The Three Choices Of One Percenters: Guillotine, Pitchforks, Or Pay Fair Taxes

Ed Raymond

Even the American Spectator, a rag of unparalleled selfish conservatism, has sounded bells and sirens about the inevitable skirmishes between the One Percent and the 99 Percent.  The June cover of the Spectator emphasizes the perp walk of a monocled fatcat representing the One Percent being hustled to a blood-soaked guillotine. As Lynn Stuart Parramore of AlterNet writes: “Such a cover represents the qualities of the 1798 French Revolution, when thousands of French aristocrats (not a single one a relative of mine. My great-great-great... was a Normandy peasant with a dirt floor and one rusty pitchfork) emptied their body fluids before and after they met the French “National Razor.” The last straw in that revolution was the piece of cake offered by Queen Antoinette. The French 99 Percenters were really pissed and stormed everything, even the Bastille.
There seems to be a lot of fat, dumb, happy elites in this country who don’t seem to realize we are beyond the beginning of another class war–and it is a world-wide WW III. Over 70 percent of the U.S. 2014 graduating class has student loans of $30,000 and above for a total student debt of over $1.1 trillion. That’s more than present credit card or auto loan debt. Among many in the 99 Percent, this graduating class is really pissed just like my ancestors were back in 1798. One can tell the mood among graduates who have chased many a politician, pundit, banker, economist or other celebrity from the commencement microphone and teleprompter.  The excesses of the French aristocracy in the 18th Century is matched by the excesses of the One Percent in the 21st.
No doubt that Carlos Escobar, the “hedge fund manager” of the Medellin, Columbia drug cartel at its most productive, was a recent representative of the One Percent before his untimely death because of excess greed.  According to good authority the Medillin cartel alone spent $2,500 per month buying rubber bands so they could count and wrap huge bricks of cash. Now that’s real money. Also part of his legend is the story of his burning over $2 million in paper money when he was on the run in the woods from authorities with his daughter who was cold.

Why Are Graduates So Ornery?

The current unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, is 6.3 percent, but everyone except small children knows that the real rate is about 15 percent—because the employment records have been “cooked” for decades. The graduate knows there has been no increase in the median wage for three decades. The graduate knows there are very few well-paying jobs available. The graduate with student loans feels like Sisyphus pushing a huge bundle of loans up a steep hill, only to have them run back over him time and again.    
A 2014 graduate can’t get a good job but watches Canadian and European students with higher incomes have more disposable income. A French college graduate is way ahead of an American graduate because France supports university training. They are not forced to take out monster loans. Neither do they have to work their way through school. The French now have a lower unemployment rate than we do. The Nordic countries are inching ahead of our graduates in median salaries even without minimum wage laws because trade unions and government are required to negotiate salaries. Britain establishes minimum salaries by having a committee of economists and statisticians annually adjust the limits. With loans coming due, our graduate has to return to her parents’ basement. It may take her up to 20 years to pay her student loans. She can’t buy a car or house. She can’t afford to rent an apartment. She can’t afford to get married. But she may buy used pitchforks at a thrift store.
Some pundits and university presidents say 2014 graduates and faculty are “killing free expression” on campuses by protesting the choice of some commencement speakers. Tell me why graduates of Rutgers University, deeply worried about their own future, should listen to Condi Rice talk about her government experiences. Is she going to talk about their future? They were in middle school when she joined the crazy uncle in the White House basement and the Know-Nothing George W. Bush and the “known-unknowns” of Donald Rumsfeld talking about mushroom clouds and Saddam’s overwhelming collection of Weapons of Mass Destruction—when the Iraq War was all about oil. What else can she talk about besides a defense of the Bush-Cheney administration? Her political ideology?
Brandeis University wanted to honor Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her work in promoting African women’s rights. She wrote a very informative book about the Islamic treatment of women. But the grads wanted to hear something about how women are treated and raped on American campuses. Graduates are not particularly interested in African women when they are treated poorly by the Congressional American Taliban at home. They might want to hear about how they will fit into future American cultures. Beatle John Lennon made a very profound statement to the young in a song: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
Graduates of Fordham University raised hell until Ann Coulter, a right-wing nutcase “shock jock,” speaker, writer, and pie-ducker, pulled out of her commencement address. She has never told the truth in milking outrageous propaganda for bucks. Her selection in the first place seems contrary to Catholic-Jesuit principles. Was it a joke? Her main theme: “Liberals are Nazis!”

