Lynn Parramore: Class of 2013 – All Dressed Up and No Place to Work

By Lynn Parramore, a senior editor at Alternet. Cross posted from Alternet

As members of the class of 2013 stepped on stage to receive their diplomas, the unemployment rate in America stood at 7.6 percent — a bit better than the past four years, but that ain’t saying much. Before the financial crisis, students graduating in 2007 faced a much rosier jobless rate of only 4.7 percent. The fact of the matter is that the past four years of high unemployment numbers represent the worst economy the country has suffered in 70 years, and young adults are shouldering a hefty part of the burden.

When you look at the specific numbers for Millennials, things look even bleaker. As of April, the jobless rate for workers under age 25 was an alarming 16.2 percent. A study by the think tank Demos found that 18- to 34-year-olds make up 45 percent of those who can’t find work. That’s a lot of stifled human potential.

In a paper, The Class of 2013, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute showed that young people are not searching in vain for jobs because they lack the appropriate skills or the right education, as many pundits would have it. Rather, they can’t find work because of the weak demand for goods and services. It’s actually very simple: when a company can’t sell its goods and services because customers don’t have enough money to spend, it can’t hire more workers. You can be Super-Skilled Super Student, and if the economy isn’t humming, you’ll have trouble landing a job.

The EPI study also found that young people aren’t able to “shelter in school” and wait out the bad economy: the Great Recession didn’t make much of an impact on enrollment rates at college and universities. It also found that the wages of college grads between 2000 and 2012, adjusted wages for inflation, fell 8.5 percent.

“I’m starting to feel numb,” said Karen S., who is trying to find a job while ringing up groceries at a Whole Foods in Manhattan. The 24-year-old from Queens graduated in 2012 with a degree in broadcasting. “I did well in my classes, and I looked forward to putting my knowledge and skills to use. Instead I ask, ‘Would you like a bag today?’”

Like Karen, many recent graduates are forced to take McJobs. EPI researchers found that their chances of getting employer-provided health insurance or pensions are fading fast. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of college grads receiving pension coverage from their employer plummeted from 41.5 percent to just 27.2 percent. Many graduates find that when they do get a job, there’s no real opportunity for advancement. They’re stuck on a treadmill.

An increasing chorus of voices warns that college has become a bad investment, but the numbers don’t support that theory. Young people who hold a bachelor’s degrees have about half the unemployment rate of those with only a high school diploma. When college grads have difficulty finding a job, it tends to worsen the problem for those with less education because they are forced to take less skilled positions, which squeezes out high school grads, and on down the line. It’s a chain reaction.

Humanities-bashing has become all the rage as critics point to lower salaries for those majors when compared to majors like engineering, and unclear job paths. Florida governor Rick Scott is among a group of right-leaning politicians aiming to use the employment crisis as an opportunity to defund the humanities altogether: “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” Leon Wieseltier, an editor at The New Republic, suggested in an address to Brandeis University that the anti-humanities crew may be more worried about what those students learn to think about than what sort of job they get, calling “a commitment to the humanities as nothing less than an act of intellectual defiance, of cultural dissidence.”

Regardless of whether you think it would be more helpful to the state of Florida to have more anthropologists, or, say, more bankers, it is a fact that only 27 percent of college grads actually take jobs directly related to their major. Good jobs in the modern economy are often complex and require multiple skills and bases of knowledge, which suggests that more interdisciplinary majors might be better suited to the job market that the siloed majors of traditional univeristy departments.

Defenders of the humanities emphasize that in an increasingly global world, the knowledge of history, literature, and the ability to communicate effectively are highly valuable. Damon Horowitz, director of engineering for Google, spoke at a 2011 Stanford University conference and went so far as to urge students to quit their technology jobs and get a PhD in the humanities. According to Horowitz, understanding how humans communicate, how their cultures develop, and how their history unfolds is as vital to a global company like Google as technical skills. (Where was he when I graduated??)

