Profiles of the Jobless: Baby Boomers Strike Back at ‘Mad as Hell’ Millennials
By Derek Thompson
In the past several weeks, the Atlantic has published five anthologies of readers seeking, finding and not finding work: The Unemployed Speak, Advice from Employers, Longer Voices of the Jobless, What It’s Like to Be Jobless in Your 20s, and The ‘Mad as Hell’ Millennial Generation.
In the last article, frustrated young job searchers reserved harsh words for their parents’ generation. They accused Baby Boomers of maxing out their entitlements as they ignored the environment, poisoned the financial and housing sectors, and ultimately doomed the economy just as Millennials were graduating from college with heavy debt burdens.
In the comment section, and in our personal email account, Boomers returned fire. Here’s a taste of what 20-somethings said about their parents’ legacy, followed by some of the most indignant and measured responses from the Boomers.
As always, keep writing. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I want to blame the universities and grown-ups who should have known better. Instead, like my me-first generation, I blame myself.”
Subject line: MAD AS HELL
I’m only 23 and it’s been barely over a year since I graduated from university. Yet already the work environment and the consequences of the “real world” have warped and degraded me. All I have are feelings of disillusionment and betrayal …
Much of my rage is reserved for a predatory system of higher education and the failures of a generation that came before. I’m angry that a “state” university costs as much as it does. That many, if not most of the students who attend, treat the experience like a 4-year version of MTV’s Spring Break. Massive grade inflation means one less standard deviation between myself and those who don’t try. Lax entrance standards means that even in smaller classes, half of the students do as little as possible, have nothing to contribute, and see learning as a necessary evil, if even that. These “state” universities are more interested in funding nice football stadiums than maintaining up-to-date libraries or modern classrooms. They are more interested in your tuition than your education. And will continue to hound you for Alumni contributions long after graduation.
Then there’s the baby boomer generation. Guardians of the state, they have left it dysfunctional. Watchdogs of the economy, they have let it burn. Stewards of the earth, they have done little to curb its exploitation or prepare for a more sustainable future. From Reagan on the country has lived “above it’s means.” More tax cuts and higher spending. And every time the house of cards threatens to fall down, consumer spending receives another stimulating injection in the hope of averting the dismal reality on the other side of of the bubble. But this time there’s apparently nothing left to do. This time the debt is just too big. This time, the baby boomers say from the comfort of lower unemployment and a stable mortgage, there’s no escaping the pain. They are more concerned with keeping inflation low then the employment of their children. They are more interested in protecting their 401K and Social Security benefits than investing in tomorrow. They spent our future and now need us to pay the costs.
But most of my anger is reserved for myself. I pursued a “Liberal Arts Degree” in communications rather than a B.S. in engineering or computer science. I spent all four years at a state university rather than the first two at a community college. I worked in the summer instead of getting an internship. I worked harder at my classes than making contacts and networking with professionals. Not everyone is suffering in this economy, and if I were going to college for the first time this fall I’d know how to prepare. But I didn’t at the time and now I’m left to face the consequences. I want to blame the universities and “grown-ups” who I feel should have known better. They were the ones, after all, peddling the mantra of “go to college, study hard, get a job.”
Instead, egotistical like the rest of my me-first, entitlement ridden generation, I blame myself.