Paul Buchheit
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 9 July 2012
Today’s young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don’t understand.

Three Ways the Rich and Powerful Have Cheated Young Americans

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My own generation faced the Vietnam War. We were at risk of getting drafted, and then maimed or killed in an unwinnable battle against imagined evils.

Today's young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don't understand. It's a slowly waged, diabolical war that substitutes debt and underemployment for missing limbs and psychological disorders. The soldiers are college-age men and women who can't find jobs or pay tuition, and who are seduced into submission by the promise of eventual rewards. The Vietnamese jungle has turned into Wall Street.

For those of us who weren't particularly good activists in the 60s, age has widened our perspective, and the lack of opportunities for our children has given us a second chance to protest, to help make it clear how the leaders of my generation have abandoned the people they no longer need.

Young America, here's why you should be angry:

1. The Great WEALTH Transfer

-- 18- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.

-- The Richest 1%: They tripled their share of income between 1980 and 2006, then took 93% of all the new income in the first year after the 2008 recession. Their median net worth is now over $5,000,000.

2. The Lack of JOBS: No one's hiring, so you have to "create your own job."

This from Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner: "The good news is that information technology provides the iPod/Facebook generation with the means to find work and create careers that build on their own personal talents and interests...creating your own career will produce a stronger sense of satisfaction and fulfillment."

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Just grab your iPhone, open up Facebook, and create your own job. Become an entrepreneur, just like the richest Americans. Except that the richest Americans aren't entrepreneurs. Based on U.S. tax return data, only 3% of the wealthiest 130,000 Americans are entrepreneurs. Most are in management or finance.

As your parents and mentors, we told you to stay in school and work hard and everything would be fine. But you don't have jobs. Over half of college graduates were jobless or underemployed in 2011. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees were receiving food stamps or some other form of public assistance.

If you do have a job, it's probably not paying much. Salaries for new graduates dropped 10% just in the last year. Worse yet, most of you are dealing with college loan debt, which averages $24,000, and with the reality of zero net worth for over a third of you.

As wages are hitting an all-time low, corporate profits are hitting an all-time high. But the corporations that have built their profits on American innovation and labor are telling you they don't need you anymore. Apple -- much admired for its slick products -- shows little respect for anyone below upper management. With 47,000 employees, about 1/10 the number employed by IBM, Apple makes a profit of $420,000 per employee. Yet most Apple store workers make about $12 per hour.

And your representatives in Washington are no help. In October, 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Nearly two-thirds of the American public had supported the bill.

3. The Portrayal of EDUCATION as a "lifetime investment"

Yes, it's a lifetime investment, for the holder of your student loans.

As corporate profits and CEO salaries and incomes of the 1% have surged over the past ten years, education financing declined by 24 percent, and tuition at state schools increased 72 percent. Since 1985, while consumer prices have approximately doubled, tuition has risen almost 600%.

Total state education cuts for fiscal 2012 were $12.7 billion. A study by Citizens for Tax Justice noted that 265 of our nation's largest companies avoided about the same amount in state taxes each year from 2008 to 2010.

So your massive tuition bills are paid for with mounting student debt, which has more than tripled in the past ten years. Here again my own generation has deceived you. Our once-idealistic anti-war activists now excel at flashy marketing and sloganeering, with admissions pitches of "affordability" and "lifetime investment," and carefully avoided references to costs and debts and contracts.

To make up for lost revenue, cutbacks continue and educational opportunities disappear. State colleges are eliminating expensive-to-run engineering and computer science departments. Arizona doubled college tuition in four years. California K-12 schools have one counselor for every 800 students. Ohio's Governor Kasich suggested rationing college majors among state schools. Illinois cut 2012 educational funding by a greater percentage than any other state; not to be outdone, Pennsylvania's Governor Corbett tried to cut higher education funding by half, and New Hampshire DID cut university funding by half. Florida's college tuition is up 15% in a year, Nevada's is up 13%, Tennessee's about 10%, Washington's 24% over two years.

