Sunday, June 13, 2010

Young people unable to afford a life? Convince them they never wanted it, anyway!

From the NYT we have yet another fluff piece about why young people “just can’t get it together.” This is far from the first article discussing this trend, but it takes the same track as every damn one of them. Namely, “back in the day, it was a tremendous burden to get a job at 22 and work for the rest of your life, pay a mortgage, and have a family. Now, young people have independence! They don't have to conform to these outdated indicators of success!” What a load of horse shit.

The spin-masters try and fool young people into thinking that these markers of middle-class stability aren’t “worth it.” They tell us that, rather than being achievements and signs of prosperity, owning a home, being married, and raising kids is a tremendous burden and we should all be glad that we can’t afford to live this way. I'll agree that mortgages, marriages, and children certainly are a burden. Hey, life is a burden. I don’t know about you all, but I would much rather get a decent job in my 20s, work for the same company until retirement, and be “tied down” by the privilege of being able to afford a home, than be six figures in debt and live with my mom until age 40. Those stodgy old markers of the middle class sound really, really rough, I tell ya!

Fluff pieces like this continually try to convince young people that drawing out life is great. What they fail to mention is how these generations have been utterly screwed to the point of no longer being able to AFFORD what was previously a very achievable middle-class life. For as much as they discuss (without citing any evidence of causation) how progressive social factors are to account for this, it’s clear to any 20something suffering through debt slavery and a looted economy that we’ve been sold out. It's not that 20somethings are all happily rejecting marriage and a picket fence en masse. (Some of them are, for various reasons, and more power to them.) It's that very few people in their 20s can AFFORD to live like their parents and grandparents did at the same age, thanks to educational debt and a lack of decent job options. If we hadn't jacked up the cost of higher ed and destroyed manufacturing and service jobs in this country, my guess is many millions more 20somethings would be quite pleased to be living the way previous generations did.

These articles like to present delayed parenthood), living at home for years after graduation, and shitty jobs as the benefits of an enlightened society. We've all been convinced that this “freedom” is really stupendous, as a cover-up for how much we've been screwed. Purveyors of this "more freedom" lie apparently spend little time pondering the social effects of having tens of millions of young people shut out of traditional avenues of self-improvement and socialization. Used to be that getting a job and a mortgage was a great way to impart civic responsibility and a sense of collective work ethic on people. But I'm sure these things don't matter anymore, and we're all better off for being rid of this kind of "oppressive" thought.

Maybe there are a lot of people these days who think waiting until 40 to ever afford a home, kids, a spouse, is just the bee’s knees. Maybe I’m really out of touch. I can’t be the only one who wants to get started on life, rather than spend the next 20 years in purgatory. Yes, there are more “options,” and social pressure for people who no longer want “traditional” lifestyles is alleviated. This is good; no one should feel like a pariah for foregoing a cookie-cutter lifestyle.

However, when the trappings of this lifestyle—home ownership, the ability to provide for a family (if desired), disposable income—are now out of reach to millions of young people, something is very wrong. Telling us all how better off we are to be relieved of these burdens isn’t going to work. We all know that we’ve been priced out of a decent life. Young people are saddled with six-figure debt before they have a chance. The jobs that would have helped dig us out are long gone. As much as the media tries to tell us all how great and liberating it is to live in mom’s basement until age 35, I don’t think we buy it. It’s not some great social revolution that is causing people to delay adulthood, it’s economic reality. No one can fucking afford it. Just another daily reminder of how we’ve been scammed hard.


  1. They start 'em young by making a bunch of 15-16 year olds think that if they can't get a good SAT score and get into a good college, your life is doomed or that at the very least you're a worthless pariah.

    The idea of working and making a living is hidden from a great many young people and these young people's parents for the last couple generations have done NOTHING to truly help their children. These parents just ship 'em to one of the outposts of the education-industrial complex. If this isn't a sign that God is exceedingly angry at mankind and is punishing these young people and essentially leaving these young people like lambs to the slaughter by being placed in the care of the education-industrial monsters, then nothing could be a sign. Lucky for us, we've woken up to the scam, and hopefully can correct ourselves and ensure that we will never again be slaves to the pride and cupidity that leads to oppression from the education-industrial complex.