The battle over the humanities aside, it’s clear that college graduates need to find jobs, and better ones when they do. According to the EPI study, the surest way to help young workers is to support policies that help boost the overall employment rate, like fiscal relief to states, investments in infrastructure, an expanded social safety net, and — how’s this for an idea? — direct job creation programs.

The stakes are enormously high. The young people graduating today will feel the effects of the bad job market for decades to come. The Demos study found that if we simply continue to add jobs at the 2012 average rate, it would be 2022 before the country recovers to full employment and restores decent opportunities for those Americans who are just starting out. In the meantime, a whole generation of bright and capable young people is getting left behind. They are forming opinions of whether or not America is a place where a young person has a fair shot of creating a fulfilling life with meaningful work, and these attidudes will shape the country’s future.

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  1. PaulArt

    Unemployment is a symptom of a larger disease called ‘Fat Cat Parasitis’. This morning I read one more myopic piece of nonsense in the NYTimes (courtesy Krugman blog) of some Professor type who bewails the death of human capital. I thought to myself, this kind of mistaking the symptom for the disease can only come from an academic witnessing suffering from the safe and high windows of academia. She looks at the high rate of youth unemployment in America and pronounces the death of human capital. What a Jackass! The Fat Cats ship all the jobs off to China and India and Human Capital is suddenly devalued and we don’t need education anymore? What poppycock! One wonders if there is ever a limit to the purblindedness of academics. From the cloistered confines of their tenured sinecures all they can do is babble inanities and incoherence. It inspires one to think if the West is now well and truly shackled. Once upon a time the Caucasians were a race who were feisty and would not take anything lying down. Under the yoke of feudal structures and slave labor they revolted, broke off their shackles, established liberty, equality, yada yada yada. The result was a better society despite two world wars. Today, the West has truly been won – by the neandarthal Fat Cats, the new Feudal Overlords. It looks unlikely that the enslaved masses of the West will ever be able to revolt. We need a Moses, an Exodus and a new Canaan. Perhaps deliverance may come from the East.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I’d call it the squandering of human capital myself. I doubt that the current graduating class is any less smart or motivated than previous ones. If we are not finding ways to use their talents in productive ways, I’d say the fault lies with us and not them.

  2. Aussie F

    The demand for meaningful work and a fulfilling life are seen as a direct attacks on corporate perogatives. The financial aristocracy have no interest in providing either. Both are a threat to their privilege and power.

    Only social movements aiming for a fundamental change in class relations will be able to achieve even modest reforms. Basic social rights are now a revolutionary demand. Ever increasing Police state/surveillance measures are being put in place to deal with the inevitable dissent -the domestic population are increasingly regarded as ‘the enemy within.’

    1. Garrett Pace

      One of the more pernicious aspects of our greed is good society is the abandonment of any idea of a social compact, or that society owes the individual anything at all.

  3. jake chase

    One thing we do not need more of is broadcasters. Is it even possible that people attend college to learn broadcasting? Or perhaps what goes on among these prebroadcasting ingenues is merely practice? smile exercises? right wing economic bromides? celebrity and big shot ass kissing? military fawnovers?

    I wish just one of them would learn how to keep normal people from grinding their teeth in powerless rage.

    1. Massinissa

      Not all broadcasting majors become goddamn talking heads. Camera Operators, Producers and Directors often major in broadcasting as well.

      While it is true that voice and diction, and public speaking, can be taught to broadcasting majors, other courses taught include television production, radio operations, audio and recording methods, courses related to mass media and electronic media, etc. Those classes are pretty broad to working in various media types.

      So its probably a slight step up in terms of practicality from liberal arts degrees, though perhaps not as useful as STEM degrees, not that STEM degrees keep people from being unemployed either, contrary to what those goddamn pundits say.

      Youre being a bit rude here, honestly, presuming every broadcasting major just become ‘news broadcasters’, though I suppose I can see how you would jump to that conclusion, hence the name. I do hope I have cleared up your confusion?