Hell No, We Won't Go Into Servitude

College graduates, you shouldn't be working for $12 an hour. The computer and networking technologies that gave life to companies like Apple and Google grew out of 50 years of public research. It was an accomplishment of society, not of a few well-positioned individuals. You, the descendants of industry pioneers, and the potential creators of even greater technologies, deserve at the very least a decent-paying job.

Your anti-war protest, if a time-weathered opinion matters, would include a flood of job demands at the offices of U.S. and state senators and representatives. In person and online. You are part of the fastest and most sophisticated means of communication ever devised. You have the power to make demands.

But first you have to get mad.



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ABOUT Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, RappingHistory.org, PayUpNow.org), and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

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23 comments on "Three Ways the Rich and Powerful Have Cheated Young Americans"

HeWhoKnowsAll

March 08, 2013 1:14pm

Ann Arbor Liberal, you could have left the liberal off because with your idiotic babel that has been burned into your brain we know you are liberal. What I do find amusing is that you term yourself liberal and then beg people to not vote for republicans? Democrat and Republican are parties. Conservative, moderate, capitalist, socialist, communist, nationalist, anarchist, feminist, libertarian, environmentalist and even liberal are all ideologies. Example Republicans believe that the government should have representitives in washington passing along what we tell them in their home town (which most people don't bother to do) and then it is a smaller meeting of 536 from around the country working out the issues. Democrats believe that government is by the people for the people (difficult but not impossible in a country of 320 million people but with internet it brings us closer) and every individual has a voice which I would love to see. Conservatives believe in fiscal responsibility and low taxes for EVERYONE. Liberals believe in taking money from as many sources as possible and put them into programs that seldom work but make them feel like they are helping the "little people".
If I were to describe myself I would be a Democrat with libertarian ideology that believes in human, animal and environment protection with very few laws but a lot of regulation and a conservative policy.
I didn't like bush anymore than you but it was not the tax cuts that hurt us it was the EXCESIVE costs of war. If al gore was in the same thing would have happened and is the same reason in the next 2-6 years we will go into Syria and Iran, because they were not part of the World Bank yet. All countries must submit to the world bank or be invaded by either the USA, Russia or NATO. It is the way of the world now and people like you who continue to blame the other party help it happen. It isn't D vs R or one ideology vs another, it is the government vs The PEOPLE that we need to worry about!

jeltez42

July 11, 2012 12:18pm

We will see change when the Gen X'ers get out from behind their computer monitors and work together to change the "system" that is bankrupting this country. Sadly, many lack critical thinking skills and the ability to question what is said in the media.

I look to the younger people in other countries to set the tone for the global community. The younger Americans seem more than willing to just float along on the ethernet.

The US is being re-colonized. The 1% are structuring life so that their families will maintain power and wealth at the expense of the 99%. We see this in job ads that demand you already have a job to even apply and then have a BS or higher degree to answer phones and put mail in the mailbox.

I don't expect the older Boomers to take to the streets to make life better for the younger generations, but for those of us on the tail end of the Boom and not quite Gen Xer's, maybe we will if for no other reason that the X'ers and i-Gen will be taking care of us in our old age and running our country. How things are now, that frightens me more than just about anything.

mamabashums

July 10, 2012 7:04pm

I f I had a stamp I would send a letter to my congressman but wait being that the post office is being cut as well maybe i should just paste a dollar bill to the envelope. I can think of numerous new ways of making money like start a website to make people money just send me money and all funds go into a bank account until you reach a million then you give ten people 100,000 bones that ought to stimulate the economy. Or someone could start a call center in the usa pay all students going to college a fair wage and solicit all companies to use that service who currently outsource to other countries, OH!!! how unpatriotic it would be to ignore this new call center of students
working their way through college maybe even some of the funds could be tax deductable even more incentive. The companies that do not want to use the students could have a shit turd with corn in it placed on the call centers websites as a non patriotic piece of shit with corn in it. How about another form of habitat for humanity build homes for displaced us citizens funded by a bank and corporation tax wall street transaction tax and illegal alien sending money back to mexico via western union tax . I mean really their here they should pay some kind of tax AND HOW ABOUT A MEGA TAX ON POLITICAL COMMERCIALS AND CAMPAIGN ADS BLOW EM A NEW ONE WITH THAT TAX and if they dont want that tax put the corn shit by their name. Thats all for today I need to create a new business getting drunk on the internet with other people from other countries.

