I don't know why exactly, but for Kristof to come out with this milquetoast argument just makes my heart sink. His argument: If inequality is so bad, and early childhood education can make a difference for lifetime earnings, then the Occupy movement should support early childhood education. No, man. No!
The assumption strikes me as, Let's get better education for the po' kids so *they too* can be Wall St. robber barons, or at least mimic the elite. The argument completely misunderstands the Occupy movement, which for me is primarily concerned with a critique of economic inequality itself -- a critique which is not concerned with the edges of the central injustices in the current system. In a word, people do not need to change -- the system needs to change. We'll always have rich people and poor people (eh, the poor will always be with you), i.e. some inequality. Some people don't want to go to years of schooling, yet to me they still deserve a slice of American prosperity.
Politicians like Obama and billionaires like Gates think inequality can be addressed through "education." Well, I have a master's degree, so I speak from experience: It is the *power differential* between regular people and the ultra-wealthy "masters of the universe" which needs redress. Why do I have this sinking feeling that if I and millions like me kept getting those fancy new skills for the modern global economy, the ultra-wealthy would magically change the rules to skim off the new value we would create, and we would be right friggin' where we started. Oh wait, that's because *it's what we already did.* The American population is the most credentialed and educated in the history of the world, yet somehow the same problems persist. Indeed it is not my fault for being stuck on this hamster's wheel, it's the system -- the system geared to the benefit of the few and the disadvantage of the many.
Our country is rich -- rich enough so that someone who wants to do hard manual labor sans education should be paid and taxed fairly for the work performed. He shouldn't be told to go get a college degree; those willing to work should be paid fairly, period, no different from the post-WWII period when a young person could work the summer and pay his college tuition. The current system gives special status to the oligarchs and disincentivizes work as such and incentivizes the "work" of making money off of capital, like some nightmare vision of Marx. These banking bastards don't even own the means of production -- they control the spigot of money through government regulatory capture! (If this isn't the capitalist move par excellence, I don't know what it is, so props to the top 1% for ingenuity, but damn, this is a system that effs over me and everybody I know.)
I have yet to hear anything near a reasonable argument for what *social value* comes from the finance sector. The typical argument is that resources become better allocated through the rational invisible hand of the free market. If that worked so well, then why did our world economy suffer from an obvious speculation-crazy boom period followed by an adults-living-with-their-parents bust? All Wall St did was leverage further and further, build more and more risk, skim the proceeds, and leave the rest of us holding the bag. They threw everybody who actually produces value in the real economy under the bus.
Yeah, so even the New York Times is accommodationist. Guess the movement is only beginning. Real meaning systemic change must continue as the goal.