Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Disposable Teens

The comments on this Dealbook piece about how Wall Street has reconstituted the notion of employment as bottom-line cyclical churn are 100% mean, as you'd expect. ("I can't help but wonder if any of these laid-off wunderkinds ever ask themselves whether they contributed to the current economic situation," for example. And: "My God these people are pathetic. Even when they're laid off and collecting unemployment, they still sound like insufferable snobs.") But the sheer numbers involved in the way financial firms chew up and spit out young people are pretty bad. These are the very kids who were the children of the subjects of New York magazine parenting articles: we cared about them when we worried they were probably autistic, and then when their young parents were striving to get them into the best preschools, and then again when the kids spent the next sixteen years trying to beat each other on the SATs and the GPAs and the extracurriculars, so why shouldn't we care about them now that they've entered a workforce where they regularly get kicked to the curb because some dickface in management has to sack a quota of analysts to make his now-regular layoff goal? When you're laid off twice by 28, that's rough! And that's tens and tens of thousands of young people who were sold a dream and an expectation about merit, performance and success, and now they're figuring out one by one that it was literally all a lie. Probably half these kids will turn out bitter and evil and scheming, but, if we're lucky, half the kids will figure out that the prevailing corporate system of doing business is utterly screwed. Maybe a few will even do something about it.

37 Comments / Post A Comment

Alex Balk (#4)

They should start their own blogs!

dado (#102)

Steve Ferdman can't find a job because he wears his hat cocked to the side. Wall Street firms hate that.

Astigmatism (#1,950)

The comments section below every NYT article about unemployed 20-somethings – and there have been a lot of them over the last couple of years – have me wondering if we as a nation are really ready to throw out the Tea Party after all, or if that sort of mindset is actually a universal affliction for anyone over the age of, say, 45. "Well _I_ didn't have to go into debt when I went to East Madison State (where tuition was $1500 a year and the state government still meaningfully subsidized higher education), and _I_ was able to walk into a job at a large company with full benefits with my marketing major, so clearly these kids today are just lazy and DON'T TOUCH MY BENEFITS!! OBUMMERBUSHGOLDMANSACHSPLLHRGGG!!!!!!!!" None of which is very helpful to the kids who did everything they were ever supposed to from the time they were 6, skipped hanging out with friends to do more extracurriculars and extra credit assignments, were good at math, got into Wesleyan and worked their asses off until they got a job that promptly laid them off, thanks to a financial crisis created entirely by people other than their (my/our) generation.

Still worse: this article ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/education/lets-get-ready-offers-help-for-college-admissions.html ) from yesterday about kids from poor neighborhoods with families that have never sent kids to college, struggling to get through college admissions all on their own in good public high schools they bus themselves to surrounded by rich kids with private tutors, with a bunch of comments about how poor people are just dumb and unfairly benefit from affirmative action.

In short, fuck you guys. No, not you – you know what I mean.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Astigmatism The comments section below every NYT newspaper article about unemployed 20-somethings-and there have been a lot of them over the last couple of years- anything have me wondering if we as a nation are really ready to throw out the Tea Party after all completely and irrevocably fucked.

freetzy (#7,018)

@boyofdestiny Truth

jfruh (#713)

@boyofdestiny Every time I read an article on the Baltimore Sun's site, I try to figure out how the article's subject matter will become fodder for an insanely racist comment. I'm right about half the time!

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@jfruh I just read a Boston Globe article about new parking meters that accept a prepaid debit card instead of quarters, so you only pay for exactly how much time you use. And all of the comments were lamenting this innovative new way for the government to take your money, and speculating about how government employees will get free cards and the vendor will inevitably sell them on the black market. Incredible!

iantenna (#5,160)

@boyofdestiny i came to this realization when a very close friend's niece was killed, and brother severely injured, by a motorcyclist with like 47 DUIs to his name. the comments section in the local paper devolved into an argument between harley and honda enthusiasts, and which were bigger assholes.

DMcK (#5,027)

It's a particularly acute feeling when you've just read an article on a subject that's really depressing on its face (i.e. "Anthropogenic Climate Change Is Happening and Nobody's Doing Shit About It" or suchlike), which I did last night, and yeah, we're fucked as hell.