António Miguel ...
Coimbra, N/A
July 10, 2012 3:43pm

In my country, Portugal, there are job offers for architects and nurses (higher education courses and highly skilled) for 500 euros, which is only 15 euros above Portugal's minimal national wage. Just to put this in perspective, a house cleaning lady gets more than this if she works 8 hours a day, 5 days a week...

thachermark

July 10, 2012 8:06am

this is ridiculous. a kid needs to think about where they will work, how they will use the amazing skill sets we are all born with and then work flipping burgers, digging, operheating a cash register, driving, asking a boss what they need done, being aggressive, alert, HELPFUL, instead of frightened and helpless. Who gives a hoot about these statistics? Work, dirtier, more frustrating the better and aim to become and help the 1% get richer.

Schawately

July 10, 2012 6:24am

This is all being done intentionally folks - the no jobs, the raising of tuitions, the sending of your jobs overseas etc. This is all a part of the New World Order that those of us in the know have known about for decades and tried to warn everyone but very few have bothered to listen. Everything is going as planned and the only way out is when the entire financial system fails (this summer) and we (hopefully) finally bring these criminals to justice. There will be finger pointing galore but in the end it will be found that the banking cabal has been behind all of it. The blame will be put on "cybercrime" as to why all of your money is all of a sudden gone but don't believe them! They will have stolen it lock, stock and barrel. Protect yourselves by putting everything you have into physical gold or silver. I've been around a long time now folks and have followed all events closely. We are all being controlled, lead and brainwashed by the powers that be. All strife in this country has been planned to occur this way. We are all nothing more than over-populated pests to the one percent and they have many, many plans to get rid of us (man made viruses for example). If you want to break the back of the banks that are controlling all of this then buy physical silver. JPMorgan holds the largest silver short position in the world. They rig the market much like the LIBOR banks have done for years. If we all buy silver it will force JPMorgan's hand and when we buy enough silver they will not be able to continue to short the silver market and they will not be able to meet their margin calls. This will break their back and the dominoes will all crumble after that. Once we get the banking cabal out of the way everything else will fall into place with a new monetary system with a gold backing. Do your research folks. This is the only true way to break the backs of the bankers who are causing all of this mess. I've been warning people for years and years so maybe now people will start to listen. By the way, over 600 banking executives from around the world have called it quits this year so far. Know why? Because they know what's coming and they want to get far, far away from the collapse when it occurs this summer. Good luck.

Ann Arbor Liberal

July 09, 2012 8:05pm

It shouldn't go unnoticed and certainly not forgotten that the Republicans number one goal was to make President Obama a one term president. After watering down and voting against job creating bills, Repubicans are now running ads blaming Obama for unemployment. Republicans own the unemployment rate but use lies and propaganda to confuse uninformed minds. At best they are hypocrites and perhaps at worst traitors to the nation. By putting their political party above the good of the nation, they do more damage then our worst foreign enemies could dream of accomplishing. The good people in Texas need to organize and get rid of the Rick Perrys and those like him at home and in Washington. Texas politicans have done enough damage to the republic and must be stopped. Romney has nothing to offer but a smile.

