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.