Jobless in America: An Anthology of Testimonials About Unemployment

The Response from Boomers

"Waah! Those horrible Boomers!"

Shorter version of Millennial rant: "Waah! Those horrible Boomers! I really want to live an entitled life like they had, and I deserve, but they messed everything up.  Instead, I actually have to start at the bottom like every other generation. How unfair!"
"Communications? What is that? Get a PRACTICAL DEGREE."
Kids, bashing boomers, seriously? The ones who run businesses, who own businesses? Did they spoil their kids rotten, yes, but only because we had a series of recessions like this we had to work through doing any work we could find. It was not days of wine and roses. The people who did well financially hardly had a chance to come up for air. 

The worst thing you can say is that we left the youngsters on their own too much, because we worked, worked, worked. All I remember of my life is working, no benefits for most of it, no vacations for most of it. I saved my own retirement. 

Did we buy things to make up for time lost with the young people in our lives? Guilty. But if the young people are too buck-headed to follow our example on work, whose fault is that? This article doesn't mention how much more likely the "millennial" generation is to be unmarried with a kid. Don't be naive - that is going to make your hiring prospects much more diminished. It shouldn't, but it does. Single-parents take off a lot more work, and many work sites don't want to deal with it, and don't have to deal with it. 

I see a lot of millennials spend a king's ransom to get completely impractical degrees because they think these should be real degrees. Communications? What is that? Who has a job in "Communication?" You have a better chance with a English degree, which is tougher. But be aware the only people who get job offers with an English degree are the top of the pile, the "A" students. So it is now, so it has always been. 

Get a PRACTICAL DEGREE. Practical degrees are tough. Science. Computers. Engineering. Health care track. All of these are the toughest most competitive degrees. Stop being in denial and telling the Booomers how things are. Listen to the boomers who are trying to help you. Should the government stop giving loans in certain subjects -- absolutely. Then maybe young people will stop pretending they are the Little Mermaid and can just wish their lives to be formed for them as they are guided by a singing lobster. 

Real work is not Disney. It's "Clerks." If you have a job at a 7-11 right now, you are doing great. It's a Depression. Yes. I said it.
"There are 79 million boomers. We were all druggies in bell bottoms and mini skirts who went all yuppie on y'all."
There are 79 million boomers. We were all druggies in bell bottoms and mini skirts who went all yuppie on y'all. Viet Nam was our fault. The Federal Reserve is our fault. The entitlement society is our fault. And you graduated and can't get a job. That's our fault, too. But that is what parents do. Absorb the shocks from their grown up babies and keep on loving them while they figure out the world does not rotate around their ass.
"Most of us are just people who tried to raise our children and do our jobs just like every other generation."
Painting all baby boomers with the same wide brush is childish. Most of us are just people who tried to raise our children and do our jobs just like every other generation. It's true that we failed to pay enough attention to the environment. On the other hand, we were the ones who invented environmentalism on a mass scale. So all of us were having casual sex and taking drugs when we were young. Yeah, except those of us who were working in Vista and the Peace Corp or volunteering to work for the rights of migrant workers or fighting in Viet Nam.. I spent my whole working life working against discrimination and homelessness and I never made more than $26,000 a year. I'm not complaining. I made my choices and I live with them. I had a choice.

I am very worried about this: my children's generation seems to have lost their choices. I'm afraid that they will not be able to reach their dreams. Listen: Get mad at the ones who are in charge. Get mad at the political system that the ordinary people can't change. Get mad that Congress is controlled by the powerful  interests of the very wealthy. Get mad that all the politicians care about is their own power. Don't get mad at other generations. Some of us have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.

Oh, by the way. My husband and I got kicked to the curb two years ago and have not been able to find jobs that pay more than minimum wage. We are in our 60's and know that we will never be able to work in jobs that use our skills and education again. We work in retail stores.
INTERLUDE: U.S. PRODUCTIVITY CRISIS
"The problem with US workers in general, is they cost too much."
The problem with US workers in general, is they cost too much, and they have a sense of entitlement. It's not our fault that we cost so much, but the cost of living in North America combined with 8% federal employer taxes and the fact that employers pay for benefits like health care helps price US workers out of the market. The fact that I can hire senior software engineers in eastern europe for 1/3 the cost of North America means that the North Americans will either have to deflate their economy to match their costs to the market price, or figure out a way to deliver more value to justify their higher price.
"In one generation, some are hard working. Others are lazy. Some are intelligent. Others are dumb as rocks."
These emails are interesting, but too many of them seem to be trying to speak for their  generation.

I own a small construction company. I generally have 10-14 people employed at a time. I have some turnover since i sadly have to occasionally fire people. But more often it's because I often have over qualified people that move onto better jobs. I have hired whites blacks, latinos, high school dropouts [I myself am one], high school graduates, college students, and college graduates. I have one lady working for me as a laborer who is trying to get her Masters in Victorian English. Another young woman worked for me while getting her Masters and is still working for me until she can find a job in her feild.

My point is that one thing that working with all of these different types of people has taught me is that very few are "representative" of their generation. Some are hard working. Others are lazy. Some are intelligent. Others are dumb as rocks.