Chris Wilborn

July 10, 2012 11:05am

The number one GOAL for ANY Party is to get into power ! (YES, that means Obama would be a one term pres.) Thank the Republicans for voting against all the worthless "Stimulus" that threatens to bankrupt this country ! The Reps may own all the unemployment up to the end of 2009, but Obama owns the current mess !! Words like "hypocrites" and "traitors" are VERY easily thrown back at Obama : He called the large deficits under Bush "unpatriotic".

Ann Arbor Liberal

July 11, 2012 6:54pm

As you know, the Bush deficits were primarily due to the trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy and financing two wars off budget by borrowing from China. Increase spending and cut revenue. Brilliant! Unpatriotic, no. Stupid fiscal policy and deceptive politics, yes. Actually I’d call the deceptive part unpatriotic which is something Republicans have mastered rather well. Create a mess then blame the clean up man for missing a spot. I digress.
Okay Chris, Bush is gone and it’s your first day in office at the start of 2009. The situation is this. The economy is in free fail. Not your fault. GM and Chrysler are on the verge of disappearing and taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with it. Again, not your fault. The banking system has deep self inflicted wounds from their own greed and mismanagement which threatens a total international financial failure. Not your fault either. And of course the wars which you didn’t initiate are in full swing costing billions. So, Mr. President, what are you going to do? If your name is Romney, you do nothing and Detroit disappears along with the nationwide automotive supplier chain that supports both foreign and domestic auto makers. Not to mention the communities where these people live. For every one auto related job there are 10 non-auto related jobs. Get the picture, big mess! The so-called worthless stimulus stopped this disaster in its tracks but to people like you this is an inconvenient truth. Obama deserves the credit for saving the nation. Unemployment remains too high because of the do nothing Republicans who have failed in their responsibilities to enact effective legislation to deal with the problem. The President cannot do it alone. Failure to acknowledge these facts blows holes in your premise. Even without the name calling, the point is made.

John Caelan

July 09, 2012 7:51pm

Well done, sir.... the baby boomers can finish what they started if they would all embrace this sort of honest reflection and create a bridge between themselves and their younger children and grandchildren...maybe even the GenXers would decide to stop making video games for awhile and join the fight. Brilliant work.

Str8Tlkr

July 09, 2012 6:37pm

Speaking of college loans, has anyone noticed that every time the University of California raises tuition, they also announce they are increasing the amount of financial assistance? The claim is that this is to assist students who otherwise couldn't afford college.
But where does that increased financial assistance come from? Since the UC system is a state system, I surmise the money comes from the state government—taxes.
So what's really happening is that the taxpayers are being hit again to subsidize the state system. Meanwhile the money goes for salaries for university administrators, faculty, and other employees. And the students, and/or their parents, get to carry a larger debt load.
What would happen if we did away with financial assistance. Gee, the universities and colleges might have to lower tuition; the administrators, faculty, and others might have to accept lower salaries; and the students might be able to graduate without impoverishing themselves and their parents.

Steve Moyer

July 09, 2012 4:33pm

I think the greatest cheat is the dis-enfranchisement that took place. Democracy 1 person = 1 vote. Not any more. With the tainting of the press (we report, you decide/100% right wing opinion all the time) and the money = freedom of speech, they effectively silenced the young, poor, elderly, the skeleton of a middle class that is left - basically everybody except themselves. Simply one more step in the authoritarian chain of control. Anyone else think the Ayn Rand movement is simply Nazism with a capitalistic flavor?