      And no, this isnt my major. Just pointing that out.

      1. jake chase

        Well, they must be learning something because the propaganda is coming through loud and clear.

    2. TK421

      Have you seen all the television channels there are nowadays? Not to mention the explosion of original internet content that is about to take place.

  4. diptherio

    Now is the time for co-operatives. Maybe the youth, unlike their parent’s generation, won’t sell-out and buy-in to the corporate mega-capital pardigm; if for no other reason than that is no longer an option.

    Graduates, listen: no one is going to hire you. If you want good jobs you’re going to have to create them yourselves.

    1. nonclassical

      ..this, the Naomi Klein “Shock Doctrine-Rise of Disaster Capitalism” solution, as adopted, South-Central America, to disaster capitalism, 70’s-80’s by Friedman
      “Chicago Boys” there…

  5. Morgan Jackson

    Cuomo wants entrepreneurial higher education. As seen on Common Dreams, it seems everything now is all about the money. Nothing else, including education, even matters.
    Recent grads should remain hopeful while working in the service sector, slinging espresso or mopping bathrooms, “entrepreneurs” have decided low pay, stress, and hard physical labor keep the gears of commerce running.

  6. Eeyores enigma

    What has not even entered into the conversations about employment is the simple fact that due to a whole host of constraints, which I won’t go into right now but you all know the list, there will be no more growth PERIOD….

    And please don’t start the technobabble incantations that we can grow the global economy through technology.

    Tech exists entirely as support for real operations not the other way around.

    A basic income ( ) would solve alot freeing up everyone to be productive doing what they are naturally inclined to do, garden paint, music, etc.

    Sounds great but will never happen. We can give trillions to the already wealthy but can’t stand the thought of giving thousands to the other 90%.

  7. Susan the other

    As Dorothy Orr said a few days ago, we need to understand real wealth creation and distribution. That’s not going to be easy because every solution to every fiscal problem is fraught with catch-22. Por ejemplo: The government in all its glory could at least try to make a few good decisions. One, right now – tomorrow, should be to lower the retirement age to 50. That would free up millions of boomers who would love to retire but can’t for another 15 years and that would free up millions of jobs for some serious wealth creation for our younger generation. This sort or remedy is almost a no brainer. Another is to cut back hours worked so one job needs two people. And as always, if we had single payer health insurance it would help enormously. Everyone knows this stuff. Nobody does anything.

    1. jake chase

      How about if we pay people not to produce antisocial unnecessary things like fast food? The companies could pay the employees not to work. You could eliminate the entire fashion industry on the same principle. Not to mention newspapers, television……

  8. Steven Freeway

    Snowden, for example, needed a military duty on the resume, no college, to score a gig at the NSA. That is, until he did the right thing and opened his bit fat yapper. Booze Allen represents a theft of jobs, a rationing of needed employment, a subsidized profiteer, not a model of efficiency, not the workings of a free market or privatization to get ‘er done bu!!sh!t. This is how disgusting our FIRE sector has been, noticably since the 80s. No need to yell fascism in a crowded snake pit, no one will listen.

    1. econ

      Kudos to Steve. Big business has seen the opportunity to invade the space of true public defense/security activities by a compliant federal govt under the guise of privatization enhancement. Booz Allen and the huge number of others see it as an opportunity for self-serving profit at the expense of privacy vs security while instilling “fear” in the taxpayer of terrorism. Wake up Amerika!!

  9. leapfrog

    “As people do better, they start voting like Republicans – unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.” – Karl Rove

  10. Garrett Pace

    “Humanities-bashing has become all the rage as critics point to lower salaries for those majors when compared to majors like engineering, and unclear job paths.”

    I wish people would realize that treating education as just an economic differentiator and nothing else is one of our main problems today.

    1. anon y'mouse

      did you say intrinsic values?

      sorry, the only things that exist can be counted. I believe accounting calls these things “value adds.”

      the only value any of us have is the additional money we can make for our overlords. you are talking metaphysical nonsense!