  2. If you want to place blame on anyone, it is on the parents and grandparents. How many are still working in a job that but for a 60-70 year old refusing to retire would be available to a 20 year old to move and grow into. Its just more of the narsissim brought to you by the 70's generation.

  3. We shouldn't blame our elders. It's not a question of age. Many older workers are laid off and then have to face a purgatory of their own until they are eligible for Social Security and Medicare. The problem is the nature of the American economy. We have been sold out. Badly.

  4. I disagree age is an issue: mandatory retirement would open jobs to the next generation. It was only recently the elderly were able to keep jobs until they rot. There are a finite number of places, the 60-70s generation stole thier childrens' future for thier selfish wants.

  5. I agree a lot of the structural problems that have screwed us over were brought to us courtesy of our elders. There is always some intra-generational attrition, so those grandmas being laid off before they reach full retirement age are just going to have to get thrown under the bus. Boomers really are, as a generation, pretty awful. The children of "the greatest generation" are what? The selfish generation? The clueless generation?

  6. Medicare and Social Security are perfect storms on the horizon. Baby boomers are nearing the age of eligibility. Young people can't find decent paying jobs (most likely due to globalization, technological advancements, and population trends) and don't have as many children. Soon there won't be enough people paying into these programs to cover the outgoing obligations. Using immigration as a solution creates separate problems.

    Blaming other generations is not productive. I suspect that most people who put off retirement do so because they cannot afford to retire and/or they find meaning (sense of purpose) in their jobs. Who are we to judge them?

    An effective solution would involve cooperation among the generations--perhaps a transition program where the senior workers mentor the new workers.

    -thoughts of an unemployed male, late 20's, six figure student loan debt

  7. The corporate media/info-tainment complex loves to portray young people as shiftless slackers. (This is MUCH EASIER than taking a hard look at the root causes of this problem of "shiftlessness".) The reality of the situation is this: we have been INUNDATED since infancy to achieve higher education. As a result, we have too many people with advanced degrees for the available number of openings. That is why you see people with two Master's degrees working the phones, making $10 an hour.

    The average person of sound mind does not think it is cool to live in mom's garage until you hit age 35. People do so because they are desperate and CANNOT find gainful employment that pays them enough to live on their own. (Real wages have gone down over the last 30 years, whereas those of corporate executives have skyrocketed.)

    Most seniors "choose" to remain in the workforce because they CANNOT afford to retire. This helps cause a bottleneck of unemployment among the younger generations.

    To those saying we cannot blame Baby Boomers, I suppose you don't feel that we should place blame where it is due. The fact remains that these people collectively and individually bought into "conspicuous consumption" - and propagated this abject materialism on the rest of society. Look at the average savings rate among American workers (it has only gone up a little recently, because of the anxiety among workers); take a peek at the national debt.

    So many of these Boomers - including the ones who have the 8 bedroom McMansions - could leave the workforce HAD THEY BEEN FRUGAL AND RESPONSIBLE with their own money. Seeing that they came before us - in time - their snafus tend to hurt us, who came after them.

  8. "Blaming other generations is not productive... Who are we to judge them?"
    I stumbled on this site. I am a member of the Boomer generation who was able, as a result of pure luck to turn a law degree into a career. It is the Lawyers of the GenX, GenY and Millenium generations that have the right to judge.

    I remember when there were retiring lawyers and places available. I also remember being told by a Law professor in the late 1970's, when I graduated that the Law would no longer be a profession and was changing to another commodity run business with an over supply of new law graduates to sell to clients as marked-up cannon fodder. I remembered this lesson and I watched as the practice of law changed. All during my career new law graduates came into the market at cheaper adjusted prices. What you are seeing is the end result of all the societal choices of my generation. As it has always bee, you as the following generations get to write our history and critique out choices. Hopefully you learn from our mistakes.