Published June 08, 2011
The longer our jobless recovery drags on, the more America's streets will fill with guys like Carl Gibson.
Gibson, 24 years old, is smart, creative, college-educated -- and has nothing better to do than cause trouble for big companies.
"Banking corruption and corporate corruption is ruining our democracy," he says. "We're spending way too much on bailouts .. and wars. .. People are fed up. We don't have jobs. We're broke. We have to do something about it."
To Gibson, who grew up in Kentucky as the son of a Methodist minister, no company is sacred. Not even Apple (AAPL), maker of the iPhones, iPods and iPads that modern protesters rely upon.
A group Gibson co-founded, US Uncut, organized actions at Apple stores in several cities, from San Francisco to Boston, over the weekend.
Apple has joined the cavalry of corporations attempting to lobby their way out of billions in taxes at a time when the nation is more than $14 trillion in debt. Apple hasn't commented on any of US Uncut's actions, but its security personnel were busy escorting protesters out its doors Saturday.
"We're transient," Gibson says of his generation. "We're going from job to job. We're just trying to hold on.
"We were raised with the belief that if you go to school, if you do what your parents say, if you eat your vegetables, play by the rules, and go to college, then you'll get your degree, and you'll get a job, and you'll be set.
"When we got into the real world, we found out that because of...greedy corporations, the banking crisis, and whatever, there are no jobs for us," he says. "A lot of young people are really disenchanted."
A government-financed recovery isn't so much producing jobs as a generation of youth who may soon storm the streets as youth do in Arab countries and in Europe, Gibson says. "This is a universal problem."
Gibson is 6 feet tall, 200 pounds and knows how to break up fights. After graduating college in 2009, he worked as a nightclub bouncer. On the gentler side, he plays drums in jazz bands. And he recently worked as a reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where he covered BP's (BP) oil spill.
The network fired him last summer for leaking an internal memo to friends at an alternative newspaper about his employer's decision to drop "Fresh Air," a show distributed by National Public Radio.
Yeah, he probably shouldn't have leaked that memo. But he says it showed his employer was violating its own censorship policies while telling the public a different story.
Such youthful idealism combined with a lack of suitable job prospects make Gibson a dangerous force. He is attracting similarly situated folks to a decentralized movement that already counts more than 23,000 "likes" on Facebook. He can organize protests and flash mobs with the push of a button.
It went after Apple for its support of the "Win America Campaign." Companies backing the campaign -- including Cisco (CSCO), Duke Energy (DUK), Microsoft (MSFT), Eastman Kodak (EK), Oracle (ORCL), Pfizer (PFE) and Qualcomm (QCOM) -- want to bring home $1 trillion they have stashed overseas without having to pay hefty taxes. The group's proposals would save Apple $4 billion, according to US Uncut's calculations.
Gibson doubts another big tax break is going to inspire any of these companies to improve employment.
"These corporations are earning record profits right now, and they aren't using that money to hire people," he says.
"At a time when jobs are being outsourced overseas, when corporations are claiming tax havens as their international headquarters -- whether it's a mail drop in the Cayman Islands or a post-office box in Ireland -- you have to look at whether these American corporations are being responsible American citizens.
"Taxes shouldn't be seen as something a corporation is obligated to avoid at any cost," he says. "Taxation should be seen as an investment in your country."
Still, corporate taxation remains a complicated issue, and it's not easy mobilizing people to protest Apple.
"We took a lot of flack from the Apple fan base," Gibson concedes. "There was actually a study...that said when...fans of Apple products hear that word, religious emotions are triggered in their brain."
US Uncut counters with something that has worked since the 1960s: rock 'n roll. The group produced a music video from a small "dance-in" at an Apple store in Washington D.C. over the weekend. It's worth a watch at http://www.usuncut.org/actions/513#report-184).
"We're calling on Apple to be the socially responsible corporation they claim to be, and jump off this campaign," Gibson says.
Isn't technology wonderful? It can even be turned against technology companies.
"We will 'out-cool' Apple," Gibson says.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at email@example.com or tellittoal.com)