FML
December 14, 2017 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression. Reality for many people in this country is the inability to afford rent, buy a home, pay for healthcare, and get a steady job. Why is this often the rule rather than the exception, and what effects does it have on millennials and the future?
posted by holmesian (169 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite
 


The ones who can will emigrate as they always do. It'll be interesting to see the effect that young educated people leaving asap will have on the US and its identity and economy.
posted by fshgrl at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2017 [9 favorites]


I do not understand what's supposed to be happening with all the graphical stuff on this page, but I'm seeing lots and lots of colorful empty space which seems to be MEANT to be doing cool stuff, but isn't.

The words are all true though. I personally am coping by just assuming the world will have changed enough by the time I'm old that, for better or for worse, it would be pretty much pointless to make firm plans for my old age right now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:52 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Impressive page layout. Is there a term for this kind of thing where scrolling doesn't necessarily mean vertical navigation? I've noticed it on the BBC a lot. Cool but not cool that it's broken when you try to print it and it's borked without JS.

I haven't read the entire article. I don't want to read it all. It's too close to home. I'm not a millennial -- I'm whatever generation people between 35 and 40 get to be -- and I live in the UK, but I'm just as scared.
posted by popcassady at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]




Decision by decision, the economy has turned into a young people-screwing machine.

Not unlike many now-infamous members of the political and media patriarchate.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


I feel like this is full of good little insights - "But with renters now outnumbering owners in nine of America’s 11 largest cities, we have the potential to be a powerful political constituency" is pretty good.

I am looking forward to the millennial-led communist revolution. My calendar is very flexible - is next Saturday good for you-all?
posted by Frowner at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2017 [66 favorites]


Holy shit was this ever a depressing read, although the solution posited at the end (get involved in the political process as voters and candidates and reverse the trend towards complete oligarchy) is actually doable. At the very least we have time on our side.

Me at uni: *basically a social democrat*

Wise old people: “That’ll change once you get a job and pay taxes in the real world”

Me, after working a few years: “My retirement plan is dying in the communist revolution”


Yep. It's a common sense notion that's only really supported when you live through the insane historical blip that was the post-war baby boom.

Impressive page layout. Is there a term for this kind of thing where scrolling doesn't necessarily mean vertical navigation? I've noticed it on the BBC a lot. Cool but not cool that it's broken when you try to print it and it's borked without JS.

I would call it Parallax Scrolling design. It uses various tricks to make the scrolling action into an animation effect.
posted by codacorolla at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


I didn't know how dire this part was: But the real victims of this credential inflation are the two-thirds of millennials who didn’t go to college. Since 2010, the economy has added 11.6 million jobs—and 11.5 million of them have gone to workers with at least some college education.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2017 [32 favorites]


I found that the interface made it hard to read, but the story is absolutely worth the effort.
posted by JanetLand at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


Millennials and and anyone in big cities, particularly on the west coast -- Homeless Population Rises, Driven By West Coast Affordable-Housing Crisis (NPR, December 6, 2017)
Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

The increase is almost entirely due to a surge in homelessness in Los Angeles and other cities facing severe shortages of affordable housing, say HUD officials. Many of the cities are on the West Coast, including Seattle, San Diego and Sacramento, Calif.

Overall, the nation's homeless numbers are 13 percent lower than they were in 2010 and some communities have all but eliminated homelessness among veterans, emphasized HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

"Where we're not making great progress are in places like Los Angeles and New York City. These happen to be places where the rents are going up much faster than the incomes," said Carson in an interview with NPR.
Related: In A Push To House The Homeless, High Prices Are Eroding Gains (NPR, Oct. 24, 2017)

Housing isn't the only higher cost in big cities: seven hidden costs of living in cities (U.S. and World News, not a great article, but it identifies other costs that are higher in cities).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:56 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


Well at least the internet, democracy and the environment are all going away.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2017 [28 favorites]


> Because when property values go up, so does their net worth.

Property values have actually started to go down in Toronto for the first time in like 15 years and people are pissed because I guess they were supposed to go up and up and up foreverrrrr...or at least long enough for all of the Boomers to retire, cash their chips in and buy castles in smaller towns.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:02 PM on December 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


Okay, what about this:

Social change happens when there is organizing and some kind of financial/material crisis that weakens capital. You can have very, very powerful individual capitalists but still have a social crisis where capital can be successfully attacked.

My suspicion is that this looting phase we're in now is overreach. There's going to be a crash of profits because a social crisis is building - you can't get blood from a stone. This is producing/will produce new social violence and militancy, both of which will threaten ruling elites.

We still have a democratic apparatus. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are powerful but not totally determinative, and if people are angry enough they can be overridden. Retake Congress with legislators who are beholden to new social formations and facing new dangers, and you can use national tools to start to undo local damage to voting infrastructure, then use local tools to strengthen national practices.

Global warming is still happening. We're all going to be living in climate crisis for the rest of our lives. But envision a left-wing response to climate crisis - not to stop it, because we can't anymore, but to mitigate its effects and make sure that as many people as possible get through okay.

What if in twenty or thirty years we're looking at a tragically changed world, but a world where everyone is housed and fed, and where there are fair, innovative solutions to the problems of global warming? Imagine, for instance, that the cities on the coasts really are partially submerged - and that we adapt to that, we build sea gates and canals and new kinds of housing, not to keep the rich in their towers but to house everyone. What if 2050 is a better world, even if a changed one? We can do it if we all get on the same page.
posted by Frowner at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2017 [130 favorites]


I graduated in 08, this is real ...and scary

My takeaway was... for the vast majority of Americans, if you're under like 40 and aren't yet a little comfortable and secure ... you never will be
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on December 14, 2017 [30 favorites]


Global warming is still happening. We're all going to be living in climate crisis for the rest of our lives. But envision a left-wing response to climate crisis - not to stop it, because we can't anymore, but to mitigate its effects and make sure that as many people as possible get through okay. al warming is still happening. We're all going to be living in climate crisis for the rest of our lives. But envision a left-wing response to climate crisis - not to stop it, because we can't anymore, but to mitigate its effects and make sure that as many people as possible get through okay.

I keep hearing this idea which means it seems to becoming more and more popular that the only way out of this that doesn't lead to Millions upon millions of people dead either through the complete shutting down of Borders or neglect , is some kind of massive World War style realignment of industry and economy toward investment infrastructure, research, and damage mitigation. we may not know how* we're going to get out of this mess but we've got to do it soon cuz sooner rather than later climate change is going to make the decision for us.

*well okay I know how and it only has to involve guillotines as a last resort.
posted by The Whelk at 2:20 PM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


gen-x here (as I'm sure many are as well) and there's nothing new to giving the younger generations a hard time. We had our share of razzing too - With some potion of Douglas Coupland, Slacker, and Indie rock the Gen X'rs were written off as lazy good for nothings too.

I'm in my 40's and am finally making a decent wage. I still couldn't buy a house - at lease not without living very spartan much less have anything resembling savings.
posted by djseafood at 2:28 PM on December 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


You know, "razzing", "economic and symbolic violence", whatever you want to call it.
posted by codacorolla at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2017 [47 favorites]


I've always felt generational complaints coming from those older as a serious (but totally missed) indictment of themselves and their own values.

With that said, I'm sorry but I just don't buy the whole narrative being presented so I'm going to be a bit petty and ranty. Listen, if this is your problem:

Some estimates show that 48 percent of workers with bachelor’s degrees are employed in jobs for which they’re overqualified. A university diploma has practically become a prerequisite for even the lowest-paying positions, just another piece of paper to flash in front of the hiring manager at Quiznos.

Then Donald Trumpian -ending immigration, pushing deportation, and pushing up serious trade barriers is a legitimate solution. The unspoken problem is too many workers driving down salaries, then a legitimate solution is less workers. Cutting welfare (taxes) also completely makes sense if the problem is people can't afford the basics on their good working incomes. However, that is not the problem and hence it's not the correct solution. The actual problem has been endlessly stated in other articles, that income is going to the top few percent and what were previously good paying jobs are now lousy paying jobs due to eroding worker protections.