      1. A Real Black Person

        In many cases, if a college* educated worker proves to his overlord that he/she possesses more useful skills to his or her overlord, than a non-college educated worker, they are allowed to make more money than a non-college educated worker ,and is given more respect than a non-college educated worker.

        I know, totally unfair, right? I thought we were all living in a post-scarcity , post-work, First World utopia. Are they saying that students have to acquire skills and knowledge that can actually economically benefit them and others?

        *replace “college” with the word “highly skilled”.

        1. Garrett Pace

          “I thought we were all living in a post-scarcity , post-work, First World utopia. Are they saying that students have to acquire skills and knowledge that can actually economically benefit them and others?”

          We do live in a post-scarcity world. Five generations back your ggg granddaddy and mine both had to worry about getting the land to bring forth enough plenty to feed the kids through the winter and spring. Productivity gains, requiring an alarmingly small human input, have made true scarcity a thing of the past. Therefore all present scarcity is artificial, for we are afraid that people will go soft if they aren’t hearing wolves baying at the door.

          And maybe we would go soft. This universal plenty, though so poorly distributed, has created a western leisure lifestyle, where the silliest distractions and degradations and technological doodads keep us from ever actually thinking about anything.

          I think that actually comes from hostility to the humanities. We are taught that the brain should be shut to anything that doesn’t help us make money, save for retirement, consume conspicuously, and free us to spend our lives doing nothing. And when someone doesn’t have to dance to the tune anymore, they find they have nothing to do with their lives. When someone is raised with the belief that their purpose in life is to be a cog in a machine, they’re quite bereft when they find all the gear wheels fully cogged already.

          And they also have cursed themselves by pursuing education that interested potential bosses, and not themselves. What a waste.

          LDS scholar Hugh Nibley made some interesting points about this larger subject in a well-known talk (well-known in my circles, anyway):

          1. allcoppedout

            Getting to grips with post-scarcity is what we don’t do. I’m dubious about claims that graduates are better employed than other groups as this has long been the case for smarter people. We need some radical solutions on wealth creation and distribution. China as very similar problems with its ‘Ant People’. Higher education is part of the problem not the solution.

          2. A Real Black Person

            “a western leisure lifestyle, where the silliest distractions and degradations and technological doodads keep us from ever actually thinking about anything”.
            Those technological doodads are what sells for the highest profit margin. The rest is human nature. No society I know of prefers the vast majority of people to think more than they do. Pyramid schemes such as civilization require a vast population of workers, not thinkers.

            “And they also have cursed themselves by pursuing education that interested potential bosses, and not themselves. What a waste.”
            I agree. That’s why I don’t think liberal arts humanities, and all programs that don’t lead to marketable job skills in the private sector should not be funded by the government from now on. There would be less hostility to the humanities if weren’t so useless to students ,economically. There would be less hostility to the humanities if colleges restricted degree programs in them. These restrictions would free up funds to train people to make more meaningful contributions to society. The reason why the U.S. expanded college education was to provide more vocational and STEM workers to science and industry.
            Citizens from most countries around the world understand this. Citizens in U.S. and Europe don’t.

            What you perceive as a post-scarcity situation is a temporary aberration in human history caused by fossil fuel powered machines. Continued population growth and resource depletion and pollution will return us back to a scarcity based world.

    2. washunate

      Right on. Education is about making better people, not better workers. Our higher ed system has been severely weakened by the focus on employment outcomes.

      1. A Real Black Person

        Who determines what a “better person” is? Culturally, we’re divided on what a “better person” is. Is a “better person” a person who more closely adheres to an ideology, whether that’s a non-secular ideology like the Ten Commandments or a secular one, like “diversity”? Is it a better person who performs more charity? If so, why isn’t charity service a requirement for federal subsidies? Why is there a controversy with some educated people with explicit religious references at school and the workplace
        when a vast majority of people believe religion is essential to becoming ” a better person” ?It sounds like you, and people like you, think the goal of education to indoctrinate people to a predetermined set of beliefs.

