I’m going to start this off by saying that I love my parents. They are amazing people that gave me every advantage in life and loved me unconditionally, despite major character flaws. And, before I truly begin, please understand that this is not an attack on any one person. It is a broad attack on a generation, and the culture they’ve created; obviously, some people are more responsible than others.
I’m talking, of course, about the Baby Boomers. But before we get to them, let’s start with my generation: people between 18-34.
A popular, blame-the-victim article recently came out called, “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.” It included a lot of bullshit that’s generally true (such as happiness = reality – expectations), but it was a DUMB essay, written with ass-hat simplicity and know-nothing sarcasm. Furthermore, it left our a simple, very important fact: our generation’s reality SUCKS. Let me spell it out in no uncertain terms:
A) College costs are TWELVE FUCKING TIMES HIGHER now than they were in 1980.
B) Between 1979 and 2009, the average wage has risen about 5% while worker productivity has risen 80%. During that same time the top 1%’s income has risen over 250%.
C) Since 1990, the cost of living has risen 67%.
D) Overall U.S. student debt is in excess of $1.2 trillion.
E) Read the blog, any number of posts which catalog all of the horrible shit that’s going on that our government refuses to deal with.
If statistics don’t do it for you, let me put a face on this. As many of you know, I’m a teacher. In order to get my master’s degree to teach, I had to take out $40,000 in student loans. My wife on the other hand, being more ambitious, chose to be a doctor, which set us back 250K more. Together we make between $90,000 and $100,000 a year before taxes, which is pretty damn good. Yet, because of the high cost of living, my student loans, and the fact we don’t want to live on tuna fish and macaroni for the next four years, we won’t even be able to pay the interest on her loans (close to a $1,000 a month for the math majors at home) for a few more years. By the way, my wife, a learned fucking doctor, mind you, makes about minimum wage when you factor in how many hours she works.
Now look, we live a nice life, we go on vacations—we’re far from financially imperiled. But isn’t this very scenario a little ridiculous? That two people with advanced degrees, one of them a doctor who saves lives, don’t make enough money to buy a house, and in order to get their jobs, are forced to take on, with interest, in excess of $400,000 of student loan debt?
The problem is, a lot of people reading this right now are thinking to themselves, “well, that’s just the way it is… deal with it.” Here’s why those people are dummies: if a couple like my wife and I, making close to 100K, find our financial situation burdensome, what does that say about others in our generation? What about the people that go to school and never get a degree, or that get one and work at Starbucks or wait tables because they can’t find a better job? There’s a reason that 21.6 millon young adults ages 18 to 31 (36% of that age range) are living with their parents. It’s because they can’t afford to live on their own.
Look, I know that according to the dumb article I referenced above, we shouldn’t set our expectations too high, but is it so wrong to expect not to have to live with your parents after graduating college? The answer for our generation, I guess, is yes, it is wrong. “Deal with it.” Right?
Oh we are. But let’s go ahead straighten some shit out here: I recall being told, CONSTANTLY, by my teachers, parents, etc., that I should go to college, get a good job, and all would be well. Go to college, go to college, go to college. But now, what do people say (especially assholes), when someone complains about student debt? “You knew what you were getting into—if it costs so much then you shouldn’t have gone to college.” Bullshit! According to that logic, we’d have no teachers, no doctors, no lawyers, no engineers, etc. to run our society. What were we all supposed to do: become pipe fitters, linesman, and plumbers?
No, the real problem here is the greed, malfeasance, and absolute lack of foresight and understanding by an entire generation: the Baby Boomers. Want to know how I know? BECAUSE THEY’RE THE ONES IN CHARGE. Who’re the CEOs, University Presidents, Upper Management, Principals, Politicians, Law Partners, etc? They’re just about all Baby Boomers, and they have two core beliefs:
1) Avoid change (especially common sense institutional change) at all costs—even if its CRYSTAL FUCKING CLEAR the institution has grown overly bureaucratic, corrupt, and/or unmanageable. Congress comes to mind, but then again, so does the financial sector, the university system, the NCAA, public education, health care, etc. I mean, how asinine is it that the vast majority of public schools still operate on a fucking AGRARIAN calendar? The days when children were needed in summers on the farm are long past, and yet, here we are, in 2013, operating as if it were the nineteen-ought-four.
2) Get as much as you can, screw everyone else. Sorry, but it’s true. During the balance of their generation, Baby Boomers have allowed the social safety net THEY BENEFITTED FROM WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG, to be systematically defunded and dismantled. That includes education, along with the notion that people should be fairly compensated for their labor.
A) California has experienced a 40% drop in higher education investment since 1980.
B) Nationwide, “the share of expenditures going to regular education dropped from 80% to 59% between 1967 and 1991.”
C) Between 1950 and 1970, infrastructure spending averaged 3% of GDP; since 1980, it’s been cut by a third, to 2%.
D) The real value of the federal minimum wage has dropped from over $10 in the 60’s to the $7.25 it is now.
E) During that same period of time, union membership dropped from 30% to 11% of all workers, which is one of the primary reasons that:
So where does the greed come in? Taxes. As a percentage of the GDP, overall taxation currently stands at 14.9%, three percent lower than the post World War II average of 18%. Even more incredible are the drop in the top marginal tax rates since 1960, from 90% to 37% today. I’m not even going to bother listing numbers for income or wealth inequality, because anyone who doesn’t know about that has been living in a cave.
Thus, over time, this is a generation whose greed always trumps social responsibility. Schools? No thanks, I don’t want to pay taxes—push the costs onto the students. Skyrocketing tuition rates? No thanks, I don’t want to pay taxes—push the costs onto the students. Pay workers a fair wage? No thanks, it’s more important for a few people to become fantastically wealthy. Allow collective bargaining? No thanks, it’s more important for a few people to become fantastically wealthy. Get as much as you can, screw everyone else.
But wait, isn’t this a societal problem? Yes, of course it is, but again, look at who’s in charge. The most gullible generation (some people call them the greatest, but that was a long time ago; now they’re mostly a bunch of shit-for-brains fools that watch Fox News and decry socialism while sucking as much money as possible out of Medicare and Social Security) has a few people still hanging on, but by and large they’re retired and out of the picture. And generation X, Y, and Z are too young—we don’t have enough money or power to do shit in the first place, and most of us are far too busy being vain, selfish hedonists to care.
Sorry Boomers, but that’s the plain truth—the society we have is the society you’ve created. You’re probably the best parents that have ever existed in the history of human kind, but you’re also the least responsible leaders we’ve had since before the great depression. The terrifying part—and I hope you’re still listening Boomers—is that you’ve set up a society that is likely to collapse just as you’re easing into retirement.
For, as I’ve explained, the generation that’s going to have to fund Social Security and Medicare going forward is fucking broke; most of us won’t be out from under our student loan debt for 20 years or more. Plus, society’s with a massive divide between rich and poor tend to collapse—especially when almost EVERYONE who’s young is poor.
Let’s face it, we’re a culture that’s eating its young.