Anyone riding on two wheels with a big ol' engine under their crotch is an asshole.

jolie (#16)

I totally agree with you, CHOIRE, but also I was laid off twice before I was 28 and you know? I'm fine! It sucked and it was hard hard hard to recover from it (financially, emotionally, professionally) but if I can do it anyone can because honestly I'm not nearly as tough as I should be/most people are. You just have to accept the fact that not working isn't an option, even if working means doing something you didn't think you'd find yourself doing.

Also I'm pecking this comment out on my phone and it's still autocorrecting Choire to CHOIRE and I <3 it like Bleachie.

davetar (#1,114)

Yeah, but when you were laid off twice before you were 28 the entire country wasn't a terminal velocity death spiral.

jolie (#16)

@davetar Hold up, I'm not that old, buddy! The first time it happened was in '00 during the dot com bust, so in some ways it was – we just didn't know how much worse it was going to get.

The broader point I was making (and probably wasn't as clear as I could have been) was about the "entitlement" issue. I think what The Olds are getting so peeved about, among other things, is the sense that The Kids want jobs but only certain jobs, and that's just not realistic.

davetar (#1,114)

That's funny because I know a lot of kids who work crap jobs. I've worked crap jobs (and I spent two years trying to get a new one before I said eff it and went back to school). With all due respect to the dot com bust, which I'm sure was very traumatic in the tech and finance fields, comparing it to the current situation is like comparing Ryan Dunn's Porsche crash to a fender bender.

I believe that people are simply WRONG when they say kids are entitled, don't want to work a lousy job, blah blah blah, and they support it with anecdata and shitty NY Times trend pieces. And this is a shitty NY Times trend piece, even if it is about an actual issue and can inspire some actual discussion.

And hey, if you were moping when you got laid off, why should the next generation not be permitted to mope? When you were moping there were probably people who got laid off in 1991 talking about how lazy and entitled YOU were. These arguments are just designed to appeal to people's inherent biases – about youth, the educated, whatever – and absolve the Masters of the Universe of responsibility.

jolie (#16)

@davetar You're reacting to my comments in a strange way, Dave! (Can I call you Dave?)

I didn't say that I had a problem with the moping, I was expressing what I think the sort of people who comment on the NYT are getting at/how they're reacting/etc. And I think too, that the reaction to the moping is probably coming from a sense that "I survived shit luck with career times and you can too, kid, and the moping ain't gonna get you ANYWHERE." Which I get! I get both sides of it! Though I'm not particularly prone to be all "SUCK IT UP" to people who are hurting, I do think a good swift kick in the pants is sometimes what's needed. (I just won't be the one to give it.)

davetar (#1,114)

Well, I suppose I am guilty of conflating your comments with what a majority of the zeitgeist has been barraging me with non-stop since this whole nightmare started, which is that it's all my fault and I'm lazy and how dare I go get a liberal arts degree instead of studying HVAC repair or whatever. Which, given a Catholic upbringing and a generally depressive personality, it is SUPER easy for me to internalize and believe! So I get a little defensive. Don't take it personally.

And you may indeed call me Dave!

Sabin Hinton (#8,850)

@jolie You're right. It is a different world. The DotCom recession, you lost your job, you were a pariah, less than nothing, and your benefits didn't last for 99 weeks. You personally were a failure, and there was no one to commiserate with you – they were all working. Many joined the military, where they were subsequently killed, wounded, or traumatized into being unemployable. I'm not saying that this whole situation today isn't terrible, it is, but it is really one of the many straws that is helping to break the camel's back, and I don't think its the very last one.

One thing that Choire, and a lot of people are saying today is exactly right. The questions that the young ones are asking are very scary. When I wasn't working, I was saying – a few more tries and I'll get a job I like – the government for the most part is good, people are good, businesses want productive workers.

The conversations going on today are hinting at a wholesale abandonment of the current system and a profound distrust of our elder fellow countrymen, and that should scare our leaders more than anything. If it is, they're not saying it, and they're not acting like they are taking this seriously.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@Sabin Hinton Two parts American exceptionalism, five parts denial, one part gin.

jolie (#16)

@davetar I really and truly and really understand, and I hope things get better for you, I really do. (And I think they will! Really, just maybe not in the way you picture them to turn out? And that might be okay too!)

freetzy (#7,018)

Try reading the comments in a crime story, or a Yahoo! Sports article about any black athlete. Anonymous America is a horrific place.

johnb78@twitter (#11,834)

This happened to my brother-in-law. He got laid off from an investment bank with a payoff and a pro-rata bonus, used the money to pay off his student loans and save a bit towards mortgage deposit, and retrained as a high school teacher, where he's much happier. I reckon the world'd be a better place in many ways if the Would-Be-Masters-Of-Universe did the same.