And that's just the start.

"Unions, the great negotiators of wages and benefits and the guarantors of severance pay, became enemy combatants." Wrong. Unions were always enemy combatants. It's just that you pay what you have to when there is a serious lack of productive workers (due to war death and you destroyed other nations' economies).
"So, for much of the 20th century, big cities built housing close to jobs." Wrong. That would be half of the century at best. After that, they built housing close to jobs to the extent that the land was open and available, but at much lower densities.
"as if our grandparents were obsessing over the details of their pension plans when they were 25" wrong. They were. They had just experienced The Great Depression.
"But in the 1970s, they stopped building (in cities)." Wrong. You mean the 1940s at the latest.After that, the vast majority of housing was suburban in nature.
"Because when property values go up, so does their net worth." Mostly wrong. If it worked that way, inner ring suburb housing being cheap wouldn't be a 'thing'. It requires extra provisions to limit property taxes and support *good jobs growth* in addition to limiting local construction. The zoning thing is correct though, just off by like 30 years.

"So that’s why cities are so unaffordable. The entire system is structured to produce expensive housing when we desperately need the opposite." Wrong. The system is defined to produce expensive housing because we had a housing crash and the outcome was we decided that foreclosure was bad and to prevent foreclosure, we prevent poor people from ownership. Only people with very high credit scores (hint they rich) are currently allowed to purchase.
"In the country’s 10 largest metros, residents earning more than $150,000 per year now outnumber those earning less than $30,000 per year."
Only within city centers due to the poor (and really the majority) being shunted out of city limits to suburbs due to the issues outlined above.

I mostly agree with the solutions though. Just the history is way wrong.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


The ones who can will emigrate as they always do

This is only a solution for the highly-skilled and relatively well-off, which means it is not a solution. Try to emigrate to China with no degree and no money.

Now, granted, if we consider refugee camps for fleeing Americans to be a Good Thing, then sure emigration can be a solution. I mean, if nothing else then at least those “whiny over-entitled kids” can be tidily packed away into a tent city in the Sonoran desert where we don’t have to listen to them complain?

Borders all over the world are being reinforced, citizenship made harder to get, escape made more difficult. Capital has realized that it must remain more mobile than the workers, so the workers are being immobilized. The flow of information is being similarly restricted, lest the Unfortunates realize there are other options.

No hope, no escape, so shut yer holes and get back to the housing trailers you lot or I’ll cut yer shift!
posted by aramaic at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


for the vast majority of Americans, if you're under like 40 and aren't yet a little comfortable and secure ... you never will be
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on December 14


It's even scarier if you are over 50 and in the same boat.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:36 PM on December 14, 2017 [47 favorites]


for the vast majority of Americans, if you're under like 40 and aren't yet a little comfortable and secure ... you never will be

And that's just based on all the stuff from before Trump, under benevolent Obama capitalism.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


codacorolla
"economic and symbolic violence" isn't unique to millennials - the angry rich old white people are trying to kill us all.
posted by djseafood at 2:38 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


( but you know even something as relatively mild and straightforward as Medicare for alll -which is effectively nationalizing the insurance industry - is a good opening blow in breaking the back of capital - why not more public Municipal Banks who's goal is to reinvest into communities via affordable housing or green initiatives like they have in Germany?)
posted by The Whelk at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


I graduated in 07, and that income gap chart for 07 and 09 grads real ... When I was laid off in 08 following a hiring freeze at my entry-level publishing job, I still was able to collect unemployment for full year (thanks Obama!). I was able to work at a family business for 2 years and then go back to graduate school for 1 year, and having that big company name on my resume when the jobs started to re-appear in 2012 opened a ton of doors for me even though the entry-level position itself was like, 99% gruntwork (and I was the worst entitled millenial stereotype ever in that role).

Now I'm in a job with a union and a pay scale, and I can afford rent & everything else. The scary thing, though, is that despite the fact that I am union and my boyfriend is union, we still haven't been able to save anything for a family or a home. I keep spending all my takehome pay on school supplies for work (I'm a teacher) because budget cuts mean we don't get paper anymore; I'm working so many hours that when a Christmas-themed ad comes on TV, I wonder who even has the leisure time to plan for Christmas.

I look around and I see where everyone else I know is at, and most of the people I know are OK, but most of the people my boyfriend knows work insane hours or have no gas money. It's really scary because it's everyone in that cohort (he is younger), not just one or two. We really need to start undoing the political damage ASAP before it becomes so expensive to undo, it can't be done. But it is also hard to mobilize politically when you don't have any free time or resources. The trap is pretty well set for the insecure, those with more security, access to resources and free time will need to help out.
posted by subdee at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2017 [23 favorites]


That was good. I enjoyed the graphics and thought the author boiled a LOT of history and analysis into a fairly digestable piece.

My one ish is the interviews seemed mostly focused on millennial who would have been middle class had they been Gen Xers - maybe one interview was with someone who was from the traditional working class/poor? But they did a good job of explaining how much worse this all is for the majority who are born poor and getting poorer.

It's all pretty terrifying. I'm glad this piece got published. I'm planning to go to my local DSA housing campaign meeting tonight. Maybe I'll see some of you there!
posted by latkes at 2:45 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


I am older than the millennial generation, and am lucky to have a decent job by today's standards, but so much of this rang true. Everything my wife and I have could be gone tomorrow.

The only part that I wasn't sure about was the housing bit. I don't think we are going to deregulate our way out of spiraling housing costs.

Everywhere I've been that has upzoned to allow denser housing (which I like for social and environmental reasons) has also become more expensive along the way.

Affordable housing is a problem that is too huge and unprofitable to be left to capitalists. It needs market intervention by the government.
posted by NBelarski at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2017 [19 favorites]


Also I thought this bit was insightful:

Trade groups have responded to the dwindling number of secure jobs by digging a moat around the few that are left. Over the last 30 years, they’ve successfully lobbied state governments to require occupational licenses for dozens of jobs that never used to need them. It makes sense: The harder it is to become a plumber, the fewer plumbers there will be and the more each of them can charge. Nearly a third of American workers now need some kind of state license to do their jobs, compared to less than 5 percent in 1950. In most other developed countries, you don’t need official permission to cut hair or pour drinks. Here, those jobs can require up to $20,000 in schooling and 2,100 hours of instruction and unpaid practice.
posted by latkes at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2017 [33 favorites]


Graduated college in 07 on the eve of the crash and have never had a job in my life that wasn't independent contractor. Never had benefits of any kind, a required lunch/work break, or a sick day in my adult life.

And I consider myself one of the lucky ones
posted by bradbane at 2:50 PM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


This is producing/will produce new social violence and militancy, both of which will threaten ruling elites.
posted by Frowner at 4:06 PM on December 14


That's where the for-profit prisons "save" the day.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:51 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Another not-so-often-discussed effect of the economy for millennials is domestic violence.

A woman is only truly safe if she is financially independent. I'm sure that sounds like an overstatement to some people, but generally, I think it's true. You need to be able to walk away without ruining your financial future, and your children's financial future, and even your parents' financial future if they depend on you too.

I'm concerned that much of the progress we're making towards equality is going to be offset by the fact that millennials cannot walk from a bad relationship because of the finances. For all the reasons explained in this article, millennials face more hurdles to becoming financially independent than the previous generation did. Two incomes are better than one.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 2:53 PM on December 14, 2017 [101 favorites]


Socialism or barbarism
posted by Beardman at 2:56 PM on December 14, 2017 [16 favorites]


I’m also Gen X, and I had a unique opportunity to buy a house in 2009 when they were offering the $8K tax credit to first-time homebuyers, which I took. This opportunity only came about because, after finally landing a secure job (knock wood) after 3 years of underemployment during the 2000 recession-slash-9/11, I spent the next several years paying off all the outstanding debt I’d racked up, so that *right* when the housing market crashed, I just happened to have several years of stable employment under my belt, no debt, and excellent credit. (Knock wood)

If not for that, I’d definitely still be renting and not even feel bad about it. I look at people who say pre-2008 things like “Renting is throwing money away” and “Real estate is a good investment because it increases in value” and I wonder if they were living under a fucking rock 10 years ago.

