.
We live in a world today where every person with access to the internet has the opportunity to get their voice out there and be heard. Some people have decided to use their voice to protest a system that is to them brutally unfair. As long as the protests remain non-violent, I see no problem with people objecting to a system they don’t believe to be fair, and I also see no problem with people fighting to keep what they have.
I agree that blame and recrimination accomplish nothing, and I also think that there are no quick or easy fixes for some of our underlying issues, which I still think are due to structural changes that globalization has and will bring about.
Still, I think it is possible to draw conclusions and hopefully use them to shape the future. It was wrong, toward the end of the housing boom, to sell risky mortgages to people who hadn’t a prayer of not defaulting down the line, just to pocket the commission and jack up one’s sales figures. If it wasn’t illegal, it was unethical. In a similar vein, it would also be stupid in 2012 to elect an ostrich candidate who tries to deny global climate change.
The good thing is that the Occupy Wall Street people, much like the Tea Party before them, have sparked a more interesting dialog than we’re likely to hear in the presidential “debates” or in the “town halls,” with their carefully screened audience.