(different from the kids who've entirely busted their arses getting perfect everything and graduated in the last couple of years; for them, there's not even the concept of a payoff, cos there aren't any jobs in the first place…)

stuffisthings (#1,352)

You're right, I almost didn't feel bad for them until you reminded me that they went to expensive prep schools, had every possible advantage in life, and are basically the most privileged people on the planet.

Van Buren Boy (#1,233)

Both of my parents are retired and my father works part time as a consultant for the army making $200k plus (on top of his government pension from the army!) and my mother claims to be middle class. Meanwhile I'm 29 with 2 degrees barely making rent and student loans. When she said that I shot her the dirtiest look I could muster. Baby Boomers are the worst.

a.t. (#1,744)

Congrats on feeling sorry for a bunch of silver spoon fuckheads that clearly were chasing after the easy dollar.

deepomega (#1,720)

By and large, people understand that jobs are sort of a requirement. EVEN THE YOUNGS.

I think you found the only group of unemployed young folks I have absolutely no sympathy for. These folks wanted to be the people who crashed the world economy; they just got fucked instead of getting rich fucking everyone else.

The only happy part was when they said the new status jobs are at companies that produce actual products that people use.

Sabin Hinton (#8,850)

@Pierce Nichols@facebook Yep, this Nomura banker still couldn't find it in her to understand what the OWS was all about. Too often the people who traditionally expect to be rich and powerful go about devouring everything in their path and mocking those who are hungry. Then when the food runs out they run about screaming, "look at poor me! now I'm hungry too!"

coalbaron (#11,105)

This article is crazy bullish on the American economy and all of you should be searching the couch cushions for change/liquidating your Etsy portfolio to invest equities right now.

flatfootafleet (#5,753)

Yeah, well this ain't all that correct. Most youngs hired into investment banks know they have 2 years and then they're gone. they are either expected to go to business school or move to the buy side and/ or industry. Furthermore, banks fire their bottom 10% of performers EVERY YEAR. This is also known. No one sold them on anything else.

On the bright side, I'm moving out of my parents' house at the end of the month. EVERYTHING'S GOING TO BE O-KAY.

KathrynforAD (#11,152)

I'm 24, went to art school, was employed within 6 months of graduation, have a full-time job in my field, and turn away freelance work regularly because there is just not enough time in the day. I'm incredibly blessed and thankful but also wonder what on earth is going on with the rest of my generation?

pretty sure this makes me a horrible person, but 80% of the people I know who are unemployed I WOULDN'T HIRE for one reason or another. Get it together people.

melis (#1,854)

@KathrynforAD Woman has terrible friends; needlessly extrapolates personal experience.

City_Dater (#2,500)


Congratulations. How wonderful.

Lemonnier (#14,611)

@KathrynforAD "'What's going on here? I love you. Get it together."


David (#192)

There are a few books and a movie or two about this: Total Recall (1990) and the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.

More to follow: the plot concerns a sophisticated pampered-puss and financial services worker, Darington Queenly, who is either a victim of a failed memory implant procedure or a freedom fighter from Earth relocated to Mars. He attempts to continue shopping at Bergdorf (Men) and flying to Rome for weekend shopping trips in his effort to maintain the corrupt influence of commercial powers, all while faced with the possibility that none of these events matter (he's been reading Albert Camu on his time off) and continuing to pursue them could damage his car.

sensate (#7,666)

The reason there's no sympathy for them is that their whole lives have been about being better than everyone else. (I'm not talking about all of the youngs, just the NYM kiddies.) They weren't on a mission to become better people, better citizens, highly knowledgable; they were gunning for admission to top schools so they and their parents could say that they were BETTER THAN YOU. And once they got out of school and were handed higher salaries than most people would ever earn, they never missed an opportunity to demonstrate all the ways in which they were, in fact, BETTER THAN YOU. Now they want sympathy? No dice. They can use their innate betterness to get by, if it actually, y'know, exists.

Edit: Um, Choire, we didn't give a rat's ass about these privileged kids when we saw them in NYM. Frankly, everything about them and their parents was mildly horrifying. Those handwringing articles were easily the worst thing about the magazine.

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