        There’s something really wrong with that view that with my opinion, especially when most non-upper middle class people go to college to better qualify for a decent job because that is what everyone has been telling to to do, to better qualify for a job.

        1. washunate

          Social norms. In a society like ours, we value individual decision-making. Students should be free to choose their desired course of action, their path of discovery and growth. The trouble is that the predator class has restricted the range of options so narrowly that choice has nearly lost all meaning. You basically have to be incredibly lucky to even be in a position with enough space and support to think about these things.

          One of the mechanisms for this transition has been undermining the teaching mission of higher education, replacing it with jumping through hoops and generally serving as little more than a way to sort people by class. This has damaged both college graduates with declining quality of education and people who don’t go to college who are confronted with the checklist mentality – jobs that don’t require college degrees claiming a college degree is necessary in order to weed out applicants on grounds that don’t violate statutory anti-discrimination laws and other social norms.

    3. A Real Black Person

      “I wish people would realize that treating education as just an economic differentiator and nothing else is one of our main problems today.”

      Is that a fact or a sense of entitlement?

      1. JTFaraday

        I think one of the reasons you keep talking past each other is that they’re interrogating the possibility that society could be organized otherwise, while you seem to assume it’s a race to the top in wage earning employment and is always going to be a race to the top in wage earning employment.

        It hasn’t always been a race to the top in wage earning employment. I don’t see why tomorrow would necessarily be any different.

        I think another reason is that you assume almost no one gets up the ladder in the current system by getting a liberal education.

        It’s not true, but liberal education does imply productive literacy, and to hear the chattering faculties over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, this seems to be a sticking point with the consumer base that fills out their teaching evaluations every semester.

        If it continues to be sticking point when they’re dealing the hiring authorities instead of the hired hands, well, then I guess they’re stuck.

        I agree the near-mandatory mass market job credentialing service is nuts, but there you have it.

        1. A Real Black Person

          Society CAN be organized otherwise, but it won’t. Even during this prolonged downturn, the average person’s faith in capitalism or way of life has not been shaken .There is no appetite for radical change in how we organize society among leaders in the public and private sector. Joe Six-Pack is nowhere near close to even questioning the system. Only a small chunk of the educated and skilled people are, and most of them spend most of their time working over-time to keep their jobs and manage their careers than to do anything other than complaining on the internet to other well educated and skilled people.

  11. Timothy Gawne

    As usual it is difficult not to agree with these sentiments. However, once again I am forced to point out the elephant in the room.

    Even if the current immigration ‘reform’ bill does not pass, current immigration policies are adding about 200,000 potential workers to the labor force each month. Month after month, year after year. The economy is adding jobs – just not enough to cover the rate at which we are adding foreign workers. Which, of course is the entire point – to ensure that the market for labor remains weak, and wages stay low, and profits and the power of the rich high. This is by design.

    Disagree if you will, but please no knee-jerk ‘you are scapegoating immigrants’. I do nothing of the kind. I only point out that if the rate at which we accept additional foreign nationals exceeds the rate at which we can create jobs, this will hurt American workers. Moderating the rate at which we accept additional immigrants to one that does not drive down wages would seem to me to be utterly reasonable.

    As far as immigrants creating more jobs than they take, oh please. If there are ten people competing for one job, and we add ten more unemployed people, will 19 well-paying jobs spring up out of the ground? If so, then where are all these magically-created jobs anyhow? I don’t see them.