I'm not saying that generational differences don't exist. I'm simply saying we tend to exaggerate them somewhat. When the media talk about a "generation" they almost always are talking about white college-educated kids. They aren't talking about 20 year-old factory workers in Ohio or warehouse workers in Wisconsin.  The members of the media are talking about thier own children . 

There is nothing wrong with talking about college-educated kids. But we shouldnt assume that they represent a whole generation. Nor should we assume that even among themselves, they are typical. Some are idealistic. Others are cynical. But I dont see the 20-30-year olds today as a monolithic generation that can be described as "cynical", "idealistic", "angry,"hopeful", etc.
"Welcome to my world, say the boomers. Nice to see you here finally wanting to join us."
I've been a house painter (loved it), a packer for moving company, which is hot, exhausting work that some people are happy to do their whole lives. I've waited tables. I've worked as a temp receptionist, secretary, and per diem clerk. I worked as a per diem nurse, where you're on call, you get called in, usually when the weather is terrible or the floor is overcrowded. I've worked as a med tech, which is the toughest job in health care. I'm not going in chronological order here, but the point is no one owes you anything, I've found.

An employer wants to know can you do you the work and will you be a benefit to them. That's it. No one cares about your intensely personal inner monologue.

If you are lucky you will end the day covered in paint drips, feces bits that you can smell and not see, MRSA exposures, grease, after having work place conflicts that stress you. If you're lucky.

That is the wonderful world of work. Welcome to my world, say the boomers. Nice to see you here finally wanting to join us.

Every single time I graduated from college, there was a recession. There's been a boom all the youngsters' lives. But that is not reality. This is. If you want to find a job, better ask a Mexican how to do it. That's reality.
INTERLUDE: GENERATIONAL BIAS
"What we call a generation is a model used to describe an impossibly complex reality."
Almost all those who have written comments treat a "generation" as if  it actually exists. What we call a generation is a model used to describe an impossibly complex reality.  Academics aggregate and simplify data to describe a phenomenon. They create a model and use it to illuminate the phenomenon. The model is not reality.

There is no such thing as a generation. It  is an intellectual abstraction that illustrates but does not inform. It is intellectual laziness. What is called a generation is just people. Sometimes people have common experiences that may generally define them as a group but they are not that group. They are people individually trying to live their lives in the time they are given.

Labeling people as a generation demeans and objectifies their individuality making them easier to ignore. That may be the entire point.
"Too many people believe they will be protected, comforted, and provided for by the state that made them promises."
To me, the attitude that brings these notes together is "I trusted the system, and it failed me".

Politicians of both parties have pushed this idea way too much over the last few decades. We can provide you a career, trust us. We can keep you healthy by banning things that make you unhealthy, trust us. We can write laws that eliminate anything bad, trust us. The state can provide all of your needs.

But that's not really true, it never was. Unfortunately too many people believe they will be protected, comforted, and provided for by the state that made them promises. That has bred a kind of extended adolescence, lasting in some cases for a lifetime. Fortunately, a lot of people are belatedly realizing this.

So, you're all sentenced to that frozen gulag of a reeducation camp, otherwise known as real life. The term of the sentence varies. Some will only be imprisoned a few days; some for the rest of your natural life. You'll term ends when the marvels of state control of your life choices loses its appeal. Then you will be free.
"As a matter of fact, about 75 million of us were NOT at Woodstock."
I get the anger, which is entirely justified, but I would just humbly ask those who are so angry to please try to be a bit more discerning and discriminating about the targeting of that anger.

1) As Marilyn Quayle famously said of our generation, "Not everyone demonstrated, dropped out, took drugs, joined in the sexual revolution or dodged the draft." As a matter of fact, about 75 million of us were NOT at Woodstock.

2) Yes, not every Boomer socked away retirement savings in those early years. Some of us did, though, including me. For those of us who began working in the 70s and early 80s, though, the economy was every bit as bad as it was now. I remember those times as being very difficult to get a job, the pay being low, and the cost of everything climbing sky high. Imagine everything you are going through now, plus long lines at the gas station, plus mandatory 55mph speed limits and low thermostat settings, plus double digit inflation and mortgage interest rates. It really was pretty bad then. 

3) My impression is that the main reason why Boomers did not let their kids free range like they themselves had been allowed to do is the same reason why the hitchhiking that was common in the 60s suddenly became rare. A number of things in our society changed, and we all realized that there were now a lot of very scary and dangerous people out there that weren't when we were kids. Or so it seemed, at least.

4) I would also just like to point out that the Boomer generation was ravaged by inflation to an unprecedented extent. When I was just old enough to start writing thank you notes, I can remember putting a three cent stamp on the envelope, and a nickel could buy a candy bar at the corner store. I would also like to point out that all the way through the Greenspan years, the Fed was under the control of people who were born before the Baby Boom years, so that inflation wasn't actually our creation, just our problem. Boomers tried to cope, maybe most didn't do very well, or at least as well as we could have. I do know for a fact that there are quite a few Boomers that have never been able to live high on the hog at all, but instead have been struggling and scrimping and making do pretty much their entire lives.
Next Page: The View from Employers
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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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