Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What We Were Promised

The Huffington Post recently published a an article promoting baseless assumptions about Gen Y and why some random person thinks we are unhappy. This is a Gen Y'er's response:
Key Points for those of you who skim:
·         World War II created a false economy.
·         Baby Boomers then created an America about the science of spending money and creating debt.
·         We, Gen Y, have inherited a terrible economy, with little to no expanding job market, and massive amounts of student loans, and are now being blamed.  Thanks.
Recently an article made the rounds on social media outlets entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”.  It goes to great, condescending length to describe how my generation - everyone currently between the ages of 20 and 35 – is basically a bunch of entitled, spoiled, children who need to grow up and stop thinking they are special.  Supposedly, the reason we are all unhappy is because we think we deserve fulfilling jobs.  It’s not clear how the anonymous author Wait But Why - the blogger behind articles like “7 Asinine Things About Society” and “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook” - reaches this conclusion because there’s nothing in the article about depression rates or job satisfaction or any other indicator of general welfare.  The article truly fails to explain the conclusions reached about why my generation feels the way it does, which I will attempt to do.
The Great Generation (World War II)
“War-time industry pulled us out of the great depression and helped re-establish America’s dominance as the world’s economic and military power.  Once the Greatest Generation came back from the war they fucked like rabbits and had tons of kids.  Thus the Baby Boomers were born.  They were told stories of how their parents had single-handedly won a better America and that it was their children’s responsibility to do the same:  To take what their parents had given them and make it better.
Who cares if America didn’t actually single-handedly win the war but rather was one participant in a joint effort of many other countries and that many other non-American battles helped turn the tide.  For example:  The Storming of Madagascar, The battle of Westerplatte, the Battle of Moscow, the Battle of Kursk, The badass Kokoda Track, The Piolis of the Underground State, the Details of El Alamein, the HMS Bulldog and - the true turning point of the war - The battle of Stalingrad fought and won by Russia.  To quote George S. Patton “Americans love a winner.”  And in our eyes, America won.
The Baby Boomers then trotted off to school and learned things.  They graduated high school and most went straight from there to the work force, where quality jobs with benefits and pensions awaited them.  Some went on to college, but a college degree was certainly not required to get a decent job.  Thus, the Boomers began building the foundation for the next generation.
America 2: Judgment Day
Then in the 1960’s, a thing called the credit card made debt widely available to all Americans.  This created a way for banks to put massive amounts of people into small, manageable, debt.  With telephone technology, even the most rural of gas stations could accept all major credit cards.  So now every American could partake in money they didn’t have to spend on things they didn’t earn.  The newest  TV, the newest Beatles album (or Monkees, if you were into that scene), a brand new GM automobile, anything they wanted they could get.
It was at this moment - the birth of the modern credit card - that industrial America died and neo-capitalist America was born.  As we approached the 1970’s America was no longer about creating and building things, it was about finding the cheapest labor, using the cheapest parts, convincing people to buy things, and maximizing profits.
Outsourcing work to China started to become a mainstay amongst savvy businessmen.  Why pay Americans a minimum wage when you could pay even less to some child in China to do the same job?  It made sense.  The Baby Boomers figured it out!  America became richer and prospered.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.   Sure it cost American’s jobs, but the Boomers made more money!  Go America!  Make the Greatest Generation proud.
What We Were Promised
Enter my generation.  I was born right at the turn of the decade, January 1990.  By the time I was 3 President Clinton started building one of the best economies America had Seen since the 1920’s.  We were told that we were great, that our generation was going to do well, that we could do anything because, well, why not?  The middle class was booming, we weren’t fighting any major wars, the job market looked great, everyone was paying their credit cards on time, mortgages for houses were plentiful, there wasn’t a thing to be worried about in the world.  So we trotted off to school to begin to build the foundation for our future generation. 
 “Oh but wait,” the job industry said to us.  “Sorry, but you need a college degree to get a job now.  Yes, we know, your parents could get away with just a high school degree, or at most a B.A.  But the job market has become too competitive and so you need a college degree.  You should probably get a Master’s, too.  Yeah it’s going to cost a lot, but hey we have these great things called student loans.  Guess what:   You qualify!  You can now go to college and do whatever you want to make your dreams come true.  You can be happy and fulfilled and get the job of your dreams.”
We took out a loan on our dreams.
Our generation is nearly entirely in debt, and in debt before we’ve even had the chance to find a job. Now, the Average American owes $24,301 in student loans and has $7,084 in debt on their credit card. For the most part, previous generations started with a clean slate and only incurred debt after they were employed, for a house or a second car.  Our generation was told that we had to go to college to get a job, even though the Boomers and the generation before didn’t have to.  We now have more debt than any generation before us strapped to our backs - over a trillion dollars’ worth of debt – and we’ve barely entered the job market. American industry had long been dead and the only thing we produce now is pop culture and debt. The Baby Boomers and their parents had it good because America was still booming in their time.  You could walk out of high school and get a good-paying job with benefits at a factory building cars or boats or tools or toys.  Few of these jobs exist today. 

Wrapping it up
In two weeks, the US government will shut down, and about a month from now, the US will run out of cash, unless a bipartisan deal can be struck on the debt ceiling. As of June, only 44% of us “Gen Y’ers”  had a full-time job, with 12% unemployed and 4% straight-up giving up. Over a third of 18-to-31-year-olds still live with their parents. We’re living through an insane employment market where we take unpaid internship after unpaid internship, only to have just 37% of them ending in actual employment. Even rock-solid yuppie fields like law are looking shakier by the day. No wonder less than a third of young people “actually feel that their job is part of their long-term career plan.” We’re just trying to survive.  We may be unhappy with our jobs, but it’s not because we expect to be CEOs by 30. It’s because at this rate, it’s nearly impossible to see ourselves becoming CEOs at all.
This is what our generation was given:  Massive debt, no industry, awful job market.  The generations before us created America, one nation, in debt, and we the United Generation Y now have to sort this mess out.  And we must do so while working in jobs that have no future and hardly pay enough to cover our student loans repayment schedule, assuming we can find a paying job at all.
Yes, we were told we could do anything.  We were told that we could get our dream job.  We were lied to about the possibilities of our future because no one accounted for the fact that maybe, just maybe, saddling the American people with tons of debt, while simultaneously getting rid of all the decent-paying jobs, was a bad idea.  This is what we were born into and it’s not our fault. But we will fix this problem because we are better educated than those before us.  We are the smartest.  We are well connected.  We have the ability to communicate on a global level and to us, race, creed, and religion aren’t dividing points anymore.  We will fix the problem our parents and grandparents handed us, even though it might cost us the future we dreamt of. 

Joey Stamp, originally from Iowa, is a 23 year old writer/director struggling in New York City. He has $60,000 dollars’ worth of student debt, and is very happy.

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