Chris Wilborn

July 09, 2012 2:14pm

We live in a "Lottery Mentality" society. "If you invest $1. you will win $1 MIL or More !" seems to be the Lottery and Casino's Mantra . Yet as a adults, we know that only a very, very small % of Lottery players will win. Likewise, Higher education is a big gamble. Everyone knows that what you learn in college very rarely gets used out in the "REAL world". But, that doesn't stop the College Counselors from pitching the drastic "need " for a college education. They use later pay stats that are based on #'s that exaggerate the wages to a point that Any student would feel a desire that rates right up there with the biggest lottery jack pots.
Today, basic Business Degrees are usually sufficient for most jobs and many corporations will train as you go. Yes, you should get a 4 year degree, but the high prices should be tempered by 2 year Community Colleges . Do you EVER hear that from your average High School Counselor ? Does anyone hear that a student might work a part-time job to pay for living expenses ? How about living at home for the first two years and going to that local Community Col. ?
No, the high priced Universities will dangle a partial one-year scholarship to get you hooked and then once you have bought into that "Big Paycheck" idea, you ARE hooked, And many times, for the rest of your life !
I don't blame the rich any more than I blame the BIG Lottery winners. At least, Some of them worked Very hard to get where the are.
I blame the "University Hucksters" that still sell low value sheepskins that will pay off many, many years down the line AND with degrees in sciences that are useful in only the rarest of occasions.
Finally, I blame Obama, and any other politician, that spends our taxes frivolously and prints paper money at such a rate, that Inflation will erode the spending power of many generations to come !

wildthang

July 09, 2012 1:43pm

Ok so maybe they are thinking universal volunteer service for all that aren't rich or have rich connectors? Then create a military class with GI Bill and job preferences. Greatest generation greatness again... and have a nation building Marshall Plan to use some of that training in prime foreign territory just destroyed like Europe was.. wasn't that convenient we bombed Europe into the ground, even non-military cities and such. Rebuilding for rewiring and new plumbing too.
We could do it again with even more gusto on 3rd world countries. Anyone who doesn't want to enlist can just do without...and we can be policeman of the world and redecorators too... then there is so much Homeland security we need in every town and village and they can help too...

Thing about the greatest generation is the ability to keep generating perpetual war and keep the defense industry up and running and selling the old so we can demo the new...

It may take a bit to get off the ground and get everyone to see thr writng on the walls, Iraq and Afghanistna haven't been quite as coperative as expected and it may turn out to be a risky kind of redocting systme for the ptsd hardened veterans... but maybe worthwhile in the long run... then again maybe this is the 21st century of learning how to live within the measn of our planet without wars of destruction and reconstruction profiteering, excessive welath for a few, a population regrowth economy , and poisoning the very planet we live on with agent oranges or depleted uranium geraniums!

A.Joy

July 09, 2012 8:46pm

Agreed – and let's go farther and say what is really happening to our young men and women in the military.

First, they are not all "volunteers." For the most part, they join due to the lack of real jobs in our economy and no positive way for them to make a living in the future. (Even if they want & have the skills to start a business, do they have capital to get started?) Some join because they are working for citizenship. Others join because they have nothing to do but sit around without a job, turn to the streets because of lack of training and opportunity, or be a drain on their family.

So, if most of our young men and women in the military are not "volunteers," what are they, really? They are mercenaries or "soldiers for hire."

What is the affect on our country of using mercenaries?

1) They and their families do not and cannot oppose the perpetual wars our country uses to create wealth for corporations dependent on military contracts — because they "chose" to "volunteer."

2) Because they "chose" to "volunteer," no draft or conscription that affects everyone is needed. The result? There is no moral outrage by ALL citizens because they and their loved ones are not personally affected. It's fairly easy to turn a blind eye because, after all, people who volunteer "choose" to put their lives on the line.

3) Because there is no moral outrage by all of us, we can choose to ignore what is actually happening — that we are an aggressive country, without a justifiable cause, in order to make profits and keep military businesses and investments stable. If it is good for business, it is good for the country, right?

4) Because we have a poor economy and people "choose" to volunteer, there is little resistance to waging war, any war. Hey, if the economy is poor, or if the polls are down, start a war! Any legislator who opposes war is called "unpatriotic" or a "traitor." Ask yourself, how many congress people do you know of who are strong enough, brave enough, independent enough, and willing to oppose a war?

