Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Unemployed law grad asks Obama if American Dream is dead

Among today's big news headlines, other than the recession having been miraculously over since June 2009, was Obama's town hall meeting/gripefest/fiasco. Normally we here at ScammedHard! try and refrain from commentary on politics, but when the plight of yet another unemployed law graduate comes up in national news context, it's a great way to make more people aware of the law school scam.

According to the NYT, unemployed recent law graduate Ted Brassfield, "[a] 30-year-old law school graduate told Mr. Obama that he had hoped to pursue a career in public service — like the president — but complained that he could barely pay the interest on his student loans, let alone think of getting married or starting a family.

“I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away,” he said, adding, “And I really want to know, is the American dream dead for me?”

Mr. Brassfield's employment problems and question to the President are, in a way, a lot like the problems thousands of unemployed law grads are facing. While not every older person has a stellar resume like Obama's, so many of today's unemployed grads are hearing canned responses to their woes that sound a lot like the President's. Mr. Obama told Mr. Brassfield, "Absolutely not. What we can't do, though is go back to the same old things that we were doing because we've been putting off these problems for decades...We are still the country that billions of people in the world look to and aspire to."

That doesn't sound too far from, "Gee, I know you've got it tough, young law grad, but look at all of the great opportunities you have. You have a LAW DERGEE, for Chrissakes! People would KILL to have the educational achievement you have. Do you know how much lawyers can make..."

It's all fluff! People in the world look to and aspire to us? Maybe, but that's just because they see a highly-stylized version of American life on TV! The most common line that I get from people when traveling abroad isn't about how great our economic system is, or how wonderful our rights and liberties are, it's "are American neighborhoods really like the cute ones with lawns that they have on the tele?"

The President and all of the apologists, from clueless parents, to law school administrators, and everyone else who is trying to downplay the systemic misery of this depression, just don't "get it." Yeah, they lived through the 70s oil crisis. Big deal. No one under age 80 knows what it's like to come of age and try and find a real, sustainable job in such a shitty economy. They can throw out as many platitudes and evidence of "economic warming signs" that they want, but at the end of the day, they have no idea what it feels like to be faced with the insurmountable hurdles that our generation is looking at. Even those unfortunate Boomers who have been laid off in this recession had decades of solid work experience behind them that shaped their worldview. They are floundering now because they can't cope with real poverty and feelings of uselessness, which is sad. At least they had a chance. Try spending your entire life being told that you could achieve something, that your education was the key to your success in life, and that a decent and fulfilling job was just around the corner, and then being denied that chance. Personally, I'd rather be old and laid off, than young and unable to ever get a start. At least those unemployed Boomers have their memories, rather than a lifetime of depressed earnings, delayed or never-begun family lives, crushing debt, and all of the other attendant horrors that are facing 20-somethings.

What we're seeing here, from the President on down, is a horrible generational disconnect. Obama has a good job, a decent paycheck, and relatively high job stability (at least until 2012...hoy-oh!). He's a "law school establishment" guy if there ever was one, with a host of legal industry feathers in his cap, from law review to summer associateship, to law professor. There's even that vaunted public-interest work in there. The President's life experience is, by any standard, atypical, and his resume is more sterling than practically anyone else's. However, I was still struck by the hammy, lacking-in-conviction response, that he gave to poor Mr. Brassfield. It still sounds like a clueless parent, or a dopey career counselor, all of whom are employed and unable to relate to the young unemployables, to say that "everything will be just fine, and we're just as awesome as we always were."

I could go on about the miseries that are crippling so many of our young lives and shutting us out of the ever-shrinking middle class that Obama is spending so much time talking up, but it would cover no new ground. I must, however, applaud Mr. Ted Brassfield for taking it to the President, and asking him a question worthy of any scamblogger. This man is the face of the hellish plight of the overeducated, indebted, under-employed Lost Generation. His American Dream is unlikely to ever pan out in the bountiful way that those of previous generations did. Perhaps it's time for a little further national delusion. Let's redefine the American Dream from whatever it was--2.3 kids, picket fence and a mortgage--or perhaps an Arthur Miller-esque ability to stroll out of the jungle and get rich? In the era of defining down, the new American Dream looks a lot more like $120,000 in student loan debt, underemployment at part-time, $7/hour work, no marriage, kids, or net contribution to society, and a whole heaping load of failure and despair. It's probably not what President Obama was thinking of when he claimed that the American Dream is still alive and well, but at least if we take an honest look at what this "dream" entails for today's young people, we can go on using the term rather than toss it in the dustbin of history, along with our economic robustness and high-flying sense of national achievement.