But that was my lucky break and I know it full well. Not likely to get another one. I frequently think that, if nothing else, I can serve as a shelter of sorts to my friends and family if they fall on hard times.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm an old, and I'm trying to figure out who in the hell is comfortable and secure in these conditions. It sure as hell isn't me or my (also old) friends.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


I have a theory. The Boomer generation (guilty!) was a historical aberration. Never before or since has the developed world experienced such widespread destruction of economic capacity and loss of workforce (with one GLARING exception) as postwar Boomers. To grow up with ever expanding horizons and prospects was unprecedented. And then the rest of the world recovered, caught up and it all went away. So now it's back to the historical norm: a small wealthy elite, a modest mercantile class and the swirling masses of The Great Unwashed. This reversion to form has certainly not been painless but, by all appearances, will be mercifully swift due to the modern innovations of robotics and AI...
posted by jim in austin at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2017 [24 favorites]


I'm suddenly reminded that I was going to draft an Ask.Me post about filing for bankruptcy...
posted by elsietheeel at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't get why portable benefits isn't a more popular, understandable idea "both sides of the aisle". Among workers, that is.

Like The_Vegetables, I kept noticing that the history was oddly truncated, which is important if it leads us to want answers that worked only in a brief and unreplicable period. Which the postwar period is for obvious global economic reasons, but in the US everything before 1934 is unreplicable because of the Homestead Act and other natural resources that are now bought or gone. So we have to do more with way, way less. (Which a hundred years of science, technology, and humanist politics might still make possible.)
posted by clew at 3:09 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


I mean if only there was a model of public banks to deal with some of the problems caused by repealing Glass-Steagall, Like say in a major American metro area
posted by The Whelk at 3:23 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


the angry rich old white people are trying to kill us all.

So maybe the 'razzing,' as you call it, is counterproductive.
posted by PMdixon at 3:46 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


One byproduct of what the author aptly calls The Great Fuckening is emotional.

This resentment of the boomers (themselves really a stand-in for neoliberalism) finds its way into everything, bubbling up in some peculiar places.

Last month, my wife and I managed to scrounge up enough money and time to get away for two nights to a rented cottage. To afford it, we had to wait until November, the off-off-season. (Rich people in Ontario have fancy summer homes they like to call "cottages," to which they retire every weekend in the warmer months.)

So we go. We drink cocoa and eat s'mores, and we daydream about living in a place like this instead of the rat-infested, de facto cold-water shithole in Toronto that we told ourselves was just for one year. (That was five years ago, and now the rental market means we can never afford to leave.)

Then, when we get back home to said shithole, the cottage owner writes to us. They accuse us of breaking their vacuum cleaner. We never so much as saw it – we used the broom – but they are demanding a huge amount of compensation, over twice what we paid for the whole rental.

And... I know this is just an individual. At best, someone who's quick to lay blame and fly off the handle; at worst, an ordinary fraudster.

But one of my first reactions was: Of course. A wealthy boomer, multiple homes, works in advertising but a Good Liberal from the looks of their bookshelf: can you imagine such a person trying to extort some extra spending money from a couple of precarious overworked millennials who had the temerity to make believe for two days that they could have nice things?

I knew that flipping to the macroeconomic, cross-generational vantage point was overblown. That not every daily injustice is a big injustice writ small.

But that's the point. That this hatred seems to be an ever-present emotional magma, always gushing around in search of a crack.
posted by Beardman at 3:49 PM on December 14, 2017 [103 favorites]


Everywhere I've been that has upzoned to allow denser housing (which I like for social and environmental reasons) has also become more expensive along the way.

The article covered this too-- it doesn't have to be this way, but zoning rules have been changed to not allow these to be profitable, by adding requirements for parking and other rules. You can upzone an area from single-family to multi-family without needing to change other requirements. As an example of these zoning issues, I live in a neighborhood built in the 1930s-1950s. There was a row of 5 houses (original 1940s-era) and none of the houses had any driveways or off-street parking. When the final house in the row was torn down and rebuilt in 2015, they had to create off-street parking. Even though this was contrary to all sense (the people who'd lived in this exact spot for the past 70 years didn't need off-street parking. It's a 10-min walk from a subway stop. Leave the house and walk 20 feet to the left and you're on a bus route; walk 100 yards to the right and you're on a different bus route. Grocery stores, drugstores, hospitals, childcare, clothing stores, restaurants, and bars are all within a 15 min walk) it was the new zoning rules and had to be followed. Since my neighborhood is hot right now, I know all the cute old tiny houses will be treated the same in the next 10 years, and this area which has been a walking neighborhood for decades will slowly become 100% car-centric.
posted by holyrood at 3:52 PM on December 14, 2017 [20 favorites]


That this hatred seems to be an ever-present emotional magma, always gushing around in search of a crack.

When I was in grad school, I used to talk about how if we don't get a handle on global warming, we're going to be seeing some major inter-generational resentment and rage. That was in 2005/6; I had no idea at the time there would be so many (and massive) different causes for rage beyond climate change.
posted by nickmark at 4:04 PM on December 14, 2017 [22 favorites]


Pro tip: even on desktop, if you load the article in a small window, the site will offer you the less-annoying mobile version.
posted by mosst at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


The complicated interface people are having trouble with is... you scroll it?

Huh.
posted by Artw at 4:17 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


The only part that I wasn't sure about was the housing bit. I don't think we are going to deregulate our way out of spiraling housing costs.

Everywhere I've been that has upzoned to allow denser housing (which I like for social and environmental reasons) has also become more expensive along the way.


I absolutely agree. We will need public investment in (and ownership of) housing. But even within the context of private development, de-Blasio-style upzoning is not the only alternative to our current system (nor is Houston-style non-zoning). I also found that part of this article rather jarring. I highly recommend Sonia Hirt's Zoned in the USA. Unlike most people in the US who talk about zoning (pro or con), she is very aware of how other countries regulate building (she grew up and began her academic career in eastern Europe) and discusses in depth the ways in which the US system is anomalous (spoiler: because of racism). It's a must-read if you have any interest in housing policy.
posted by enn at 4:34 PM on December 14, 2017 [13 favorites]


Everywhere I've been that has upzoned to allow denser housing (which I like for social and environmental reasons) has also become more expensive along the way.

The Seattle city business journal writes as though this is an obvious benefit of building denser housing, that the intensity of business in the city will rise and support more and more capital investment. They must partly be writing it because it's the ideology of business journals, has been for two centuries of town boosters, but it is also implicit in Geoffry West's (sp?) research on why cities should get bigger and denser. Given that, it's not clear to me that densifying can make housing cheaper until a crash, and there's a limit to how much the big high tech buildings can safely postpone maintenance and operational costs *during* a downturn, so there's a limit to how much cheaper they can get after the investors are wiped out. Which is depressingly Gibson-dystopic.
posted by clew at 4:40 PM on December 14, 2017


So I'm really interested in the Hirst book, thanks!
posted by clew at 4:41 PM on December 14, 2017


We still have a democratic apparatus. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are powerful but not totally determinative, and if people are angry enough they can be overridden.

A-and that’s how we got to November 2016.
posted by chavenet at 4:41 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's do better in 2018/20 or guillotines, really.
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


When I was in grad school, I used to talk about how if we don't get a handle on global warming, we're going to be seeing some major inter-generational resentment and rage. That was in 2005/6; I had no idea at the time there would be so many (and massive) different causes for rage beyond climate change.

