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The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 03:49 PM   #1
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The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

I'm sure this thread will draw a few flames, and perhaps I'm being a bit "disloyal" to Generations X and Y, but I couldn't help posting the following article from Slate.

Quote:
The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Twentysomethings who can't stop whining about how the economy is screwing them.
By Daniel Gross
Posted Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, at 5:12 PM ET

Oh, it's so hard to be young these days! Just crack open Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time To Be Young, by Anya Kamenetz, or Strapped: Why America's 20-and-30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead, by Tamara Draut, and you're plunged into a world of darkness and sorrow.

This is, with apologies to the Broadway musical Avenue Q, the "It Sucks To Be Me" Generation. To hear these authors tell it, college graduates (and twentysomethings who haven't gone to college) are in a world of hurt. The deck is stacked against them: student loans and credit-card debt, budget deficits and McJobs, high housing prices and generational warfare waged by more-numerous baby-boomers.

The economic jeremiad written by a twentysomething is a cyclical phenomenon. People who graduate into a recessionary/post-bubble economy inevitably find the going tough, which compounds the usual postgraduate angst. And with their limited life experience and high expectations, they tend to extrapolate a lifetime from a couple of years. I know. Back in the early 1990s, when my cohort and I were making our way into the workforce in a recessionary, post-bubble environment, I wrote an article on precisely the same topic for Swing, the lamentable, deservedly short-lived David Lauren twentysomething magazine. If memory serves, the headline was something like "Generation Debt."

Of course, as I penned those words on my tiny, crappy Mac and rode my bike through Midtown to deliver the piece (that's how things were done before the Internet), the economy was beginning to heat up. What followed were seven fat years in which exciting new industries were created, the stock market rose, and interest rates fell. As the 1990s wore on, most of my pals who had lamented their student loans, crappy jobs, and gross apartments found great jobs, loving spouses, and better housing.

And so, here we are again. Now, today's twentysomething authors are clearly onto something. College is more expensive today in real terms. There's been a shift in student aid—more loans and fewer grants. The Baby Boomers, closer to retirement, are sucking up more dollars in benefits. There's more income volatility and job insecurity than there used to be. So, why are these books—Generation Debt in particular—annoying?

It's not that the authors misdiagnose ills that affect our society. It's just that they lack the perspective to add any great insight. Writing in the New York Times this weekend, economics reporter David Leonhardt called Strapped, "a grim tale of one-sided generational warfare." Draut argues that "with the possible exception of having a larger array of entertainment and other goods to purchase, members of Generation X appear to be worse off by every measure" than prior generations. Huh? How about the Internet and Starbucks coffee and Lipitor and not having to worry so much about AIDS or crime or Mutual Assured Destruction or getting drafted into the Army and getting sent to Vietnam?

Also, many of the economic issues the authors identify—job insecurity, low savings rate, income volatility, the massive ongoing benefits cram-down—affect everybody, not just twentysomethings. And the people hurt most by these escalating trends aren't young people starting out. They're folks in their 50s and 60s, middle-managers at Delphi whose careers have ended, coal miners in West Virginia who face death on the job, the people at IBM who just saw their pensions frozen.

Today's twentysomethings, by contrast, have their whole lives in front of them. Want a cheaper house? Quit Manhattan and move to Hartford, Conn. Want to make more money? Pick a different field.

In Kamenetz's book, there are plenty of poor, self-pitying upper-middle-class types, disappointed that they can't have exactly what they want when they want it. Sure, it's tough to live well as a violinist or a grad student in New York today; but the same thing held 20 years ago, and 40 years ago. To improve their lot, twentysomethings have to do the same things their parents should be doing: saving more, spending less, building skills that are marketable, and aligning aspirations with abilities. It's tough to have a bourgeois life at 26.

Kamenetz also makes cavalier statements about economics and career development. "The job market sucks," she proclaims. It may not be as good as it was in the 1990s, but suck is a pretty strong term. She complains that a $700 personal computer, a necessity for any young person, is expensive. Huh? Computing is incredibly cheap. The first PC I bought, that crappy, tiny Mac, cost $2,000 in 1990 dollars.

Kamenetz complains that: "No employer has yet offered me a full-time job with a 401(k), a paid vacation, or any other benefits beyond the next assignment. I have a savings account but no retirement fund. I can't afford preschool fees or a mortgage anywhere near the city where I live and work." Of course, Kamenetz doesn't have kids to send to preschool. And chances are, by the time she does, she'll be able to afford preschool fees. Most people in their 20s don't realize that their incomes will rise over time (none of the people I know who have six-figure incomes today had them when they were 25), that they will marry or form a partnership with somebody else, thus increasing their income, and that they may get over having to live in the hippest possible neighborhood.

