Monday, September 28, 2009

The World Owes Them a Living

Dave Thompson, who I occasionally substitued for on his radio show, "The Dave Thompson Show" was talking about the future of the country in terms of how we were going to pay for things like Social Security and Medicare. This was when the economy was booming and there might, just might be some hope, until I called in and said,

"You know Dave, if you think Gen X and Gen Y are going to work hard enough to produce the wealth necessary to pay for yours and the other Baby Boomers' retirement, you must be smoking something."

To which both Dave and I enjoyed a good, hearty guffaw.

Alas, while it was funny then, that doesn't mean it's not reality now, or that older Americans aren't going to be up sh!t Creek in the future.

Seems less than half of the able-bodied American youth (ages 16-24) are working right now.

Now, I know, I know, "Hope and Change."

But allow me some very unpolitically correct and cold, callous questions;

1. With Gen X/Y/Millinneals having such an abhorrence to work, who will produce all the necessary economic production to pay for things like Social Security and Medicare?

2. With all of them majoring in fluff and art history and political science and peace studies, how precisely will a career in "Professional Protesting" or "community organizing" yield the necessary tax dollars to pay for grandma's prescription drug plan?

3. I know this is unopportune to bring this up right now, but doesn't this mayhaps suggest the future productive potential of this country will be shot and therefore unable to repay all those trillions Obama recently indebted us to?

I know, I know.

I'm a big meanie, racist, evil fascist poopey head for daring to ask such insulting questions.

I'm sorry, I apologize.

Please go back to sticking your heads in the sand and thinking about hope and change.


Brendon said...

It's spelled "poopie".

Anonymous said...

Ha ha funny you mentioned that i wrote something similar on my facebook page and at the end of it i wrote "ohh never mind i am just a bigot ,racist ,fascist,jerk who knows nothing about naything just stick your headi n the sand you bunch of ostriches"

Paul in calgary .

Anonymous said...

It is alright. The government can just print more money. Right?

YG said...

1. No.

2. Reality will hit them like sledgehammer and they'll be forced to take menial jobs and/or go back and get a real education.

3. I've seen it already, and the focus is back on trades. You'll see the "lower class" eclipse the priviledged class and we'll be back to where we were in after WWII. What the world will look like by then, who knows.

Anonymous said...

Ah, back when I was young (1970s), the goal was to get married, have kids, and have a great job to keep the family's inter-generational good fortune flourishing.

How many in the 20-25 age bracket continue to have that philosophy?

Mark L said...

"With all of them majoring in fluff and art history and political science and peace studies, how precisely will a career in "Professional Protesting" or "community organizing" yield the necessary tax dollars to pay for grandma's prescription drug plan?"

C'mon. We need someone to do all those minimum-wage "want fries with that" service jobs. People stupid enough to major in art history and political science. and finance them through loans that cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy are the perfect constituency for such mind-numbing work. They will have to take something to work off their debt peonage, and won't be qualified to do anything else.

And the beauty is that it is a self-selecting serfdom. None of this nonsense about building an underclass based on race, national-origin, religious belief, or other accidents of birth. The feckless select themselves.

Ryan Fuller said...

Partly it's their fault, but that's not the only thing that's happening here. Apparently you don't think a $7.25/hour minimum wage, up from $5.15 in 2006, is significant enough to bear mentioning.

Why not? Look at your chart; oh wonder of wonders, it drops like a rock in 89-91 (when minimum wage was increased from $3.35 to $4.25), another dip in 96 ($4.25 to $4.75) and again in 2007 ($5.15 to $5.85).

These correlate to recessions, but not always. We can learn two things from this; first is that minimum wage causes unemployment, at least until inflation can lower the real minimum while the nominal minimum stays the same. Young people are disproportionately likely to work low wage jobs.

Second is that young people are more likely to be hired and fired on the margin. You don't hire some 22 year old punk when you could hire a 30 year old with more job experience. They're generally the last choice for hiring, and when the economy goes south, teenagers get fired quickly.

Those are real economic phenomena with important policy implications, but you've skipped that angle entirely to focus on preaching against the laziness of young people. That doesn't even hold up, in my opinion. Young people ten years ago didn't seem any less spoiled to me than they are today, back when 60% of them were working instead of ~45% today. You're always telling stories about spoiled kids when you were in college. That was right around peak-employment time for those groups. Your claim that this chart is some kind of laziness barometer just doesn't add up.

Anonymous said...

Capt! Capt! Capt!

A 24 year old is definitly not generation x, much less gen y.

Although I agree with your point that the current crop of young people are about as useful as tits on a bull please do not group generation X.

Gen X had to deal with the jobless recovery of the 90's and middle management positions being cut thereby keeping older workers in somewhat entry type positions.

I got lucky in IT but I know many people from school and the neighborhood that are still going nowhere.

A productive child of gen X

Anonymous said...

Well Captain - I seldom disagree with you, but this time you are out to lunch.

Recessions always hit the kids hardest. When I was a kid in the 80's youth unemployment was around 35%. That recession was a picnic compared to this one.

The kids don't deserve that.

she said: said...

Unfortunately, a whole generation has been spoon fed on "corporations are evil". I doubt anything less dramatic could ever make them understand otherwise. They are going to have to learn the hard way that the government can't afford them. Without you know - corporations. Of course, they've also been spoon fed on reality TV(which I still mostly love) and therefore have considerable issues with coping skills. So, we'll see how that turns out. I more fear what happens when it sets in the Mr. Money bags can't give them the high paying jobs he promised. And actually quite the reverse.

Anonymous said...

So, what's the minimum wage up to ?

Jeff M said...

