To quote the late comic genius, “I can’t get no respect.” As a member of Generation Y, or the “Slacker Generation” or the “Laziest Generation” I am constantly confused with someone who fits the description of the lazy, inattentive, unambitious name-calling that the elders of this world have slapped on cohorts my age and younger. So, it is with great pleasure, I write about the world from the point of view of someone who sees the world from the perspective of the so-called echo boom and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t look good.
The saying “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” might generally apply to anyone born between 1976 and 2006 as we have really not had a chance to throw any rocks at anything yet. Looking at the most influential and wealthiest businessmen and women in the world we hardly have emassaries other than Sergei Brinn of Google, or Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, and for the most part, ours is a generation kept out of the inner-sanctum of the world of business and politics completely.
Then again, there are a few Echo Boomers who have made waves. One of my personal favorites of the week is Greg Smith, the ex-Goldman Sachs employee who ousted the culture of greed before service culture of one of Wall Street’s biggest and most influential investment banks. Smith’s New York Times op-ed piece made headlines yesterday and for a moment, the focus of the world was on the oft-suspected ill-dealings of Goldman Sachs and their leaders who made reference to clients as “Muppets.” To many, the fact that Smith outed his former employer in such public fashion was a sign of disrespect and unprofessionalism. I think it’s more indicative of his courage and an attitude that I would like to think is prevalent among my peers, that we’re done with the establishment and it’s total lack of moral ethics.
Gen Y is a massive group of people, 87 million or so, and makes up more than a third of America. We are underemployed, will soon be stuck in more public debt than any generation before us, and by and large dismissed as incapable of taking over the positions held by our “responsible” baby boomer parents. To them, we are children, always have been, always will be. We think of them, by in large as the generation who needs help resetting their router. They think of us as the generation that plays video games and slacks off. Unfortunately for them, we’re the next biggest group of workers and we want some respect since we’re the ones who will pay for all of their mistakes.
One of my favorite topics to write about is the pending economic slowdown that is coming as Baby Boomers (our parents) retire, sell their McMansions and move to Palm Beach. When the last of them reaches retirement age, there will be 1 new worker entering the labor force for every 10 of them retiring. Between now and 10 years from now when that happens, we’re all collectively screwed. Thanks to the “live forever” philosophy of Baby Boomers, the leaders of their day have written many checks for wars, bailouts, and entitlements that they can’t cash and as the imbalance grows toward more of them retiring and fewer of us to replace them, we get to pick up the check in the form of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.
That is, only if we decide to play ball. What if, and I’m just throwing this out there, we decided that we weren’t going to pay for their mistakes?
Since not many of us are corporate executives of a Fortune 500 company, or run any massive investment banks built on the skeletons of starving children and harmless puppy dogs, we don’t have a lot at stake when it comes to the overall health and well-being of the holy sacred trinity of the establishment, banks, government, and Wall Street. You know, the establishment that nearly fell apart 4 years ago and was bailed out to the tune of $3 Trillion in loans and other stimulus? Yes, if we welshed on their obligations, our parents would be pissed, but so what else is new?
What if we all said, “We’ve had enough” at the same time and stopped supporting the system that’s going to ensure we have higher taxes to pay and higher interest rates for the rest of our lives? Short of a full out rebellion, there are plenty of ways in which we can make our voices heard. I think many of us are sick and tired of supporting a system that doesn’t do for us. I think that we heard something different in the message of “Change” many of us thought we were hearing from our last Presidential candidate. Does anyone else feel as though we were short-changed?
How many of us have been to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration? Were you there because you lost your retirement savings to a Bernie Madoff scandal, or maybe you showed up because your 401k account balance got cut in half in 2008? Chances are if you were born after 1976, neither of those were the reasons you were there. If I were to wager a guess, its because you saw the injustice of government supporting the corporations that elected it’s officials out of control of you and the peers of your generation and you wanted to do something about it and you feel like the democratic process cheated you. I feel your pain.
The American Dream?
I remember being asked as a High School Student to describe the American Dream and what it meant to me. I often thought about that question as I have watched unemployment rise, scandals among corporations aired in public, and many thousands of families lose everything in the sub-prime crisis. I think about my parents who came from poor families and were able to make it so that their children came from wealthy ones and I wonder if that makes me a sell-out or not. The American Dream might be a house in the suburbs with 2 kids and a white picket fence, but when your parents have to buy it for you because you and your wife can’t afford it and don’t have the credit because you’re drowning in debt, I think it sounds more like a nightmare.
There are many outrageous fixtures of the Baby boomers and one of them is the concept of a middle class. Another is the concept of retirement from a job at a company that takes care of its workers. None of those fixtures really exists anymore, and so neither does the American Dream as the Boomers knew it and their parents before them. Back in their day, the rule of thumb was joining a company, working for the cause and identifying with patriotism and fellow Americans. Today, it’s about individualism, standing out amongst your peers and connecting with as many parts of the rest of the world as you can. There’s no national identity the way there was at one point, and just because you work and pay taxes in this country, doesn’t mean you have any interest in fighting for it or defending your fellow American’s rights either.
How did it come to this? As I mentioned earlier, us echo boomers haven’t really had the chance to run things yet, so rest assured, we didn’t do it. Thanks to our Generation X and Boomer predecessors who took Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is Good” speech to heart in the 1980s and ran with it, the face of the world is forever changed. Maybe we have a chance to redeem ourselves. Maybe the Greg Smiths of the world are going to keep standing up to the establishment and speaking their mind whenever they see the injustice of greed. Or maybe we’re going to buy into the promise of riches the way Generation X did after Kurt Cobain gave his shotgun a blowjob and they ran out of good grunge bands to listen to and got bored with slacking off. Only time will tell.
Here are some food for thought facts that all of us can count on to help us make up our minds as to whether we believe that sacrificing our souls for a seat at the corporate table is worth it or not:
1. The unemployment rate for Millenials is almost 18%
2. We stand to inherit about $67 Trillion in public and private debt
3. Real incomes for Americans have been falling for 30 years straight
4. In the next 10 years the number of workers exiting the workforce will outnumber those entering by 10 to 1
5. Social Security will be insolvent by the time we retire
6. Medicare and Medicaid are going to bankrupt America
7. President Obama is a liar and duped everyone of us into believing in “Change”
8. None of the candidates for President or Congress in the 2012 election has the Echo Boom’s interests in mind
Anyone else wondering when we’re going to see some “Change We Can Believe in?”