The current emotional climate, if you want to call it that, reminds me of reading books set around The First World War. As with then, you have major technological changes which are displacing and changing massive sections of the workforce, you have huge income inequality fueled by financial speculation which is only accelerating towards an apocalyptic crash, you have social tension as ideologies of change (both democratic and fascist) challenge an increasingly beset status quo. Much of the world is in chaos, being fed by the superpowers which have spent the past two decades moving from relative peace to low level proxy skirmishes. It feels like being on a precipice. I'm reminded most of Demian, by Herman Hesse, where the two main characters float around a steadily collapsing Europe as The Great War looms inevitably on the horizon.

The conflicts and struggles of that period eventually lead to the relative peace and prosperity of modernity, and the new model of consumer capitalism that came to define that era, but it was a catastrophic change which killed millions of people through poverty, unrest, mass migrations, and of course the brutality of two World Wars and the atrocities that precipitated them. On a self interested level, it feels like me and others in my age cohort are on the leading edge of a "lost" generation, to use Stein's term, which will have been forcibly removed from regular society, and will largely define itself by rootlessness, disconnection, and disenchantment. To say nothing of the possibility of another war (ignoring of course the volunteer military members who have been fighting imperial wars in The Middle East to pay for an education and a reasonable life) that drags every able-bodied person in America into its grasp. With increasing pressure of climate change displacing large swathes of people, and making the global poor even poorer, such a conflict seems almost like a forgone conclusion, much less with a bellicose idiot at America's helm, and a shrewd villain at Russia's.

Although there are similarities between the present and the past (that can be boiled down to 'the governing elite is losing control due to their own mendacity and greed'), I'm hard pressed to get any actual lessons from that era. It seems like things went to hell for about 50 years, people survived it, and afterwards everything leveled off a bit. "Buckle down and try not to die," is probably accurate advice, but it's not super comforting.
posted by codacorolla at 4:46 PM on December 14, 2017 [29 favorites]


It's do better in 2018/20 or guillotines, really.

Why wait
posted by zjacreman at 5:12 PM on December 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


My suspicion is that this looting phase we're in now is overreach. There's going to be a crash of profits because a social crisis is building - you can't get blood from a stone.

You can if you throw it at a robber baron
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:15 PM on December 14, 2017 [67 favorites]


I’ve told my kids that I’m supporting them as long as it takes. We’re not ignorant of how fucked everything is and the best I can give them is a safety net they can rely on. That means I don’t get to buy a house. That means I do without a lot. But they’re my kids and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let them face this on their own. They know I understand, I see them busting their asses, they know I got their backs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:23 PM on December 14, 2017 [50 favorites]


What if in twenty or thirty years we're looking at a tragically changed world, but a world where everyone is housed and fed, and where there are fair, innovative solutions to the problems of global warming? Imagine, for instance, that the cities on the coasts really are partially submerged - and that we adapt to that, we build sea gates and canals and new kinds of housing, not to keep the rich in their towers but to house everyone. What if 2050 is a better world, even if a changed one? We can do it if we all get on the same page.

This is quite literally the exact plot of the recent novel New York 2140. Everything you described has already happened before the story starts, and the plot is the struggle between the mega billionaires with their private security forces in the towers, and the regular citizens of the city fighting for housing for everyone. Well, and some other stuff happens. It's a great book though.
posted by mannequito at 6:10 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


That's where the for-profit prisons "save" the day.

Not to mention an internet-based culture of social interaction geared for fine-grained algorithmic surveillance and control by dopamine feedback loop. Paying off just enough plebes* just enough to avert revolution and bringing the bare minimum amount of force to bear against the bare minimum number of precisely targeted troublemakers will both be made increasingly efficient.

* Perhaps we need a new word to replace the no longer quite apposite “proles” and “pleb(e)s”. “Prec(e)s” perhaps?
posted by acb at 6:12 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I mean I have to be optimistic that change is possible so I can get up in the morning, but it’s hard not to think the plan of the upper percentages is to just kick the can down the road as they have since the 80s, amass as much treasure as they can, and then leave us all to die from drone strikes in an open air prison while they fuck off to Switzerland.

One interesting thing about the Great Recession, the first act in this nightmare, is in FORECLOSED: The loss of Black America wealth under Obama, on page 15 How The Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented. Good ideas for going forward. (And mostly about debt jubilees and erasures)
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 PM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


the plan of the upper percentages is to just kick the can down the road as they have since the 80s, amass as much treasure as they can, and then leave us all to die from drone strikes in an open air prison while they fuck off to Switzerland.

or just leave the planet altogether, which is why I've never really trusted the notion of privately financed space exploration.
posted by philip-random at 7:02 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


"Housing isn't the only higher cost in big cities: seven hidden costs of living in cities (U.S. and World News, not a great article, but it identifies other costs that are higher in cities)."

I cannot get over how much more food costs in the Chicago suburbs vs. Peoria urban. It's literally ridiculous! And the produce isn't as fresh, although there are more varieties.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:03 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


Excellent article. Some pull quotes:

The United States simply produces fewer and fewer of the kinds of jobs our parents had.

the thing that truly defines us, is not helicopter parenting or unpaid internships or Pokémon Go. It is uncertainty. “Some days I breathe and it feels like something is about to burst out of my chest,” says Jimmi Matsinger. “I’m 25 and I’m still in the same place I was when I earned minimum wage.”

A university diploma has practically become a prerequisite for even the lowest-paying positions, just another piece of paper to flash in front of the hiring manager at Quiznos. But the real victims of this credential inflation are the two-thirds of millennials who didn’t go to college.

But thirty years ago, she says, you could walk into any hotel in America and everyone in the building, from the cleaners to the security guards to the bartenders, was a direct hire, each worker on the same pay scale and enjoying the same benefits as everyone else. Today, they’re almost all indirect hires, employees of random, anonymous contracting companies: Laundry Inc., Rent-A-Guard Inc., Watery Margarita Inc. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 40 percent of American workers were employed under some sort of “contingent” arrangement like this—from barbers to midwives to nuclear waste inspectors to symphony cellists.

But the blame doesn’t only fall on companies. Trade groups have responded to the dwindling number of secure jobs by digging a moat around the few that are left. Over the last 30 years, they’ve successfully lobbied state governments to require occupational licenses for dozens of jobs that never used to need them [….] employees lose up to 40 percent of their salary when they’re “re-classified” as contractors.

This transformation is affecting the entire economy, but millennials are on its front lines. Where previous generations were able to amass years of solid experience and income in the old economy, many of us will spend our entire working lives intermittently employed in the new one.

All of these trends—the cost of education, the rise of contracting, the barriers to skilled occupations—add up to an economy that has deliberately shifted the risk of economic recession and industry disruption away from companies and onto individuals. For our parents, a job was a guarantee of a secure adulthood. For us, it is a gamble. And if we suffer a setback along the way, there’s so little to keep us from sliding into disaster

Since basically forever, almost every avenue of wealth creation—higher education, homeownership, access to credit—has been denied to minorities through discrimination both obvious and invisible. And the disparity has only grown wider since the recession.

Since the Great Recession, the “good” jobs—secure, non-temp, decent salary—have concentrated in cities like never before. America’s 100 largest metros have added 6 million jobs since the downturn. Rural areas, meanwhile, still have fewer jobs than they did in 2007. For young people trying to find work, moving to a major city is not an indulgence. It is a virtual necessity. But the soaring rents in big cities are now canceling out the higher wages […] it no longer makes sense for an unskilled worker in Utah to head for New York in the hope of building a better life. This leaves young people, especially those without a college degree, with an impossible choice. They can move to a city where there are good jobs but insane rents. Or they can move somewhere with low rents but few jobs that pay above the minimum wage.

posted by mono blanco at 7:12 PM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


* Perhaps we need a new word to replace the no longer quite apposite “proles” and “pleb(e)s”. “Prec(e)s” perhaps?