While I agree that most of my generation is lazy and stupid, couldn't this precipitous drop be attributed to a number of other factors?

First, the massive recession that our parents caused has apparently destroyed the market for the menial jobs that teenagers usually get.

Second, the increase in the minimum wage has made the cost of that teenager increase by quite a bit. For people with no work experience, $7.50 is kind of a lot to gamble.

I'm just not sure that the lack of jobs is necessarily due to a lack of motivation or trying. I have two younger brothers who just finished high school. They both filled out a bunch of job applications, but neither of them was able to get even a Summer job until they were in college. It looks to me like the job market is just drying up, rather than the kids not wanting jobs.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, this age group should be either in high school or some type of post-secondary education. I'm more concerned about the next age group (I think it is 24 to 35).

Dr. Bob said...

You make some excellent points, sir.

Not that I disagree with you, but let me add some points.

One factor to think about is the effect that raising the minimum wage had on age 16 to 24 unemployment.

Another factor is how badly the 16 to 24 segment lost their jobs in the weak economy.

Another factor is whether the numbers youth in the 16 to 24 demographic increased.

Another question to ponder is how much of the high youth unemployment is due to the weak economy and how much is due to poor work habits of youth.

Last, consider how many older workers who have lost their jobs in the economic downturn have downsized and taken jobs normally done by 16 to 24 yr. olds, displacing the youth.

I do have some trouble with the generalizations in your statements #1 and #2.

Do Gen X/Gen Y/Millenials really have abhorrence to work? I haven't seen it myself. Are there surveys and studies that prove this to be true?

I don't see them majoring in fluff either - yes, there is a bad trend toward the easy courses of study, but it's far from "all".

Milton Hayek said...

I share your fears, but I don't think your conclusions can be drawn from this statistic alone. Take a look at that huge dip in the late fifties/early sixties. When that generation came of age it gave us the Reagan Revolution.

We need to know what caused that dip (a sudden hike in minimum wages?), and we need to know what's going on right now. That said, I definitely think work ethic is getting worse and worse with each new generation of spoiled Americans, an unemployment among younger people is hurting their ability to learn work skills (I don't necessarily mean career skills, just skills at being a good worker, regardless of the job).

Yes, things are going to get very nasty in a few decades in this country as the welfare state collapses. I don't plan on being here when that happens.

Elizabeth said...

My first childhood job was a newspaper route. I helped out my siblings with their routes until I was old enough to have my own. However, I wouldn't have that option today. That same newspaper now requires you to be 18 years old. I don't know if there were legal or economic factors involved in the newspaper's decision to put the age limit up, but I do know that I would have missed out on a great job.

Warren said...

I believe that the #1 reason most commenters overlook is that the youth I work with, are just not interested in working 'hard' Yes they want to work, but only so they can get paid. They rarely seem interested in doing a good job, learning, showing respect for their boss's and just seem to get a pay cheque due to entitlement not effort.

Anonymous said...

Here are some of our highly productive unemployed youth at play!

Ryan said...

Well, I can tell you this, being a 26 year old Mechanical Engineer working for a small manufacturing firm, I work my ass off. I'm the only person who knows a damn about computers, IT, website revisions and edits, and how to make the manufacturing lines run, communicate and do anything of the sort. Now, granted, my skill set is broadened because I'm pushing up on 12 years of experience in PLC and CNC programming, but I was lucky in having a father who was also in the business who could teach and mentor me as I went and introduce me to more people who could do the same.

I went to an all engineering college in Michigan, and have a lot of friends who walking out of college had 2.5 years of experience due to the co-op program there. Having said this, I know quite a few of them (note: all engineers, of various flavors) and live with one of them who cannot find a job in their field. My roommate is working in stone cutting and tiling because it was the only thing he could find.

I personally am working for about 36k a year because the company I work for can't afford to pay me any more, and while I might have more success in finding a job than my roommate, I don't know that it would be much higher. The state/federal regulations and taxes on business, particularly small business are choking out the ability for new comers into the industry to make a foothold for themselves and gain the experience so that some day the whole of industry doesn't come crashing down around our ears.

It is very much the chicken/egg paradox when it comes to required work experience, when everyone requires it, and no one can get it. I believe this is also in part due to the large amount of middle-aged to older folks who now have to retain their jobs for longer in the hopes that they will be able to retire. This creates less in the way of openings, and leaves those of us who did go to college for something useful kind of in a hole.

Keep it up Cap, I love your work here.

Paul said...

I have to agree that the overall "poor" work ethic and attitude are not helping, watching the minimum wage price the lower end of the labor market out of existence seems to be more the case, at least locally. Living in a college town, the bulk of the "seasonal" (season being while school is in session) jobs are being taken by the older college kids with the experience and age while it gets harder and harder for the local teenagers to compete in a shrinking market. I see more and more of my friends managing or owning local businesses cutting payroll and either working the longer hours and/or having "salaried" people pick up the "slack" that the hourly folks would have... :-) 'course, just random observations, I could easily be wrong...

Bike Bubba said...

What's really scary to me is that over time, only about 55% of people aged 18-24 are working. Yes, it's bad that the % now is about 5-10% below the running average, but it's scary to see the low participation in the work force.

For my part, though I was in college and grad school during those years, I was working all but 14 months of that time, at least part time. So we're talking some serious slackers here.

CBMTTek said...


I could not possibly agree more with point #3. The trades are beginning to be a more reliable and better source of income to many.

No matter how well educated you are, no matter how well dressed you are, not matter how many times you hold a title of C.Anything.O, you still need indoor plumbing, electricity, roads, and communications. Someone has to put it in and maintain it. And the suits will be more then willing to pay through the nose for the service.