Thursday, July 25, 2013

The "Greatest Generation" (and their offspring) Give Us "Tough Shit" Economics

People who know me will be unsurprised that I am pessimistic about this country's future. Looking at recent political developments has horribly depressed me. The Trayvon Martin verdict. Some truly pernicious Supreme Court rulings (such as the VRA ruling). Some AWFUL new laws in North Carolina, Texas, and other states that have massively rolled back voting access and reproductive choice rights. Horrifying stuff. As these rulings and recent electoral victories affirm, Republicans, unlike Democrats, are either wise enough or shameless enough (or both) to take advantage of very small windows of opportunities to pass laws and norms that permanently entrench Republican interests. God willing, my side, who is supposed to be so invested in the welfare of their citizenry, were willing to do the same.

However, those people intimately familiar with me also know I'm surprisingly optimistic about today's youngsters (teens-25s). This despite having personally experienced some extraordinarily flabbergasting  interactions with teens and tweens as both a professor and as substitute teacher in K-12...

Why the contradiction?

A) Because the attitudinal studies on the youngest generation are massively encouraging.  They are the most racially and culturally tolerant generation this country has EVER seen (compared to similarly aged cohort groups). They are less prone to commit crimes, more environmentally-sensitive, less likely to abuse drugs, less likely to get pregnant in their teens, more likely to vote, more likely to seek higher education, more likely to travel abroad, and less likely to smoke cigarettes than almost any generation in American history. And yet, magazine article after magazine article will decry this so-called "entitlement generation". For an example of the cowards, idiots, and hacks who write such articles, check out this search result. But these narratives are not only tired and repetitive, they are utterly bogus. If you want to know why millennials 1) live at home with their parents and 2) expect well-paying, meaningful (i.e. not coffee-fetching) jobs, the answer is pretty fucking simple. Because they went over $100,000 into debt paying for college only to graduate into a shitty economy with no job prospects. That's it. That's the fucking reason. It's not because they are lazy. It's not because they want to live with mom and dad (trust me, we may love you, but we really don't want to live with you). It's not because we want to spend all of our time smoking pot and playing the Nintendo Wii. It's because no company is going to hire a new college graduate for $35,000 (which is what these kids need to start re-paying college loans), when they can get the same quality candidate with 8 years of specialized experience at $36,000.

B) So why am I so pessimistic about the future? Well, one thing I've become convinced about is that the current ruling class in American economic and social policy is the first generation that is actively rooting for the next generation to fail. Yes, even there own children. Believe it. I attribute this to one of the psychological offsets of being described as the "Greatest Generation". The "Baby Boomers" are equally culpable (perhaps more so), because, as we know, the "Boomers" were the entitled inheritors of the "Greatest" title. These "Baby Generations", as I will call them, have grown entitled to the point of sociopathy. They are the birthers of "Tough Shit" economics.

The 1972 Dolphins are uniquely loathed in football circles because they are obnoxiously protective of the one and only undefeated NFL season. Every year, a group of unknowingly lucky, over-privileged nitwits crack open a bottle of champagne when the last remaining undefeated professional football team loses their first game. It is as pathetic as you can imagine. But that's the sports equivalent of today's "Baby Generation". They are actively rooting against youngsters, including their very own children, in some kind desperate (but, to be fair, subconscious) generational attempt to preserve their own generational legitimacy as the "Greatest.

To wit:

The "Baby Generation" went to college either a) for free or b) subsidized to the equivalency of being free (say $10,000 for a four year education in 2013 dollars). Today's college graduates, or at least those not subsidized by their wealthy parents, graduate with debt over $100,000. The "Baby Generation" reaction? Tough Shit.

Today's younger generation pays 400% more in health care premiums than the "Baby Generation". Baby Generation reaction? Tough shit.

Want the same Social Security benefits as today's retirees? Tough shit.
The same Medicare/Medicaid rates? Tough shit.

Want military drafts that expose the non-rich and rich alike to patriotic service during war times? Tough shit.

Income mobility between generation and classes is the lowest since the Gilded Age. Tough shit.

Today's younger generation is almost never eligible to join the unions that enabled higher wages, less hours, and greater on-the-job safety. Tough shit.
 This is "Tough Shit" economics and it's extremely pernicious and self-fulfilling. If the Baby Generations want to pretend they are all hard-working "captains of industry" while they rest of us are free-loading parasites, they are free to do-so in their own time. Unfortunately, these same assholes are the people who control all the money and thus, by extension, all the levers of political power. They are actually empowered to make sure the youngest generation doesn't succeed. And many of these politicians and business leaders can get off making sure that the next generation just doesn't succeed. They gleefully pull up the ladder after they climbed over our shoulders to breach the wall. And this is the source of my pessimism. This country (and others) have often been run by people who either a) power-mad and uninterested in the interests of future generations or b) utterly devoid of the intelligence necessary to create a better future. We have survived such cretins. However, this is the first time in American history I feel like I've seen political leaders utterly invested in the failure of future generations - if only to preserve their own place in American history (pointless and forgettable as that position may be).* This is a new and dangerous animal that I am extremely afraid of.

But where? Where does such animosity come from? What could cause such obnoxious behavior? It's actually simple enough. Yes, it's partly the inherent entitlement associated with being told "you're the 'greatest'" over and over again. But its also because few things in this world give us more pleasure than to turn to the next poor schmuck and to tell them, "TOUGH SHIT." It's what makes us better than everyone else. Or at least, it certainly convinces us that it does.

* [There is always the possibility that a generation of truly venal and sadistic political rulers are actually TOO STUPID to pursue the correct and necessary economic policies needed to punish future generations. And for this slim scenario, hope springs eternal).

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