A Much-Admired Woman Rejected At Smith College Is A Real Message

Even graduates of the all-female college Smith got into the protest act. Tuition and expenses run about $60,000 at the liberal arts school. Smith trustees had invited Christine Lagarde, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund, to address their graduates. I have admired her, as she was the French finance minister for years who often spoke truth to power when she was the only woman among finance ministers in the 28 nations of the Euro.
But even the well-off students at Smith, many with parents near the top of the 99 Percent, protested the “imperialistic” lending policies of the IMF, which included the recommendation of “austere” policies that hurt the poor and the middle class in Greece, Spain, Great Britain, and many other European countries. These young graduates had not swallowed the Kool-Aid offered by the One Percent. Worried about what their “liberal arts” future would be in a world shaped by tremendous inequality in the 21st century, they chased Christine back to the IMF. This act surprised me, but I think it emphasizes how we now have a World Spring instead of just an Arab Spring and an Asian Spring. I thought Rick McKee, cartoonist for the Augusta, Georgia Chronicle, captured the thoughts of many college graduates in his cartoon of three kids at their sidewalk lemonade stand interviewing a college graduate in his cap and gown. The caption: “Your resume is certainly impressive… we’ll keep it on file should a position open up.”

Staying Mad And Getting Even

Graduates are also staying mad and getting even. Haverford College had invited Robert Birgeneau, the former president of the University of California at Berkeley, to address graduates and get an honorary degree in his retirement. But in 2011 Birgeneau and the campus police roughed up students protesting state budget cuts. Perhaps you remember the excessive use of pepper being sprayed in the faces of protesters sitting on the ground. Haverford College grads said “Hell No!” to his appearance. This isn’t about free speech. This is about “giving the bastards a message.” Maybe students are getting a greater appreciation of morality someplace on campus. When pop star Justin Bieber went off the rails in California and made an ass of himself, the young would support him in almost any circumstance. But the U. S. State Department got 270,000 requests to deport him to his native Canada! That was surprising.

St. Thomas University, A Camel, And “Hump Day”

As a high school principal at Fargo South during the 1970s, I had my share of protests to work with in an attempt to provide some order and discipline. We had a number of Vietnam War protests to manage because 18-year-olds were being drafted to fight in that godforsaken war. And then we had the funny ones. The battle over bathroom toilet doors to lessen graffiti on the walls was a memorable one... I ended up having my office toilet door stolen by some miscreants in the dark of night. Then I made a deal with the protesters. We had streakers exposing themselves, bouncing through school dances, games, and ceremonies revealing what little they had. We always had an annual spring battle over the painting of various obscenities or ads painted in huge letters on the gym dome in the dark of night. I remember we advertised “Budweiser” for a time before we could get the dome repainted. Northwest pilots pointed it out to their passengers because South was along the final approach to Hector. I guess it was all in good fun—and often demonstrated we were teaching creativity.
College students, with their triple anxieties about loans, jobs, and their futures, are really getting picky. “Hump Day” at St. Thomas is a great example of how small mounds turn into mountains. Evidently St. Thomas administrators misjudged their harassed, worried students when they decided to spend $500 to bring a camel on campus to “lighten up the mood” during Finals Week. The camel was supposed to raise spirits during Hump Day. The plan immediately raised the ire of most students and the protest was on. Their points were memorable: (1) The $500 should have been spent on a worthwhile project, (2) The camel should be returned to its natural habitat, (3) The camel would provide a “negative carbon imprint” by crapping on college lawns, (4) The plan was cruel to animals and disrespectful to the animal, (5) The camel represented Islam because of its Middle East background, so the plan was racially and religiously motivated, and (6) The camel may represent climate change! The organizer said he probably should have rented an Asian two-hump Bactrian to eliminate the “Islamic” camel! At least the St. Thomas students demonstrated some creativity.

What Is The Job Of The College Or University President?

The people who are supposed to run college athletic programs through their organization, the NCAA, have already surrendered to alumni, professional sports, coaches and athletic directors, and cold, hard cash made by their minor league clubs in football and basketball. They are clearly no longer educational leaders leading to the further development of our culture. They are merely fundraisers lifting tin cups to public officials and private One Percenters who want buildings named after them. They have raised tuition to the point where only one student out of 17 from families earning less than $40,000 can even think of attending a four-year institution.
Some presidents have gone completely bonkers. The saga of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson presenting the commencement address at Louisiana Tech comes to mind. President Tim West announced to the world one day before Tech’s graduation ceremonies that the university was honoring Robertson with an honorary degree. The Bible-thumping TV star had just enlightened our culture by saying women’s vaginas are more preferable for screwing than men’s anuses. Ah, Leviticus strikes again. Phil also says blacks were happy during their slavery days. After all, the Bible approves of slavery. When he was picking cotton next to blacks, he never heard one talk about the whites. His comments about Jews and others are too numerous to mention.
At the graduation ceremonies, when the students, even steeped in the attitudes of Louisiana, saw Robertson stand to give his address, they walked out. Along with them came many of the faculty. Was this a violation of free speech? Should Robertson have a platform besides his bigoted, anti-Semitic, anti-gay Duck Dynasty? The students and faculty said “No!” If people want to watch and listen this ignoramus, feel free. What was the president thinking?

Raymond is a former Marine officer and school board superintendent and resides in Detroit Lakes.