Skip to comments.Generation Limbo : The Lost Generation was clobbered by war, the Millennials by recession
Posted on 09/26/2011 7:00:41 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
There has been a crowded field of suffering created by the Great Recession, in which $14.5 trillion of American wealth vanished.
Baby Boomers have lost retirement funds, while Generation Xers have lost out on some peak earning years. The biggest losers, though, have been the Millennials. According to the 2010 census data released last week, many of them have literally lost their future.
The media have taken to describing the 18- to 29-year-olds who will ultimately bear the brunt of the economic downturn as the Lost Generation. Its the haunting turn of phrase that Ernest Hemingway credited to Gertrude Stein, who used it almost a century ago, referring to the men and women who struggled in the aftermath of World War I. All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation, Hemingway quotes Stein as saying in his book about the era, A Moveable Feast. Stein had recounted an outburst from a garage owner directed at a young mechanic who had failed to properly repair her car: You have no respect for anything. You drink yourself to death . . . Stein, according to Hemingway, was disgusted by the aimless generation of World War I vets.
Perhaps Stein didnt quite take to all those young veterans invading her artistic stomping ground and abandoning traditional values for the indulgence and spiritual void of the Jazz Age. The hell with her lost-generation talk and all the dirty, easy labels, Hemingway wrote, feeling sympathy for the mechanic. What Hemingway and others in his generation had witnessed in the war shook their very notion of civilization, calling into question the social compact they had been raised to believe in. And in Great Britain, the meaning of lost was not in the least existential over 800,000 Britons were wiped out on the battlefields.
This time around, the Lost Generation applies to a different kind of trauma. For the most part, Americas youth, with the exception of the men and women who enlisted, have been shielded from the decade of war it exists as a constant background noise, perhaps, and maybe as one of the explanations for our dire financial situation. (The trillion dollars poured into Iraq and Afghanistan is cited by President Obama as a reason for the recession.) The present circumstances are in fact quite different from those that produced Steins lost generation: Whereas in the early 20th century a devastating war shook the old order, today the shattered economy has upended the Millennials chances for prosperity.
What do the data say? Overall, these figures have far-reaching implications for the education, quality of life, and opportunity available for Millennials. As reported by the Associated Press, at 55.3 percent, the employment rate for young adults is the worst since World War II; it has suffered a decline of twelve percentage points since 2000. The young arent able to strike out on their own, either Census figures show 5.9 million Americans aged 25 to 34 living with their parents in 2011. Thats a total of 14.2 percent of that age group, an increase of two percentage points since the recession began. Northeastern Universitys Center for Labor Market Studies analyzed the Census data and found that poverty is most acute among young families, with one in three below the poverty line. The poverty rate for all families headed by an adult under 30 has risen by six percentage points since 2007, to 28 percent in 2011; add a child to the family and the stat becomes a rise of eight percentage points.
Thats what this generations version of shell-shocked looks like: staring at the future and seeing a mountain of debt from Social Security, without any reasonable expectation of reaping the benefits. And there are plenty of this Lost Generation who, rather than turning to literature or the arts or even booze, dull the pain by worshipping the cult of celebrity, wondering why their own specialness doesnt translate into hefty paychecks. For this subgroup, perhaps the New York Timess description is a little more apt than Lost Generation Generation Limbo though it hasnt quite caught on. The definition? Highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects and waiting for the tide to turn. A recent Dartmouth graduate claimed that some of her fellow Ivy Leaguers had gone on welfare and have started training younger graduates on how to apply for government benefits: We are passing on these traditions on how to work in the adult world as working poor, the former waitress, now a paralegal, told the Times.
It is not a comforting picture. If Ivy Leaguers have turned to the government dole, what incentive do the less fortunate and less well-connected have to wean themselves off big government? Perhaps this is indeed a generation that is lost in limbo.
Elise Jordan is a New Yorkbased writer and commentator. She served as a director for communications in the National Security Council in 200809 and was a speechwriter for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“Keeping Entire Generations on the Plantation for Fun and Profit.”
Interesting article however I must disagree.
When the Millennials spend a year in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany(my grandmother),survive a slaughterhouse know as D-Day or dodge bullets in TET/1968(Dad),then the Millennials can call themselves LOST.
For the record, I’m a slacking member of Gen X who knows even with a crappy economy, we have a hell of a lot better then those who survived a GreaT Depression with it’s lack of ‘special entitlements’ for the ‘disenfranchised’.
If they don’t start earning a future you and I will have a pretty rough time during retirement making ends meet. This article speaks to the problem of competitiveness and entrepreneurial spirit in the American marketplace. “Hope and change” turned out to be a hell of a beat down, maybe the younger generation will finally get it.
Regulations stifle small business from one side and large corporate buyers from the other. Starting a business would be foolish when so many corporations are holding onto cash because of uncertainty. We need a fundamental change that career politicians will never give us. Our only hope is the Tea Party and the influence it has on the establishment.
Hard to feel sorry for them when they voted for this.
And they’ll vote for it again next election.
My own opinion is that the popularity of Sarah is based on the perception of her as a high energy entrepreneur and a person who is determined to make the future bright for all.
Although she seems to be an odd new phenomenon, she is, in fact, a throwback to the energetic American of our earlier history.
And I think she is needed to re-establish these mores and expectations. Billy Graham was right.
The United States has tried to have “Guns and Butter” for at least 5 decades. And the system is coming apart at the seams when combined with the nature worship inspired regulations which we have entwined ourselves. In addition, corporations have looked at the bottom line on a quarterly basis instead of taking the long view. We nead a moral revival.
It’s not that the new Lost Generation “can’t” leave home. They won’t.
They. Won’t. Be. Poor.
Since they refuse to be poor, they won’t live in a crappy apartment with roommates.
They won’t drive a beater, so their salary goes to car payments.
They won’t pay cash for anything, from college to cars to Xboxes to movie tickets.
They won’t get married, yet they won’t shrink from demanding that others pay for their children).
College material or not, they won’t be without a degree because they won’t work with their hands.
They won’t work with tools, outdoors, or in factories.
They won’t work their way through college, so they’ve saddled themselves with student debt that will plague them till they’re retirement age.
They won’t, won’t, won’t.
They’ve decided that their cushy upbringings and Dartmouth political science degrees exempt them from going through a necessary lifestage: Just-starting-out poverty.
It doesn’t matter to them that it’s only a stage you eventually get through — they’ve opted out of hard work and suffering. Fine by me. Get Mommy to do your laundry and go blog about your pain. Nobody cares.
RE: Its not that the new Lost Generation cant leave home. They wont.
You also have to remember, with Obamacare, they will have to depend on Mom and Dad’s healthcare till they reach the age of 26 (even when they are already married or living in with someone).