Every generation criticizes the previous one – too lazy, no values, ungrateful, etc. But I’ll say this about the Millennials (born 1977- 1995) and the Gen Z (1996 – ?): they are both more privileged than we were but should be more fearful of the future.
Our Boomer (1946 -1964) generation lived in unsettling times of racial upheaval, political assassination, military draft, and nuclear nightmares. We matured within extended families and maintained traditional values. Early marriage was the preferred way to leave the nest. Purchasing a home was the way to financial gain. Secure jobs and financial sacrifice were prerequisites to having children. In short, there was a logic to life based on generations of example.
Today’s youth has been raised by corporate America to be consumers rather than savers. The media has captured their attention with glitz and questionable role-models. They see the glorification of single parenthood, limitless debt, and luxury as a standard.
Chances are they never had to mow a lawn or wash a dish, so manual labor is what immigrants do. The much maligned Christmas Club of our generation – that weekly savings plan without interest that taught us to save before spending – has been replaced by the usurious credit card. The common sense of buying what you can afford has been replaced by the rationalization of buying anything that comes with low monthly payments. Consumer debt – credit cards, auto leasing, et al – has surpassed $1 Trillion.
America’s new “gig economy,” has converted these hapless debtors into temp employees, Uber drivers, adjunct professors, and independent “contractors.” International corporations, which addicted everyone to debt for new gadgets and lifestyles, no longer offer secure employment. For those who cannot count on an inheritance or a government job, winning a lottery may be their only way to solvency.
Italic billionnaire Ken Langone, of Home Depot fame, recently donated enough money to make New York University Medical School tuition free. Elsewhere, student debt has exceeded $1 Trillion. Graduation may bring a sheepskin but also an onerous monthly repayment schedule. Few graduates can marry or live on their own while chained to the monthly obligation of consumer and education debt. Good fortune today is finding a solvent mate who can “share” your debt.
Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a study of student debt at Black colleges. Despite receiving federal Pell Grants, African American students at these colleges borrow an average of $29,000 in loans. In addition, these students saddle their already strapped parent(s) with tens of thousands of dollars in debt to help them graduate. The study found that a majority of these students haven’t paid down even $1 of this debt in the first few years of graduating. Black colleges represent more than half of the one hundred schools with the lowest student repayment rates. Another reason to demand reparations!
Euro-Americans have not escaped this student debt crisis. But many at least have intact families and accumulated assets to handle the debt. The recent scandal of wealthy parents bribing elite colleges to admit their under-achieving kids distracts from the more common financial plight of middle class White families struggling to pay off student loans.
With the rise of minority rule and the demand for redistribution of wealth, our clueless generations will eventually find themselves mired in the quicksand of White Guilt. Today they champion the redress of America’s cruel history. Tomorrow they will be held responsible to pay for it.
On April 1st, New York State passed its annual budget. The minority-led legislature approved $27 million in tuition assistance for so-called “dreamers” – students brought to the country by their parents illegally when they were children. Yet, that budget rejected free tuition at State colleges to gold star families, kids whose mother or father died or was severely wounded serving in a combat zone. What’s the message?
The same wave that is sweeping away Columbus Day is also eroding the meaning of citizenship. It claims to right injustice and succor the humble, but how far will it go to subsidize irresponsible behavior? When will our clueless generations realize they are accomplices to their own demise?
Being clueless is never knowing you’re being used. -JLM