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The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators call themselves the “99 percenters,” pitting those whom they characterize as the rich, greedy 1 percent capitalists against the 99 percent of the people whom the 1 percent are supposedly exploiting. A more accurate description of the demonstrators is that they are 99 percent narcissists engaging in a form of self-glorified street theater. And that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt that 1 percent of them may be misguided but authentic idealists.
The narcissists think they are the American incarnation of the Arab Spring. But whatever one believes about the motivations and effectiveness of the Arab Spring movements, the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and other countries in the Middle East-North African region were protesting against real oppression. They have been gunned down and tortured for demonstrating against some of the world’s most repressive regimes. By contrast, the 99 percenters are complaining that they were briefly detained after disobeying police warnings not to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge or further uptown. Some of the drivers who were blocked by the protesters were themselves part of the 99 percent trying to get to work and back.
Occupy Wall Street does not have a clear focus. Its “causes” are all over the map, but with a common anti-establishment theme. They crave media attention for themselves and their various complaints du jour. A proposed list of demands posted by one user on the website OccupyWallSt.org, which its administrators describe as a “collective,” were disowned by the site’s administrators.
But at least one of these demands – “free college education” – seems to be resonating with many of the mostly young crowd. They want their student loan debts forgiven.
The demonstrators are clueless about the fact that since July 1, 2010, under a bill signed by “hope and change, yes we can” Barack Obama, it is the U.S. Department of Education that has taken over making student loans from the banks and other private-sector or quasi-private sector lenders such as Sallie Mae who had received a federal subsidy for making government-guaranteed college loans. The anti-Wall Street demonstrators clamoring for free college education and student debt forgiveness are wasting their time in New York’s financial district. They should be joining their comrades protesting in Washington, D.C. at the White House, Department of Education and Capitol Hill. They should also be protesting at the colleges themselves, which have been raising their tuitions at a far greater pace than the general rate of inflation.
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