Given the determination of the wealthy to ape aristocracy (and Republican obsession with "trickle-down economics"), how about 'peers' for them and 'peons' for the rest of us?
posted by jamjam at 7:40 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


Today I got my first (reimbursement) Chequers from the NYC DSA and noticed it wasn’t far from the new member meeting I attended this time last year

You know, for possible solutions.
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


or just leave the planet altogether, which is why I've never really trusted the notion of privately financed space exploration.

Let em fuck off to the moon, they can't take everything with them and we don't have to send them supplies.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:57 PM on December 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


> Since the Great Recession, the “good” jobs—secure, non-temp, decent salary—have concentrated in cities like never before.

What always strikes me is how many "successful" millennials I'll meet visiting places like San Francisco or New York who hate those cities, but pay an arm and a leg to live in them because it's where the good jobs are. Which means these cities are increasingly filled with a transient class of unhappy people paying their dues until they rise in their careers enough to move somewhere else. Some of them don't like cities, period, but even the suburbs in SF and NYC are unaffordable and have no viable social scenes for transplant singles.

And that kid from Utah or wherever who even 20 years ago would have gotten off the Greyhound and waited tables while they figured out what to do with their life? And loved the city and gradually built a life there? Now they can barely afford a couch in Oakland or far eastern Bushwick and have no time to enjoy any of it, because rich kid who would have happily lived in suburban Cleveland or Hartford are hogging all the space.
posted by smelendez at 7:58 PM on December 14, 2017 [21 favorites]


which is why I've never really trusted the notion of privately financed space exploration.

I'm convinced it will surely be a chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:02 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


I keep coming back to how unions have a narrative that's been beaten into our millennial heads, and how that can be harnessed for good. Long ago, our forebears fought and died for our rights and started orders to protect us from those more powerful... over the years, the powerful used everything they had to beat back these orders, to the point they were all but forgotten... but we remember the old ways, and we can bring them back anew in these dark times...

I mean it's straight George Lucas stuff. We are hardwired to respond to this. There's a definite messaging advantage there that we can use.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:25 PM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


Nice one, Jon Mitchell.
posted by evilDoug at 8:28 PM on December 14, 2017


In 32, my family is expecting our first child, and it is scary. I know I'm lucky (supposedly eligible for TEACH, unionized job, making enough, paying reasonable rent in the city) but with a disabled parent and pretty much a one income earning family things are already so percarious and literally anything could permanently derail what I have.
I work in a field with crazy pay disparities (social work) and it's kind of hard to wrap around just how intense it is.

My current job has complications, and literally no room for promotion (there are no supervisory positions that go to social work who do not already have supervisory experience, and those are super far in between. There is no way for me to get the experience needed for promotion.) . Going somewhere else for the supervisory experience would cause me to loose union protections and most likely be a pay cut. I'm also restricted in the amount of work I can work outside and must report any additional hours each year. If I lie I can loose my job, if I work over 60 hours a week I can lose my job.

I know a house is just out of the question. I just hope things keep going and I'm lucky enough to maintain.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:34 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


What always strikes me is how many "successful" millennials I'll meet visiting places like San Francisco or New York who hate those cities, but pay an arm and a leg to live in them because it's where the good jobs are. Which means these cities are increasingly filled with a transient class of unhappy people paying their dues until they rise in their careers enough to move somewhere else.

Those people are idiots. On what planet does a “good” job require you to overwork yourself and pay an exorbitant cost of living? Shitty jobs require you to do that. I’ve seen an awful lot of people who seem convinced that there are no decent tech jobs outside the Bay Area, and I have to wonder what the hell they’re thinking. If the point is to “pay dues” then go work for freakin’ WALMART for a few years, save all your cash because it costs peanuts to live in Bentonville, and then go wherever you like because that experience is in high demand. Every major city has large corporations in it, and most of those have IT divisions. There are start-ups everywhere, too. Go work in Chicago, or Dallas, go work in fucking Omaha! Damn. Yeah, it’s not “exciting” like the prospect of being part of the next big thing out of Silicon Valley, but a) that’s a sucker’s game anyway, and b) you are wasting all your best earning potential “paying dues” and you’re not getting a goddamn thing in exchange.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:27 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm an old, and I'm trying to figure out who in the hell is comfortable and secure in these conditions. It sure as hell isn't me or my (also old) friends.

In my cohort the comfortable and secure folks are:

-folks with rich parents who had a ton of help with college/early adult costs/down payments
-the exactly three people I know who have tenured professorships in low-COL areas
-doctors
-people who somehow got a really sweet government job and never left it

Everyone else is fucked.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:29 PM on December 14, 2017 [15 favorites]


This article’s formatting is as insufferable as the generation that birthed it.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Those people are idiots. On what planet does a “good” job require you to overwork yourself and pay an exorbitant cost of living?

This one? The whole article is literally about this phenomenon?

The comment you're responding to wasn't only about tech jobs.
posted by Anita Bath at 9:37 PM on December 14, 2017 [25 favorites]


What can be done by we, the young and the listless? Perhaps we can take inspiration the boomers. By which I mean the flower power 1960's and not courting foreign kleptocrat wealth to prop up property values or w/e.

Extricate ourselves from the crappy economy by setting up self-reliant communes for mutual aid with free common wifi and weekly pokemon tournaments. call it "Only 90's kids will get in"

I suspect things will most likely go in the direction of the 1920's/30's with increasingly uglier power struggles between ever more polarized political factions, but I like to dream.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 9:41 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


There's always taking inspiration from your grandparents and becoming a gosh danged socialist.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 PM on December 14, 2017 [31 favorites]


Yeah, tech is a lot more spread out than a lot of work since every little company everywhere needs at least a little help from time to time.

Other professions, like lawyers and accountants and even doctors are going to be fucked soon thanks to the increasingly exorbitant cost of schooling. It's a significant part of what is draining the life from rural areas and many small cities. There's nobody to replace the town doctor, lawyer, etc because they can't make a good enough living even with the low CoL thanks to the loan payments.

IBR and other programs were helping somewhat with this issue, but the real answer is to restore higher education funding so as to reduce state school tuition back to something reasonable. Then graduates will have options other than those in larger cities, which should help reduce pressure on rents eventually.
posted by wierdo at 9:47 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Por qué no los dos, El Whelk?
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 9:53 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's always taking inspiration from your grandparents and becoming a gosh danged socialist.

Heh. My grandparents were actually exiled by Communists.
posted by FJT at 9:57 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


A communist government and a socialist mindset are quite different beasts. It's like grizzlies and koalas. They are both identified as 'bears' but only one will rip your heart out.

Socialism, as it may be conceived in our era, is democracy dialled up to 8+. It's making political policies that value and privilege social well-being. It's not antithetical to capitalism, it is just doesn't privilege it. There are some things that the national government infrastructure does better, like universal health care.

Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?
posted by Thella at 10:41 PM on December 14, 2017 [53 favorites]


This was something I'd never thought about before in these terms:
You can even see this in the statistics, a divot from 2008 to 2012 where millions of jobs and billions in earnings should be. In 2007, more than 50 percent of college graduates had a job offer lined up. For the class of 2009, fewer than 20 percent of them did. According to a 2010 study, every 1 percent uptick in the unemployment rate the year you graduate college means a 6 to 8 percent drop in your starting salary—a disadvantage that can linger for decades. The same study found that workers who graduated during the 1981 recession were still making less than their counterparts who graduated 10 years later. “Every recession,” Spriggs says, “creates these cohorts that never recover.”
It's relevant to the stuff that we talk about like transparency in pay and equal pay for equal work, which typically are cast as only benefiting (let's call it) visible minority groups. This is basically an invisible minority being penalized, perhaps on top of other visible-minority-penalties. Does that mean there's an opportunity to garner wider support for demanding pay (or other) reforms by recruiting that recession-era grad cohort by publishing how they got an extra serving of getting screwed more than they thought they already did?
posted by sldownard at 10:59 PM on December 14, 2017


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

because it serves the blind-idiot status quo
posted by philip-random at 11:01 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


In what seems like some kind of perverse joke, nearly every form of welfare now available to young people is attached to traditional employment. Unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation are limited to employees. The only major expansions of welfare since 1980 have been to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, both of which pay wages back to workers who have already collected them.
Yeah, this sucks. And it relates to what Peppermint Avenue says above about depleting opportunities mean that people will stay in bad relationships. A populace that relies on, essentially, the benevolence of the employing class, is doomed to be screwed.
posted by Thella at 11:32 PM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

It's the result of more than a century of public policy and private-press propaganda aimed against worker organizing, up to and including literal military action by both National Guard and regular Army units.
posted by mwhybark at 11:34 PM on December 14, 2017 [29 favorites]


If there's one thing more irritating than articles complaining about millennials, it is articles about millennials complaining about articles complaining about millennials.
posted by senor biggles at 11:56 PM on December 14, 2017


To be fair regarding the EITC, if you so much as mow a lawn or anything else that could be classified as earned income once each tax year you can get the EITC refund since it's a refundable credit. Not that $510 a year is going to do a whole lot for anybody that doesn't have kids. Or that the extra for having children comes anywhere near ameliorating even a tiny percentage of the cost of caring for said child. If Paul Ryan wants a higher birth rate, maybe he ought to get on that.
posted by wierdo at 11:58 PM on December 14, 2017


I feel considerably less guilty for not pushing my kids (19 and 22) into the "get a job" thing that family members and coworkers keep mentioning - "shouldn't they be doing something? Are they going to school?" (no.) "Do they have jobs?" (no.) "Are they...?" (no.)

They are helping with house chores, helping tend their somewhat disabled father, and trying not to panic about the future. And as long as I can afford it, I'm going to tell them that's okay. Because I'm near 50, paying over half my income in rent at a job with the highest salary I've ever made. (... It was also the highest salary I'd ever made three and a half years ago, when I started earning this much. It was more than double my rent then.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:00 AM on December 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


It was clear to me at a relatively early age that Communism as it was practiced in most places was a lot more like Fascism than Socialism and it just used a Socialist 'face' as a cover-up. But sadly, most of American Socialism allied itself stupidly with Stalinist Russia or Maoist China, so it was so much easier for the Capitalists and Neoliberals to vilify them.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:11 AM on December 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


or you could have have someone born in near 1984 (me!) who gets super lucky and cohabitants with someone who who was born when Thatcher was making the North a problem cause everyone would later drink themselves to death and then they moved to the states and it wasn't any better but they happened to work for the last remaining free and means tested school and then saw it get dismantled part by part policy by policy by liberal market driven board. it was so bad there are movies about it

and you thought, for the first time, that education should not be a commodity.

and if education, why not health care, or housing or all the other things that make people oor?

Why are things Commodities?
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Are there no codehouses?
posted by thelonius at 12:20 AM on December 15, 2017 [25 favorites]


...the economy has turned into a young people-screwing machine.

The position of that hyphen is fascinating to me.
posted by rokusan at 2:26 AM on December 15, 2017 [23 favorites]


After that he bounced around—selling suits at a Nordstrom outlet, cleaning carpets, waiting tables—until he learned that city bus drivers earn $22 an hour and get full benefits. He’s been doing that for a year now. It’s the most money he’s ever made.

I'm 31, and this honestly fills me with such a sense of belonging. I'm almost proud that other people won't be able to relate to that sort of statement as much as I can, like it's one of those "only 90s kids will understand!" things. The most I've ever made was $13 an hour at a work-study job. And it was hilarious when I started working there; I was like "wow, I made $90 today!?" Sometimes I'd work an extra 15 or 20 minutes so I could treat myself to a bagel the next day. It was an amazing feeling to be able to buy a bagel and know that it was only equivalent to about 15 or 20 minutes' worth of work.

That was two years ago.

I still don't understand how PTO and benefits work, because I've never had either (it's some kind of points system based on how many paychecks you've gotten that year? something like that?). I've been thinking of applying with the local transit authorities and municipal services, but the competition is actually pretty steep, from what I hear.

Sorry, I'm not trying to brag about not having money, or anything, because I get by. It's just that it's actually kind of nice to hear about other people in the same boat.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:04 AM on December 15, 2017 [13 favorites]


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

Because I honestly don't think Americans understand what either of those beliefs mean. Seriously. Ask your average American voter what a socialist is and they will likely sputter something cliche and wrong out.
posted by Kitteh at 4:51 AM on December 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


I think a problem in the US is that we are an incredibly age-segregated society, as well as segregated by class and race. (Franco Moretti, the literary critic, actually had an interesting passage on education, age segregation and modernity/industrialization in a book called The Way of the World - basically, the "school to prepare the proletariat to be better workers" system relies on incredibly fine-grained age-distinctions rather than distinctions in skill and assumes that there is no value in multi-age learning. It's a cheap, uniform way to assign people to categories and give them value, and to Moretti it was the starting point for kids mostly knowing kids their exact age, not having adult friend/mentors except through institutions, etc.)

So I think that a lot of older people don't understand how bad it is for the young, not even through willful obliviousness but because they don't have younger friends. I mean, I'm a young Gen-X person, and the difference between my employment history (precarity and temp work for years, but with the understanding that if I toughed it out at some point a decent job would open up) and the experience of someone just eight years younger is huge - all gig-economy, always broke, etc. And I only know that because of Facebook and activism, so I have younger friends.

PTO: PTO isn't even as good as jobs used to be. In the old days, you would get vacation and sick time, usually more of both than you get now. Companies condensed them together so they could give people less - instead of, eg, earning two weeks vacation and two weeks sick time, you earn three weeks of PTO which has to work for both.

Americans don't like/understand socialism for many reasons, among them the relative wealth and genocidal nature of the country - between taking Native land, enslaving or Jim Crow-ing Black Americans and the discovery of mines/oil/forest that had not been exhausted like much in Europe, there was usually enough to buy off a majority of white American workers, and hostility to immigrants and POC could be used to divide the rest. Post-WWII, Americans were powerful and rich, and again, could buy off a lot of working people with better wages, more stuff, work-based health-insurance, GI bill, etc. There was a socialist movement here between industrialization and WWII, but not as strong as in Europe - certainly there was an active effort to suppress it by the state, but it's not like this did not happen elsewhere.

Add to that some genuinely bad decisions by socialist and communist organizations, including tying socialism very closely to the USSR and defending a lot of foolery, the Red Scare breaking a lot of intergenerational bonds on the left, the AIDS epidemic taking out many, many left organizers and taking time from everyone else....I mean, I think the foundational reason is that the US was a hegemonic power divided by racism (now it's just a declining power divided by racism) but there certainly was bad luck and bad decision-making.
posted by Frowner at 5:21 AM on December 15, 2017 [26 favorites]


Housing isn't the only higher cost in big cities: seven hidden costs of living in cities (U.S. and World News, not a great article, but it identifies other costs that are higher in cities).

"Patricia Bolgiano, who's in her early fifties and a production coordinator near Baltimore, says she has saved money—and improved her quality of life—since moving outside the city itself. She says her city tax rates were higher, food cost more, and homeowners and car insurance payments cost more."

I've solved most of these by not be able to afford a car or own a place. It's easy!
posted by srboisvert at 6:07 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


I honestly hope that DSA becomes a large, electorally viable force in the coning years. If the ongoing destruction described in this article doesn't accomplish that, or otherwise lead to some kind of serious pushback against the interests of plutocrats, then America may not recover.