    As decent and well meaning as the sentiments in this article are, if we deny whole sections of long-established labor-market economics (starting with the law of supply and demand) in the name of political correctness, we will be complicit in the steadily growing amount of poverty in all Americans, young and old, college-educated or not.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Steven Freeway

      The solution is simple, do away with borders and allow unfetterd emmigration and immigration. To and fro, back and forth and so on. They can go in, and out, in and out. Try it, walk to the edge of the front door and play to the crowd: “I can go in, I can go out, I can go in, I can go out”

    2. Linden

      Cite for your claim that we’re adding 200,000 immigrant laborers per month? I find that hard to believe, given that the population of undocumented immigrants in the country has declined substantially over the past few years.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      To echo Steve, the reports are that illegal immigration (newbies, as opposed to the ones here already) has fallen a lot in the wake of the crisis. And some of the sectors that would appear to be recession/depression immune (seasonal ag workers) HAVE suffered due to some states severely prohibiting their use (for instance, peaches rotting in Alabama because the farms couldn’t hire immigrants under new state regs and one assumes weren’t willing to pay enough for legal locals).

      The 200K+ new jobs needed per month just to stay on even keel is demographically driven, kids reaching working age.

  12. xrayd

    ” it is a fact that only 27 percent of college grads actually take jobs directly related to their major.”

    And now we have Edward Snowden, “drop out” etc. – with a nice job valued at $200K!

    America is great.

  13. kevinearick

    Jobs: Death by a Thousand Cuts

    The passive aggressive majority, through subtle and not-so-subtle peer pressure, behavior replication programming, acts as an extension of gravity. By seeking only to confirm itself, it retards your timing when you pass through its field, Civil Law, which rules out the natural aggressive physical response.

    If you look, you will see that the empire rewards the breeding of passive aggressive behavior with debt credit make-work jobs, rewarding the use of credit channels with jobs that produce no economic output, creating a line of lines for you to wait in as its primary defense, and penalizes the aggressive response with jail time. Pick your prison.

    The US Family Office has no rival when it comes to misinforming the general population, which abides willingly, and its job, creating artificial demand for all the other failed nation/state systems, through a TBTF ponzi monetary artifice, reflects its best-history-practice of ignorance exploitation. There isn’t a dumber, more expensive education system in the world than that of the United States, but it’s the empire majority’s line in the sand, ensuring future economic slaves to feed the ponzi.

    If there is any civilization more guilty of false pride, idolatry, than any other, it’s America. There is nothing more artificial than GDP, replacing parents with a nanny-prison state in a positive feedback loop as a jobs program. Ignorance begets tyranny, belies tyranny, and bemoans tyranny, and, contrary to popular belief, automating the system does not improve quality of life, for anyone.

    Economic activity is attempting to solve the same problem as many times as possible, growing the problem with each iteration. From the perspective of the empire, homelessness is the solution. It’s a stick, a cross, ensuring compliance by others watching the sh-show, and the orators get paid more, by future generations, to put on a bigger show with each implementation, war on whatever.

    Within the empire, a relative negative interest rate world of artificial business cycles in which the vast majority find themselves inured, skill, especially at adaptation, has nothing to do with advancement. Bank simply increases rates and decreases access to the credit ‘lifeline’ from the bottom up to produce fountain pressure, selling licenses for each pump station to the middle classes.

    So, you’re in a contract negotiation from birth, with an empire model that has been ‘perfected’ over thousands of years, sometimes with the same face, sometimes not, more often with a computer intermediary, and you expect not to be bankrupted at some point in the process? For labor, it’s not a negotiation.

    Project tax revenue ahead of delayed and hidden costs all you like, an empire is an empire is an empire, is a loss-leader is a loss-leader is a loss-leader, granting bankruptcy preference from the top down. When demographics decelerate and interest rates turn, as they always do, it gets ugly.

    Automating empire operation as MAD insurance delayed, but grew the size of reversion reckoning, and there is no empty continent with a wealth of easily exploitable resources available for escape. Africa doesn’t work. Surrender the land or perish.

    War, military law, is about killing, efficiently, and right now the empire is losing, badly, and sinking faster all the time. Keep labor in a catch-22 of catch-22s and watch the sh-show, expecting to never be held responsible. Who do you suppose has the most experience fighting a non-linear war?

