The Left's Lost Generation

Big government solutions to the nation's ills wreak havoc on American youth.

On August 28th, President Obama told a group of college students in Iowa that Mitt Romney considers young Americans a "lost generation." It was a classic case of projection. A Pew Research Center report released in February--in other words, during our ostensible recovery--reveals the grim reality of the current administration's economic policies: only 54.3 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 have a job. That represents the lowest rate of youth employment since the government started keeping records in 1948.

It is telling that the president would make that statement at a college campus. Perhaps nothing has debilitated millions of younger Americans more than the cost of a higher education. College tuition has skyrocketed, increasing more than sixfold since 1981. Moreover, the student loan debt bubble, most of it backed by taxpayer guarantees, has soared to over $1 trillion. Taxpayers are on the hook for about $870 billion because part of the Affordable Healthcare Act passed in 2010,  aka, Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, made the federal government the sole originator of student loans. Unsurprisingly, government-owned loans have spiked since 2009.

Taxpayer guarantees have produced other unsurprising results as well. Colleges have come to resemble luxury resorts more than institutions of higher learning. Lavish recreational centers were built, dorms were radically upgraded, and administration staffs became top-heavy with unnecessary paper-pushers and diversity specialists. Salaries were substantially increased for professors, even as workloads remain far less than comparably-paid people in other fields. Ironically, the consulting firm Bain & Company identified $112 million in annual savings just within the business operations at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009.

Such unjustified largesse has equally predictable consequences. Student loan debt has also skyrocketed, with each student borrower under the age of 30 owing a record-setting average of $20,835, according to data released in July by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Couple this reality with a Rutgers study showing the average starting salary for a college student has gone down 10 percent to $27,000 per year and the result is stark: FinAid loan calculator reveals it would take 11 years at that salary to pay off one's loans.

Yet even if paying off one's loans is burdensome, it has been commonly assumed for several years that a college diploma was worth it. Sadly, that has become an erroneous assumption. Data examined by the Associated Press last April revealed that college graduates have fared even worse than younger Americans overall. 53.6 percent of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 in 2011 were either jobless or underemployed, representing the highest total since 2000. And many of these college graduates are employed in jobs that require a high school diploma or less. Young graduates employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers outnumber those employed as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined, while cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives substantially outnumber engineers.

The near future doesn't look much brighter, either. The government projects that only three of the 30 occupations with the largest number of anticipated job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor's degree or higher to fill the position--teachers, college professors and accountants. Technological advances will also continue to eliminate mid-level jobs that can or soon will be replaced by computer. “Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern’s Andrew Sum told the AP. “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.” Or perhaps, as more and more young Americans become discouraged by the grim combination of high tuition costs and low job prospects, many will stop pursuing a college education altogether. Or as the OWS movement advocated, purposely default on their loans as "payback to the fat cats" on Wall Street.

In a daunting column for PJ Media, historian Victor David Hanson reveals where all of this is leading, noting that "in four years we have become Europeanized: young people with no jobs who are living at home and putting off marriage and child raising...They may have a car, borrow their parents’ nicer car for special occasions, watch their parents’ big screen TV, and have pocket change for a cell phone and laptop by enjoying free rent, food, and laundry, but beneath that thinning technological veneer there is really little hope that they will ever be able to maintain that lifestyle on their own in this present day and age." The parents of these children? According to Hanson, aging Baby Boomers, who have seen their own retirements become less than they imagined, are "madly trying to save money, buy an extra house, get a good used car--all for their children who may not otherwise ever have a savings account, a home, or reliable transportation."

Yet perhaps the most depressing aspect of Hanson's "new normal" regarding employment for younger Americans has to do with what is now considered a "plum job"--as in working for the government, "in one of those federal or state regulatorships, inspectorships, or clerkships, which are paid for with borrowed money, produce little, and grow as those they audit and fine shrink."

Such an assessment dovetails quite nicely with a video played Tuesday night at the Democrat convention that proclaimed “government is the only thing that we all belong to.” The Obama campaign quickly disavowed involvement in its production. “The video in question was produced and paid for by the host committee of the city of Charlotte. It’s neither an OFA nor a DNC video, despite what the Romney campaign is claiming. It's time for them to find a new target for their faux outrage," wrote an Obama aide to Buzzfeed, which broke the story.

Note that there was no disavowal of the message in the video. Furthermore, it would strain credulity to believe the Obama campaign was unaware of its inclusion in the convention's overall presentation. Thus, one is left to conclude that Obama and his fellow Democrats continue to believe ever-expanding government programs--and entitlements--are the solution to the nation's problems. Even the reality of the slowest recovery on record, 42 months of unemployment officially above 8 percent, and staggering levels of deficit spending that did nothing to alleviate any of our economic woes fail to disabuse them of that odious notion.

As First Lady Michelle Obama contended in her speech Tuesday night all Democrats and the president need is more time. "He reminds me that we are playing a long game here..and that change is hard, and change is slow and it never happens all at once," she told the audience. "But eventually, we get there, we always do." For millions of college graduates flipping burgers and waiting on tables, one suspects "eventually" doesn't cut it.

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