That said, as someone whose great aunts and uncles were sent to Siberia in cattle cars, I really hope that American leftist culture can do away with fetishizing previous communist regimes. I met a young lefty person recently who liked to wear pins of Lenin and the hammer and sickle, and it was fucking tiresome to see that paraded around as some kind of kitschy statement. Wear a Cesar Chavez pin or a Eugene Debs pin and I'll take you more seriously.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 6:17 AM on December 15, 2017 [20 favorites]


Capitalists and Marxist-Leninists agree: the worst mistakes and crimes of the USSR are the same thing as socialism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:26 AM on December 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


Socialism, as it may be conceived in our era, is democracy dialled up to 8+. It's making political policies that value and privilege social well-being. It's not antithetical to capitalism, it is just doesn't privilege it.

Socialism is nothing more and nothing less than the negation of the capitalist mode of production. It has nothing to do with democracy. What you are describing is a liberal welfare state.
posted by indubitable at 6:31 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Every major city has large corporations in it, and most of those have IT divisions. There are start-ups everywhere, too. Go work in Chicago, or Dallas, go work in fucking Omaha! Damn. Yeah, it’s not “exciting” like the prospect of being part of the next big thing out of Silicon Valley, but a) that’s a sucker’s game anyway, and b) you are wasting all your best earning potential “paying dues” and you’re not getting a goddamn thing in exchange.

I work for a division of a large corporation that thinks of itself as an internal startup. We have people in Atlanta (where I work), Dallas (corporate headquarters), and Palo Alto.

As far as any of us in Atlanta can tell the Palo Alto office exists only so that we can say we have a presence in Silicon Valley.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:33 AM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


You know what's an easy way to get by when you're young with no job prospects but lucky enough to be in college? Just stay in college as long as you can and live off of student loans, and pray that it works out that you can do income-based repayment for as long as you need to afterwards. It's a pretty common choice and oh man is that bubble primed to blow.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


PTO: PTO isn't even as good as jobs used to be. In the old days, you would get vacation and sick time, usually more of both than you get now. Companies condensed them together so they could give people less - instead of, eg, earning two weeks vacation and two weeks sick time, you earn three weeks of PTO which has to work for both.

Oh hey, you just described my work history. I graduated college in 1996. My first job gave two weeks for sick and two weeks for vacation. We also got a week paid between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The week during the holidays was the first to go. I also got to witness the company going from pensions to 401k.

I got laid off in 2002, after getting my additional week of vacation following my 5 year anniversary with the company. I've never had more than 3 weeks of leave time since.

I'm at -5 hours of PTO at the moment and hoping I don't get sick or have any kind of emergency that requires me to leave work before January 1 so I can coast into the new year and get my next allotment of PTO. Minus the 5 hours, of course.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:52 AM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I’ve seen an awful lot of people who seem convinced that there are no decent tech jobs outside the Bay Area, and I have to wonder what the hell they’re thinking. If the point is to “pay dues” then go work for freakin’ WALMART for a few years, save all your cash because it costs peanuts to live in Bentonville, and then go wherever you like because that experience is in high demand. Every major city has large corporations in it, and most of those have IT divisions. There are start-ups everywhere, too. Go work in Chicago, or Dallas, go work in fucking Omaha! Damn. Yeah, it’s not “exciting” like the prospect of being part of the next big thing out of Silicon Valley, but a) that’s a sucker’s game anyway, and b) you are wasting all your best earning potential “paying dues” and you’re not getting a goddamn thing in exchange.

By "tech job" do you only mean computer science and/or programming jobs? Because there are a lot of other tech jobs that are kind of focused on certain cities and if that's your field, you'd be a goddamned idiot to not try to go there. I could have moved back to Milwaukee or Chicago after undergrad (2010) instead of taking a university tech job that had me scraping by...if I wanted to try my luck getting hired by a car company oh wait, those are all screwed.

Anyway, the point in the article was that it's not just tech jobs, and that "high-demand" experience is worth peanuts because everyone has that. And then you get pigeon-holed because the market is bad enough that employers can decide they want an exact specific unicorn of employee credentials and manage to get that because everyone's desperate. Take a job in IT as a CS major instead of trying to go work for Google? Hope you like being a sysadmin because you'll never actually make it to Google or Apple or even a random start-up with more VC money than sense. The point is that you'll never make enough working in a lower cost-of-living area to move wherever you want (also because wages are similarly depressed) and it's a question of what shitty gamble you want to take.

And that's tech jobs (from CS to biotech). It's just as bad or worse for every other area.
posted by ultranos at 7:04 AM on December 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


America’s 100 largest metros have added 6 million jobs since the downturn. Rural areas, meanwhile, still have fewer jobs than they did in 2007. For young people trying to find work, moving to a major city is not an indulgence. It is a virtual necessity. But the soaring rents in big cities are now canceling out the higher wages...This leaves young people, especially those without a college degree, with an impossible choice. They can move to a city where there are good jobs but insane rents. Or they can move somewhere with low rents but few jobs that pay above the minimum wage.

Thing is, even the big cities are segregated into areas with jobs and areas without jobs, but the high costs largely remain the same throughout. One might be able to afford shelter in the no-job areas (due to said shelters largely being shitholes or the area just generally being undesirable or dangerous), but the other costs of living (food, utilities, etc.) are still going to be every bit as high as they are in the got-jobs areas. Sure, you might be able to find work in a got-jobs area, but that will probably require you to 1) Have a vehicle, and 2) Make a one-plus-hour commute every morning to the other side of the city.

Moving to a big city and only being able to live in a no-jobs area is pretty much the same as living in a rural area, only with higher costs.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:19 AM on December 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


ME IN THIS THREAD: We're gonna guillotine the ruling class and put the renters in charge of government. L'Internationale sera le genre humain, my dudes

ME IN THE POLITICS MEGATHREAD: Well, look, I like the idea of universal healthcare, but how do you pay for it? Higher taxes? Come on now, be realistic
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:43 AM on December 15, 2017 [22 favorites]


As money is aggregated in fewer and fewer hands, there's a lot less for everybody else. But the rich don't accumulate wealth and let it sit there. They want it to increase. They invest in real estate. They want good returns, so the real estate holding company raises rents as high as possible. Amazon is all about selling as much as possible at the highest return, and they bought Whole Foods. They will maximize their returns on groceries. There's 2 of your biggest expenses - rent and food. Competition in car making is fierce, and you can still buy used, so transportation, another large chunk of budgets, may be manageable. Health care? People hate health insurance companies, not unfairly, but mostly because that's who they really interact with. But there is massive profit at every level in the health care industry, and it's an iceberg - you only see a tiny bit of it.

The US has taken capitalism to its pinnacle. Everything you buy produces maximum profit for the manufacturer, middle people, seller. Your wages are low because employers will pay only as much as they absolutely must. Regulation used to exist, so wages were increased, some housing prices were kept lower, there were support system in place. Healthy unions existed in many areas. Every Republican administration since Reagan has systematically dismantled those protections. Unions are targeted. There used to be some decent consumer protection, and a stab was made at financial consumer protection, and they are really ineffectual. The minimum wage used to go up pretty regularly. Health care used to always be non-profit. Money was made, but there was an understanding that it was wrong to make huge profits from human misery and illness. Grocery stores used to be full of food, and grocery markups were quite small, because food is basic to survival. But an awful lot of what you buy now is packaged and processed and branded and has higher and higher markups at every level of production. (and you get less nutrition in many cases, but, different rant)

There have been a couple of ways to do better.
Education - when I went to college in 1973, a student could get good grants, a workstudy job, and some loans, and go to a private or public college, graduating with a non-crippling debt that was low interest. Now, the US government makes real profits from student loans. And the costs of a degree have skyrocketed well beyond inflation. It's also a path to class mobility. This path is pretty well closed to most.
Unions/ Trades - A friend from high school got a job at a new company when we were in our 20s. She just retired with a great pension. It's very hard to find an electrician where I live, union or otherwise. They're booked solid, and they charge 75 or more/ hour. Trade schools, typically 2 year technical colleges are a great choice. Builders, mechanics, plumbers, and other skilled trades are getting good wages.
Military - Many of the black students I went to college with went in to the military. They got out after 20 years with a good pension and health care. My son went in to the Army and is working on a degree. The military has been a path to the middle class for non-whites. Lots of poeple get degrees and training in the military, and/or get out and get a degree and have another career. But, you know, war, combat, and other realities. The pay is not horrible, but there are lifestyle issues.