    Ozzie and Harriet was a TV show, hawking environmental exploitation. Parenting is a skill, honed with experience. Self-discipline is the tip of the spear, not some eunuch sitting on the Personnel Board of the US Navy, threatening women with their newly won make-work jobs. Learn to employ you anger, and the anger of others effectively, for propulsion; that is what the empire fears most.

    Some kids are born walking uphill and never turn back. Most walk downhill and never turn back, in ignorance, forming tyranny of the majority. The fundamental fact is that the only person you can change is yourself. Others may or may not choose to follow, of their own accord. Competing to lead the herd downhill always ends badly. Gravity isn’t personal; it de-personalizes you, if you accept its assumption.

    From the perspective of the empire hydra, reversion produces a quantum release of Davids. The dead-beat-dad scapegoat doesn’t earn traction in the killing zone. How many times have you compromised with the empire in your lifetime? Where are you relative to the dead zone and what are you carrying for trade? What are you a witness / accomplice to? The majority doesn’t expect kindness from a stranger for a reason.

    What do you suppose is more effective, throwing your baby in the water to encourage its instinct or allowing the marines to teach your children how to swim? MIT doesn’t train enterprise architects; they are born, in a field of gravity, which is why Bank loses the war every time, with increasingly complex intermediaries to delay the inevitable. Dolphins prefer body surfers. Sharks prefer board surfers.

    The Empire grows every time you turn your brain off in public. Your brain has many gears, to set your distance from the public. Neither the majority nor a rebel without a cause be. Life is about regeneration from the bottom up. Gravity operates from the top down. Learn to employ them and you will never suffer for a job, and treasure privacy.

    1. nonclassical

      …close friend, Seattle Symphony, posted question on blog regarding American people’s most highly rated problem…

      then HE construed the problem was “jobs”…

      even having it pointed out for him that Wall $treet “criminogenic accounting fraud” is where the chickens roost…

      and that corporate purchase-influence in government is how DEregulation allowed economic disaster, along with computer tech-no oversight, transparency, accountability…

      ..this friend is Black, and Obama supporter…

      and has friends, Black, teapartyers..??

  14. washunate

    I appreciate the focus on the challenges for younger people entering society. So in that spirit, I am intrigued by this phrasing that still seems stuck, perhaps unconsciously so, in a Baby Boomer world where the past couple decades have been pretty good:

    “The EPI study also found that young people aren’t able to “shelter in school” and wait out the bad economy: the Great Recession didn’t make much of an impact on enrollment rates at college and universities.”

    To prod things along a bit further in the direction of seeing our actual economy for younger Xers and Millennials, of course the Great Recession didn’t make much of an impact on student enrollment rates; the GFC primarily affected people who already had decent wealth and/or wages. It was the popping of the excess of finance and autos and housing and so forth – the pretend wealth that hadn’t really ever existed in the first place.

    Young people, in contrast, have been sheltering in school for years. We haven’t called it a recession thanks to inaccurate GDP deflators and unprosecuted fraud and unprecedented corporate welfare, but the past decade plus has been tantamount to one long recession for most people under about 40 in this country.

    1. washunate

      P.S., it is also unfortunate that the skills/complexity meme gobbledygook found it’s way into this line of thinking:

      “Good jobs in the modern economy are often complex and require multiple skills and bases of knowledge”

      That is simply empirically not true. Most jobs in our society can be done by teenagers – just look at the most complex and sophisticated organization on the planet, the US military. This is why we outlaw child labor, because children are competent workers. The key is training and management, not technical education. Architects and anesthesiologists and chemical engineers and computer scientists and so forth comprise a rather small percentage of the needed workforce.

      And of course, more deeply embedded is the underlying premise that some jobs are ‘good’ and others are ‘bad. In actuality, it is public policy that makes those determinations.