5) Businesses and corporations take on a life of their own. In order to survive, their source of funding must continue; if they want to grow (and they do), they must expand their business. Investors, CEOs, bankers, and financiers all make money from these thriving business. is the automatic way for these leeches to keep "feeding" themselves they are motivated to ensure "Perpetual war." Profit becomes more important than building a good and moral society. Profit leads to rationalizing war. (Rationalize = Rational Lies.) Continuing profit takes advantage of good and moral people led to believe these wars are necessary, that we must fear an evil world that wants to attic us so we must continue to build the military. After all, war and aggression is the only intervention that works. For Pete's sake, even our foreign "aid" is in the form of military equipment and military advisors! Not food, not building self-sustenance, not resolving issues, but war and continuing aggression.

Is this the future we want for our country or the world? Is greed what we value about our country? Is perpetual war what we want to depend on as a people and country? Is this the legacy we want to leave our children? For that matter, do we want our children to be able to live?

We have a military dependent on mercenaries. That leads to indifference, lack of outrage, and a self-perpetuating, very profitable economy — for businesses and people who live off of war. We are killing or permanently damaging many of our young men and women. We are destroying our country and our future.

We need to recognize what is really happening and change our future from remaining a militaristic society.

greghilbert

July 09, 2012 1:08pm

Tens of millions of us have lost our sufficiently-paying jobs, our benefits, our homes, our savings, and most of our ability to help our children avoid a life of poverty. Most of us did not see it coming, but we now do know who stole everything from us, who aided and abetted them, and we observe their greed is insatiable and their corruption rampant. I agree with the premise of this article, and would go so far as to say we should be encouraging the radicalization of the young, not for our sake, but their own.

Brian Glennie

July 09, 2012 11:58am

The Upper class- more profits, bonuses, summer homes
The Middle class- losing jobs, pensions, houses

Where is Robin Hood when you need him?

Tony Pirog's picture
Tony Pirog

July 09, 2012 11:40am

FIRST, they have to feel empowered. When they look at the way they have been deceived by the bankers, large corporations, politicians (both Left and Right) and the enforcers (Police), they end up feeling powerless. How do we change that? I wish I knew.

Ann Arbor Liberal

July 09, 2012 8:16pm

Start by not voting republican. For all the faults you see on the left at least their true goal is to improve the lives of the little guys who are oppressed by the corporate right. Sure they screw up but they are not cutting pensions and benefits while cutting their own taxes at your expense. When did a republican provide you with a real benefit whose purpose was to improve your life.

Charles Thomas

July 09, 2012 11:33am

Anger, Apathy, Frustration, Disgust. The four horsemen of our American end times. In order for youth to get mad and finally DO something will require putting aside the mind numbing coping mechanisms of this age. Talk, and whining, is cheap. In a few months I will be 65. I have made, and lost, fortunes. The winning was due to my own innovation and hard work. The losses were from believing in our system and the resulting inevitable theft of what I had worked for. Affordable higher education built our modern nation. The dismantling of it, the same as a corporate raider selling off bits and pieces of a company after taking it over, will destroy what remains of this country. If our youth want something left to build their future upon they must be willing to take organized action--otherwise its time to learn a foreign language and take their educations elsewhere.

thachermark

July 10, 2012 6:37pm

to Charles Thomas:

If you made and lost fortunes, how can you not teach that sense of can-do instead of can-not? There has always been opportunity and will always be.
how does a winner like you become a philosopher of loss and defeat?

thachermark@yahoo.com

Patricia Dixon

July 09, 2012 12:49pm

I hear you. I am 63 and still teaching. Our students have been numbed by the gadgets of our technological age, they have trouble concentrating and their conversation skills are very poor. Some cannot even articulate their dreams, so how can we expect them to get involved, they hardly know the real issues of the day. I am advising them them to leave this country and find lives elsewhere, where there is quality of life. Perhaps then they will realize that one language, one way of thinking, and one way of doing things, is not enough to understand the complexities or our world.

Btrwy

July 09, 2012 11:17am

We should all be very mad. Is OWS the only ones to do anything?