Look. It's tough coming out of Ivy League schools to New York and making your way in the world. The notion that you can be—and have to be—the author of your own destiny is both terrifying and exhilarating. And for those without marketable skills, who lack social and intellectual capital, the odds are indeed stacked against them. But someone like Kamenetz, who graduated from Yale in 2002, doesn't have much to kvetch about. In the press materials accompanying the book, she notes that just after she finished the first draft, her boyfriend "proposed to me on a tiny, idyllic island off the coast of Sweden." She continues: "As I write this, boxes of china and flatware, engagement gifts, sit in our living room waiting to go into storage because they just won't fit in our insanely narrow galley kitchen. We spent a whole afternoon exchanging the inevitable silver candlesticks and crystal vases, heavy artifacts of an iconic married life that still seems to have nothing to do with ours." The inevitable silver candlesticks? Too much flatware to fit in the kitchen? We should all have such problems.

And does her fiance have one of those crap temporary jobs all the drones in her generation are destined to hold forever? Not really. He's a software engineer at Google.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 04:03 PM   #2
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Hmmm, I think there is a certain amount of whining, but there is a very real problem that Gen X faces: real median wages have not grown in years. Makes it a lot harder to climb your way up into prosperity as you get older, especially if you are carrying a LOT more student loan debt than your forebears.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 04:05 PM   #3
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345
Hmmm, I think there is a certain amount of whining, but there is a very real problem that Gen X faces: real median wages have not grown in years. Makes it a lot harder to climb your way up into prosperity as you get older, especially if you are carrying a LOT more student loan debt than your forebears.
Unemployment keeps dropping. As soon as there is a labor shortage, labor prices (wages) will increase. Unless the jobs are offshored for pennies on the dollar.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 04:06 PM   #4
 
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Many of today's Students would be better off working for a couple of years, saving some money, then go to University.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 04:22 PM   #5
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

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Originally Posted by justin
Unemployment keeps dropping.* As soon as there is a labor shortage, labor prices (wages) will increase.* Unless the jobs are offshored for pennies on the dollar.
You know, I have been hearing that for years, yet real wages have gone nowhere or down. I don't know why, for sure. Could be that it is much more profitable to automate than to hire workers. Could be that the easy availability of outsourcing has greatly increased the price elasticity of labor costs. Could be something else. I've no idea, and I suspect that economists will spew a lot of ink over it if this persists.

I can tell you one thing for sure: our economy is in big trouble if real wage growth doesn't eventually start iup again.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 04:37 PM   #6
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Not sure - we had high wage growth during the boom-boom tech bubble late 90's. 1998-2000 were 3 years of significant real wage growth based on this article:

http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/issuebriefs_ib196

We're reverting to the mean now? Speaking anecdotally, all those tech jobs paying $60000+ for fresh, warm-blooded people are now gone.

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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 05:01 PM   #7
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Twentysomethings who can't stop whining about how the economy is screwing them.
By Daniel Gross


Daniel may be Gross, but he does make a few good points.

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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 05:16 PM   #8
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

I think my generation is spoiled and that is why we are so lazy and whine all the time. I think almost every generation in America has had it easier and easier than their parents and it slowly makes everyone a little pathetic. I think it reaches into every aspect of people's lives. It is a lack of responsibility.

It reminds me of the majority of the population of Sweden which went from the hardest working people in the world to the least in about 100 years thanks to sociolist democratic spending on public programs.

Overparenting can happen on a family level and on a government level.




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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 05:29 PM   #9
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Nope

Every generation is spoiled, lazy, whines too much and has it too easy - at least that's what my Father told me.

And I'm pretty sure THAT's what he got told when he was young.

Isn't progress wonderful?

heh heh heh
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 05:34 PM   #10
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

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Originally Posted by unclemick2
Nope

Every generation is spoiled, lazy, whines too much and has it too easy - at least that's what my Father told me.

And I'm pretty sure THAT's what he got told when he was young.

Isn't progress wonderful?

heh heh heh
I heard that from my father, my grandfather and my great grandfather. It is either a family thing or there is some truth to it.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 06:53 PM   #11
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

"He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it . . . It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor." -- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay, this is a great quote. If someone can do this, concentrate on whoever he is with with an irresistible prejudice in his or her favor, he really has no other problems in life. I knew a guy like this, sadly now deceased. He was in Army Intelligence, then CIA, traveled everywhere, knew many important people, yet he looked at any person he was with like he had just discovered the most wonderful person he had ever known. What a gift, and what* beautiful man he was.

Developing this skill became one of my goals, but alas I rarely achieve it. It's too bad is so hard- it is wonderful for the doer and the recipient.

Sorry to ignore the meat of your post, but in a way I suppose your sig is related to your post.