  1. Perhaps a new phrase will emerge: "The American Nightmare."

    To be fair, Obama did mention the education legislation that was passed, i.e the Income Based Repayment option and cutting out the middleman loan originator leeches. The legislation doesn't do much good for those of us with private loans, and there are other problems (e.g. the forgiven debt will be considered taxable income unless additional legislation passes, the taxpayers take the loss rather than the schools, etc.), but it is a step in the right direction. Also, the newly proposed rules by the Dep. of Ed. for removing aid to for-profit schools with low repayment rates could be the beginning of a movement.

    There is another reason not to lose hope. If the massive spending leads to hyperinflation, as some people expect, our debts will be easier to pay off (assuming we ever get jobs).

  2. George Carlin said it best: "They call it the American Dream, 'cause you need to be asleep to believe it."

  3. "I'd rather be old and laid off, than young and unable to ever get a start. At least those unemployed Boomers have their memories, rather than a lifetime of depressed earnings, delayed or never-begun family lives, crushing debt, and all of the other attendant horrors that are facing 20-somethings."

    Yeah, well, they also have their 20-something whining brats to support again when the little darlings move back home after they've spent four years in college on their parents' dime, texting their pals and updating their Facebook pages. And now they're all writing blogs from Mom & Dad's basement - on the computer Mom & Dad bought them - and crying about how hard it is to be young and unemployed.

  4. Obummer is no better than Bush. Hell, I'm starting to think McCain was a better choice. At least with RINO (Republican in Name Only) candidates, you get relative incompetence.

    With hack jobs like Obama... depression here we come!

  5. I don't think it's about Obama. Nor Bush or McCain for that matter. At least when it comes to the economy.

    This train wreck has been coming down the tracks for some time, decades. the steady deindustrialization of a (formerly) industrial country wasn't going to be pretty in its mature stages. Republican, Democrat--makes no difference. Those in power are all in "the club", serving global interests well above our little heads.

    The tea party people? Bullshit. That's just a little something to make the little folks FEEL like they can do something.

  6. I'm a fellow member of that "overeducated, indebted, under-employed Lost Generation." I work in retail now and do the janitorial work for the store, part time, for 8.50 an hour. We were always told that hard work and a good education pays off, and it absolutely doesn't. We were fed lies our whole lives.

    There's always someone posting on forums about unemployment that accuses Gen Y of being functionally retarded because of the prevalence of Facebook and texting. Talk about disconnected from reality. Facebook and texting should not condemn an entire generation to slave wages. Some of us ACTUALLY WANT TO WORK.

  7. "overeducated, indebted, under-employed Lost Generation." Me too, but I'm "Gen X" so I feel like I had a chance to make something happen but no, I finished college (working my way through) at 25 and now I am a 31 year old fresh law school grad facing an obscene amount of debt (hindsight is 20/20?) and nothing to show for it. I'm working in my pre-law school contract non-legal job so that I don't get evicted.

    If we don't get something legal within a year or so I think that's it, the door is closed. Depressing. However, I am not waiting. If I can find something good non-legal I am out of here before I even started!

  8. SH, what's your email address?

  9. To be fair, Obama didn't pay off his own student loans until right before his presidential campaign. So I think he has an idea of the impact they can have. I'm not sure why his answer was so.... whatever it was. He should know better.

  10. To be fair, Obama lived in Hawaii and attended a private, expensive high school and then attended Ivy League Schools afterwards. Obama's answer was so...Baby Boomer, typical. He is not even on the same page as the rest of you. Next time elect a person who was not prividged in life.

  11. Obama basically answers to the business establishment, and not Mr. Brassfield.

    If he answered honestly, the corporate propaganda machine, i.e. the corporate media at CNN, CBS, FOX, ABC would scream for his head.

    He has to play the good soldier for the media propaganda.

  12. I always say that the biggest beneficiaries of law schools are NEVER the law graduates, but the law firms and other employers of law graduates.

    Another beneficiary of law schools is the faculty and the administration running the law schools.

    In this capitalistic society, why would the law school industry in general make the law graduates the biggest beneficiaries, when the people running the law industry are law firms, employers of law graduates, and the faculty??

    As a corollary, college education in the US mainly benefits corporate America, who are the employers of college graduates. Education in America produces workers for corporate America, not citizens for the society.

  13. What does Obama care? He got a free ride through affirmative action. He doesn't give a whit about whitey or this country.

  14. That's why you should have taken the GRE as opposed to the simple LSAT. that's the first mistake y'all made. Now go wash my car you law school grads.



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