Education. Occupy Wall Street might be about financial reform, but Occupy the University of California, which produced appalling scenes such as the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis now trending on YouTube, seems to be largely about rising tuition. And students have good reason to be angry. Tuition in the UC system has more than doubled in the last decade, and without an infusion of state funds, the inflation will accelerate. Unfortunately, solving this problem isn't as easy as complaining about it. But the state budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown would have avoided some of the draconian higher-education increases now on the table by maintaining vehicle, sales and income taxes at their 2010 levels, a move that was thwarted by legislative Republicans, who blocked the proposal from going to the polls. If pepper-sprayed students can raise awareness of how devastating this is to students and families, and how harmful it will ultimately be for California's economic future, their mucus membranes might not have been burned for nothing.
Marijuana. Speaking of red eyes, the pungent smoke wafting across Occupy encampments in California, including the erstwhile Occupy L.A., indicates that many demonstrators would favor more sensible cannabis laws. Actually, they appear to favor legalization of even recreational marijuana, but that's not going to happen any time soon. A good start, though, would be to lobby for the federal government to stop treating marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, an absurd designation that asserts it has no medicinal value and has as high a potential for abuse as heroin. A more reasonable classification would encourage much-needed medical research and hopefully lead to lesser criminal penalties for possession. As for untangling the legal web California has created by legitimizing medical marijuana in the face of a federal ban — good luck on that one.