Ha
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 07:20 PM   #12
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Quote:
Originally Posted by justin
Unemployment keeps dropping.* As soon as there is a labor shortage, labor prices (wages) will increase.* Unless the jobs are offshored for pennies on the dollar.
Check out the # of discouraged workers, and the laborforce participation rate. Not as great as the often quoted 'unemployment rate'
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 07:53 PM   #13
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshac
Check out the # of discouraged workers, and the laborforce participation rate. Not as great as the often quoted 'unemployment rate'
http://www.bls.gov/emp/emplab04.htm

People are going to college more, working later in life. Some age groups had a 1-2% reduction in participation in the labor force.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-10-2006, 08:39 PM   #14
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

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Originally Posted by Marshac
Check out the # of discouraged workers, and the laborforce participation rate. Not as great as the often quoted 'unemployment rate'
There is an employee shortage out here. Many employers are hurting to find qualified people to fill many jobs at all levels. The unemployment rate here is reported to be about 5% which is one of the lowest in the country. The economy is in a boom here and housing is still very hot with appreciation of 20% per year.

I am sure the type of jobs are part of the equation but where I work we always have high tech (read chemistry, research, Quality or engineering) jobs all the time. I know we are not the usual US city but that is a good thing.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 07:44 AM   #15
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Quote:
Originally Posted by HaHa
"He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it . . . It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor." -- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay, this is a great quote. If someone can do this, concentrate on whoever he is with with an irresistible prejudice in his or her favor, he really has no other problems in life. I knew a guy like this, sadly now deceased. He was in Army Intelligence, then CIA, traveled everywhere, knew many important people, yet he looked at any person he was with like he had just discovered the most wonderful person he had ever known. What a gift, and what* beautiful man he was.

Developing this skill became one of my goals, but alas I rarely achieve it. It's too bad is so hard- it is wonderful for the doer and the recipient.

Sorry to ignore the meat of your post, but in a way I suppose your sig is related to your post.

Ha
Thanks HaHa, you really made my day.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 08:54 AM   #16
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

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Originally Posted by SteveR
There is an employee shortage out here.* Many employers are hurting to find qualified people to fill many jobs at all levels.* The unemployment rate here is reported to be about 5% which is one of the lowest in the country.* The economy is in a boom here and housing is still very hot with appreciation of 20% per year.*
Same here. Calgary's unemployment rate is 4% and the biggest issue here lately is a SHORTAGE of labour. The city council is even going to other Canadian cities to get people to move here to solve the problem.
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 09:32 AM   #17
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

To wrap two topics into one...

I spent much of the 70s a) with a somewhat fatalistic attitude, and b) partying my assets off. I grew up in the 60s/70s; my 1-12 school years were 1960-1972. I saw JFK, RFK, MLK, and others killed or maimed. Watched 'Nam on tv every night, along with voting rights, civil rights, and anti-war protest marches. Saw Nixon and others trample the Constitution and lie to the public. Then the oil embargo, rust belt, and stagflation... It was easy, if naive, to buy into the counterculture.

Dropped out of college, and partied hardy!! But I eventually discovered that most of the "counterculture" was indeed people who were too lazy to work, go to college, and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and were using the hippie thing to justify it. Hated the govt, but were waiting for a hand out from aforementioned govt.

I had some good times, but just as many bad, and lost several years to this attitude...

Finally, finished college, started a career, got out of a dysfunctional marriage, and learned how to LBYM and invest. I'm in better shape than most, but would be immeasurably better off if I hadn't wasted ten years wandering aimlessly through life...

I guess the morale of this story is that **** happens, and will always happen, and the only thing one can do about it is not let it get you down. Set goals, work hard and smart, LBYM, invest, marry wisely, and don't forget to smell the flowers.

There will always be headwinds...
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 09:45 AM   #18
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

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Originally Posted by Have Funds, Will Retire

I grew up in the 60s/70s; my 1-12 school years were 1960-1972. I saw JFK, RFK, MLK, and others killed or maimed. Watched 'Nam on tv every night, along with voting rights, civil rights, and anti-war protest marches. Saw Nixon and others trample the Constitution and lie to the public. Then the oil embargo, rust belt, and stagflation... It was easy, if naive, to buy into the counterculture.
Those are my years and the things I remember too BUT I made it out alive like you did, a little wiser but then that comes with age.

Oh and you forgot Woodstock
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 10:32 AM   #19
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

I wore out the eight-track tape of Woodstock!!

Give me an F...
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation
Old 01-11-2006, 11:34 AM   #20
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Re: The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation

Does anyone else think this "Waaaaa, younger people are whining too much, waaaaa, I should be doing the whining" article is a little ironic?

20-30 years ago things looked like disaster, but turned out quite well. Today assets and government promises are priced for perfection, and who knows what will come about. We'll just have to wait and see, but I don't think that it is necessarily whining to point out issues that today's young people face that may not be appreciated by the (traditionally self-absorbed) boomer generation. Even if it is, well, other people get to whine too.
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