October 31, 2011

The Good for Nothing Generation

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Mom and dad, you really messed up. Or rather, your generation messed up. Somehow, you managed to do it magnificently in every sense of the word. You messed up our economy, our political system, our country’s world standing and, so far, you haven’t done much to repair it. And we, the Millennials, are left to clean up your mess.  Put simply, if a public bathroom were a metaphor for the past decade, then your generation left an empty roll, forgot to flush and didn’t put the seat back down for the next person waiting— right after you finished a debt-fueled feast. Maybe you forgot, but we, your offspring, were next in line.  While your generation was born into times of prosperity, ours will be defined by a recession and two wars. While your generation experienced the luxuries of a balanced budget and a working government, we have neither. Instead, we’re left with your crumbs — a sunken economy, a ruthless job market, an increasingly warmer planet (of which your generation still seems to be skeptical) and a growing energy crisis. What’s worse is that the light at the end of this dark tunnel won’t appear any time soon.  Our generation lives with your consequences, but it’s not our fault. We did everything you ordered and more to ensure a better future for ourselves. We heeded your words of wisdom. Unlike you, we weren’t rebels. We listened when you told us to practice safe sex and as a result, teen pregnancy rates have dropped 37 percent since 1991. You, on the other hand, didn’t practice what you preached. A third of our generation was born to single mothers and, as a result, is more likely to enter an emotionally, physically and financially burdened world.We went to school, turned in our homework and passed our standardized tests. Compared to our predecessors, our generation has been the most educated thus far: Nearly 40 percent of us are set to hold college degrees.Despite our efforts, we remain the underdogs. According to a 2010 Pew Research survey, 37 percent of our generation is out of work — the highest portion ever for our age group in the past thirty years. Where are the rewards that you enjoyed when you were our age? You call us spoiled and entitled, but we are the ones inheriting a $14 trillion dollar national debt that exploded in past 40 years thanks to your reckless spending.The tradition of leaving our children with a better world than the previous generation’s has been shattered and tossed into the garbage. Our generation may be the first in American history to have a lower living standard than the previous generation. And remember that much-quoted aphorism, “the children are our future?”  Well, it faded away, just like our career opportunities. To add insult to injury, they refer to us as the “lost generation.” We’re not asking for a free pass to a wealthy lifetstyle, but only wishing for the mere opportunity to achieve what previous generations did before you started this whole mess.But even that wish is hard to realize. According to a 2010 survey, the average Millennial is weighed down by a debt of $21,900, 33 percent of us are living with relatives and 32 percent find it hard to make ends meet every month. So not only do we have less money, but we have fewer opportunities to earn higher wages.  What is even more frightening is that the consequences of this mess — your mess — will spill over to the future. Already, our generation is unable to start families, delaying marriage and children.Why? Because we first have to dig ourselves out of this deep hole that you threw us into. So please, don’t come rushing for grandchildren pictures any time soon. Thanks to your political bickering, reckless spending and lack of foresight, the onus is on our generation to return our country back its former glory. It looks like the kids and adults have switched roles — it would be funny if the reality weren’t so tragic.There may be a large divide between the left and the right, but at least both sides have been able to hire troops to protect their interests. Lobbyists and interest groups protect the car industry, the insurance companies, the drug developers, the seniors, the doctors, the lawyers, the gun owners and almost every player, hobbyist and worker out there.Everyone except us, the most important voice of all because our interests are so intricately tied to the well-being of this nation. For us, it’s time to stand up and yell at the top of our lungs, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” After all, we are the stakeholders who will salvage this country’s future and eventually take your places. And when we do, the first step will to clean up your generation’s mess.You can thank us later. In the meantime, grow up and start acting your age.

Steven Zhang is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at szhang2@cornellsun.com. The Bigger Picture appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Steven Zhang