      1. A Real Black Person

        “And of course, more deeply embedded is the underlying premise that some jobs are ‘good’ and others are ‘bad. In actuality, it is public policy that makes those determinations.”
        In actuality, it is social norms that makes those determinations. Social work is not deemed VALUABLE so it is not paid well because we think social problems are symptoms of bad genetics (introversion, autism, etc) and immorality. We hold people accountable for their actions and punish them for not making the grade.

        1. washunate

          I very much agree – at its most basic form, social norms are what govern the government. It’s why we are far more diverse than most countries, yet we are far from perfect. Even among ‘liberals’ there is a great deal of acceptance of the racism and oppression of the drug war and prisoner abuse and wars of choice and so forth. But most of that is our (temporary) inability as a society to overcome a psychopathic group of leaders, not fundamental support for racism and oppression.

          My point is that it is the government that governs the conditions of the labor market. A lot of people claim that there is some natural economic force (ie, independent of public policy) that makes some jobs better than others – like skills or technology or trade or something.

  15. Shutter

    Snowdon, young.. intelligent… making a ton of money, without a nightmarish student debt making him toe the line AND having the distinct advantage of no college education is probably a guy who can still tell right from wrong and think he can do something about it.

    This is what low wages, crushing debt, no job security, no health security, no privacy is intended to accomplish: destroy the individuals freedom to act.

    Its workin’ folks.

  16. will nadauld

    Perusing the Boston Craigslist for jobs this evening. In the skilled/craft category, ten out of the first twenty postings are for skilled carpenters. average pay is 18- 20 per. Jobs requiring degrees in the humanities are much less numerous and the average starting pay is around 15$ per.
    Neither job has benefits, but the job requiring the degree allows one to have a high self esteem, because as everyone knows, blue collar work is for less intelligent people.
    I’m starting to see a lot of thirty something college grads working as unskilled laborers in construction. I’m guessing they see labor and learning a trade as a better option than folding shirts for twenty hrs a week. The really sad bit is that they are working really hard and still not earning enough to cover expenses. Tough to live on fifteen bucks an hour without a 500$ per month student loan to pay, impossible with loan debt.
    In ten or fifteen years, all these kids living in moms basement will somehow need to support mom instead. I’m wondering who will be hired if and when things pick up. Will companies hire those who have been folding shirts part time for ten years or will they hire fresh college grads? What is the way out?

    1. nonclassical


      …we live on lake..our neighbors extol value of children’s educations, science, math-mother is science instructor…

      after some years listening, I asked her if her house was paid for…she looked incredulous…

      I informed her my Philosophy-Poly-Sci degrees abled me to realize, 2004 when bushitters allowed credit card lobbyists to re-write bankruptcy laws, that millions of Americans were going to go bankrupt-provided impetus to pay off debt…

      I didn’t bother to note our experiences living in Europe provided comparative perspective in healthcare (wife being nurse there) and Education (I taught in both environs-“HCE” Howth Castle Environs…)

      1. nonclassical the way, Will,

        Before passing, Gore Vidal noted what Wall $treet “criminogenic accounting fraud” (WK Black) had done to destroy U.S. economy…stating flatly that in light of “paper debt” constructed fraudulently, U.S. economy would be 20+ years destroyed, never to be “same” again…

        Perhaps it would be good to peruse historical reference, capitalism…driven by cheap or free resource extraction and lands owned by Indians, west…

        1970 era Poly-Sci classes discussed coming exploitation of labor…

    2. Ms G

      “In ten or fifteen years, all these kids living in moms basement will somehow need to support mom instead.”

      These kids will be supporting mom as her free home health aides. In its proposals to “reform” (gut) Medicare (to help finance the monstrosity that is ObamaCare) Obama’s HHS/CMS is proposing to spike “cost-sharing” for home health aides (because God forbid there should be one Medicare benefit that does not impose an extra “fee”). So from Obama’s and CMS’s perspective the kids living in mom’s basement will be a “perfect solution” (“privatized” health care).

      See here:

      Will — Appreciate your observations from the reality on the ground.

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