Here’s the latest victim group: America’s 20-somethings. What? Healthy, able-bodied young people? Yup, and what we need are some government programs to help them out, all to be paid for with higher taxes, of course. That’s the message of two new books, “Strapped,” by Tamara Draut, and “Generation Debt,” by Anya Kamenetz.
See, here’s the problem: Our nation’s recent college grads just can’t get their dream jobs after picking up their sheepskins. So they gotta do really tough stuff that make them feel like they’re back in the slums: live in group houses, eat Top Ramen, answer to bosses they don’t like, and do without those free phone cards that Mom and Dad used to send them back in the dorm days. And then, the evil credit card industry talks them into maxing out their Visas, while evil “society” makes it impossible for them to live without cell phones, ipods, Blackberries, Miss Sixty jeans, and $4 lattes–all while they’ve still got student loans to pay off (how not fair to expect people pay for their college educations!).
Feeling sorry for these pitiful young folks yet? Draut and Kamenets sure do. And here, according to the Washington Post’s review of their books, is how you and I should be reaching into our wallets to help out these victims of corporate America:
“The one failing for which Kamenetz and Draut take their peers to task is a lack of political awareness. Today’s young people don’t follow the news or vote in large numbers, much less organize to lobby for their interests — unlike powerful boomer-centric groups such as the AARP.
“If they did, they might achieve another of the authors’ cherished goals: grafting European social policy onto our free-market economy. A national health care system, tuition assistance and generous family leave and child-care subsidies could be paid for by — wait for it — taxing corporations and rolling back individual tax cuts.”
One idea of Kamentetz: curb the mortgage interest deduction for people like you and me. Gee, I really warm up to the prospect of using the equity in my home to subsidize spring break for 25-year-olds.
So I’ll let some Amazon reviewers speak. Here’s Bobby Newman on “Generation Debt”:
“I’m 38 years old. I went through New York City’s public schools, growing up in Queens, NY. My dad worked for the housing authority. I went to the City University of New York, from my undergraduacy through my Ph.D. I worked at an animal hospital and at a community center and with students with developmental disabilities to pay my way through school and to support my studio apartment and second hand car. I lived within my means and paid off my student loans a year after graduation. I don’t mean to make it sound like I did something miraculous. I didn’t. None of my friends did. We DIDN’T run up credit card bills with trips and purchases we couldn’t afford. We didn’t go to universities that cost tens of thousands a year. There are choices you make.”
And here’s TChristo on “Strapped”:
“Take poor ‘Elaine’, 27, whom we are supposed to feel sorry for because she has $40,000 in credit card debt. (p. 109) Elaine racked up credit card debt because she had to buy new furniture, so that her apartment would look like an ‘adult’s apartment, not an annex of her dorm room.’ (p. 109). We also learn that despite her debts, Elaine ‘has no regrets’ because ‘she thinks about the things she did – – studying abroard in Scotland, flying to Paris, having the perfect wedding – – and knows it would never have been possible without credit.’ (p. 109)
“You have got to be kidding! Second Message to Drout: I and millions of other taxpayers are not interested in paying more taxes to subsidize the lifestyle of people like Elaine. If she wants to live abroad in Scotland, jet off to Paris, and, have that oh so perfect wedding, she should figure out how to pay for that herself. (Quick note on weddings: Draut gives several examples of young people going into debt because they used credit cards to fly all over the country to attend friends’ weddings. I cannot believe Drout has the nerve to suggest that taxpayers should indirectly subsidize this kind of behavior.)
“Draut herself also serves as an unsympathtic example. On pages, 1-2, she talks about how she found herslf at age 30 sitting in her living room, broke, but with a massive CD collection spread out over her living room floor. She then explains that she was in drowing in debt (student loans and credit cards), and was forced to sell some of her CD’s in order to get money to pay her bills. Again, you have got to be kidding. Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? CD’s are a luxury item, now costing almost $20 each. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a music store, wanting to buy CD’s, but restrained myself out of a sense of fiscal responsibility. Maybe if Draut had the same sense of restraint, she would not have found herself in such a mess.”
I couldn’t agree more. My message to 25-year-olds: You figure out how to pay for your lattes.