Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unemployment and Debt is Crushing a Generation

The surge in youth unemployment is making the more responsible and far-sighted mouthpieces of the ruling class nervous. Bob Herbert recently wrote "For those concerned with the economic viability of the American family going forward, the plight of young workers, especially young men, is particularly frightening. The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston."

He continues, "Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed."

Now couple this with the mountains of student loan debt that accompany young people as they leave school. From the Wall Street Journal: "The new numbers highlight how debt has become commonplace in paying for higher education. Today, two-thirds of college students borrow to pay for college, and their average debt load is $23,186 by the time they graduate, according to an analysis of the government's National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, conducted by financial-aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. Only a dozen years earlier, according to the study, 58% of students borrowed to pay for college, and the average amount borrowed was $13,172."

Elite mouthpieces usually couch these articles in terms of worries about social stability, or weak profit margins because of reduced consumer spending. Frankly, we need a lot less social stability if it means changing the operation of the United States in a fundamental way. This doesn't necessarily mean smashing things or lining up in a voting booth. There are effective ways to force social change and the examples exist throughout history. But it requires solidarity among a disparate group of people, finding the sources of ruling class power, and developing strategies to weaken them.

1 "Students Borrow More Than Ever for College " - WSJ
2 "A Scary Reality" - NYT Op-Ed
3 "Americans Out of Work - Is Double Digit Unemployment Here to Stay ?" - Time
4 "Young Workers, A Lost Decade" - AFL-CIO
5 "One in six young people not in work or education" - Guardian UK
6 "College Tuition, Then and Now" - Blended Purple

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