It's not at all surprising that millennials supported the Socialist candidate. The only surprise to me is that any millennials other than those with inherited funds voted for a Republican. I can't believe millennials aren't taking to the streets to demand better wages, affordable education, health, rent. The right points the blame at old people and they're coming for Medicare and Social Security. Look at the tax bill. They're openly giving huge breaks to corporations and the very rich. Don't buy into that shit. I'm 62, and have amassed some retirement savings and a small house, but I'm squeezed by the oligarchy, too. I will join you on the barricades any day.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2017 [18 favorites]


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

We've had 50+ years of sustained propaganda against the evils of governmental altruism.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:54 AM on December 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


If you believe Oliver Stone it's all because Henry Wallace got ratfucked at the 1944 Democratic Convention, leaving us with the dullard Truman rather than someone who would carry on FDR's legacy. (That latter description is not limited to Oliver Stone)

I suspect the first episode or two of Stone's 2013 series on American History since the beginning of WWII is what's behind the sudden fetishization of Russia on the right and the sudden fear of the "deep state." (The series is explicitly about the rise of the MIC in the post-WWII era, but veers off into CIA and FBI ratfuckery. I suspect they think that they're being targeted the way Communists were in the McCarthy era, never mind that they control all the branches of government..)
posted by wierdo at 8:03 AM on December 15, 2017


The minimum wage used to go up pretty regularly.

I want all elected salaries to be pinned to minimum wage. If congress wants a raise - any congress, any state - they can raise the minimum wage by the same percentage.

I also want corporate salaries pinned to 100x the wages paid to the lowest-wage workers in the company. If your janitor make $10/hour, your CEO can't make more than 2.08 million a year. And any public company has to publish their pay scale trees - after all, how else will the public know whether or not to invest in it?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:26 AM on December 15, 2017 [37 favorites]


I’m 34, graduated from undergrad in ‘04. Saw the writing on the wall and went to learn a trade. I’ve been a firefighter/EMT since 2007. Crap wages, but time off and state retirement AND a 401K (which I try to make a dent in each paycheck) and 457 and insurance. After extricating myself from an expensive divorce, I lived with multiple roommates until I could buy a house. It’s a bit of a shack, but it’s mine. I used inheritance to pay off my 2006 Taco, a new roof and HVAC system (house built in 1999), some outstanding loans including undergrad loans, and as a safety net. I don’t go on vacation. I quit my second and third jobs because I needed to focus on my main career and from exhaustion. I have a partner of over 7 years, but remain fiercely independent because I’m terrified of being in the financial situation I was after my divorce a second time; he’s busy trying to help out his kids (young millennials) anyway and keeping his head above water. I’m starting grad school in 3 weeks to prepare myself for advancement in my current career AND for my second career that will begin after I complete my 30 years in the fire service. Other than inheritance and two beater cars, I didn’t receive much help from the family - being older boomers, their response was always “Well it’s not our fault you can’t get your shit together.”

So I’m just trying to play it as safe as I can so that when I am 65 I am healthy and well-fed and have a roof over my head.

My friends (early 20s to early 50s) are all facing similar struggles WRT to retirement, second careers, kids, housing. And we’re all VERY fortunate.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:39 AM on December 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


Ed Pilkington in The Guardian: "A Journey Through a Land of Extreme Poverty: Welcome to America"
So begins a two-week journey into the dark side of the American Dream. The spotlight of the UN monitor, an independent arbiter of human rights standards across the globe, has fallen on this occasion on the US, culminating on Friday with the release of his initial report in Washington.
Advertisement

His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.

The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.

Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: “Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time I’m in the US.”
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


> I think a problem in the US is that we are an incredibly age-segregated society, as well as segregated by class and race.

This is definitely true. I also think many boomers are more socially isolated than we often talk about.

Older generations were more likely to go to church, and to groups like the Elks and the Rotary and the VFW. Younger generations have volunteering clubs, and kickball teams, and meetup.com miscellany. The baby boomers have cable TV.
posted by smelendez at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


Which means these cities are increasingly filled with a transient class of unhappy people paying their dues until they rise in their careers enough to move somewhere else.

I was traveling in Nova Scotia fifteen or so years ago. This scenario was true for many of their "best and brightest". That is, if you had ambition, you had to leave your home province which you loved, pursue a career elsewhere (often in the US of A) and, if things played out alright, take an early retirement and return home to enjoy your riches. Otherwise, you were looking at a whole lotta not much in terms of future prospects.

I actually heard this being put forth one night -- an uncle who'd just returned from a few decades in Texas rising high in a major mega-corp, pitching it to his 21-year-old nephew, who really did NOT want to leave home, but neither did he want to end up in some dead end tourism based "career". Long story short, the uncle died not long after of cancer (so much for that early retirement) and the nephew stayed in Nova, mainly thanks to to web-based contracting options and being willing to make less money.

Somewhere in all this, there's a parable about what a clusterfuck neoliberalism has made of things ... and how we might extract ourselves from it.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

1) They have a lot of similarities, at least in abstract - they both include aspects of "some of the profit from your labor get taken by the gov't, which gives them to someone else." (Nevermind that that's what taxes are for, and we all WANT firefighters who work to stop any fire. Point is, the differences between them is a matter of details that most people don't bother to figure out.)

2) We had a huge anti-communism movement. Nevermind how stupid it was; the point is, lots of people remember "communism is evil" without remembering why that story went around.

3) Along with "communism is evil" went "the USSR is evil" and "Cuba is evil," both of which were verified by specific anti-US activities.

4) Rich corporations have an easy time getting their message out, and their message is "America is a meritocracy! Anyone with dedication and talent can be on top!" And this leads to the concept that apparently white men have the majority of the talent and dedication, and combining white supremacy with a firm refusal to believe they're benefiting from bias and oppression, means any hint of "take from the rich to give to the poor" gets the pushback: I earned this; why should I have to give it up?

5) Schools don't teach collectivism or pluralism. They push special-snowflake ideologies; the actively discourage awareness of communities and the value of cooperation. In the few cases where they require cooperation, it's bungled so badly that kids grow up thinking "cooperation" means "I'm going to be saddled with four losers and graded on how badly they fail."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2017 [19 favorites]


This conversation is reminding me to reconnect with the people trying to create the Eugene V. Debutant Ball.
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm 32 and have a decent professional job and my retirement plan is to never retire and hope I don't live to be too old.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:59 AM on December 15, 2017 [17 favorites]


Moving to a big city and only being able to live in a no-jobs area is pretty much the same as living in a rural area, only with higher costs.

This depends on the city. A lot of the expensive cities millennials get scolded for moving to have public transit. In cities like those, even if you live in a few-jobs-area (which are also often in a food and transit desert) you still likely have some access, even if limited, to public transit. Affording a car is a huge up-front cost, and the insurance for said car is a huge recurring expense; not everyone can make that outlay. Public transit can be expensive, too, of course, but if you can walk or bike to get groceries (even if it takes forever) that's a considerable savings over maintaining a car. That's impossible in most rural areas. You can also more easily find affordable multi-person housing (like roommate situations) in a less-rural area.

I've dealt with two-hour-each-way work commutes for these very reasons. The 'higher costs' of city living were actually *cheaper* than trying to find and afford an apartment or shared house near my job (zoning and low density made them scarce) while also trying to afford a car and car insurance payments and the gas I needed to go get groceries because the buses literally only ran once an hour on the hour during business hours on weekdays.
posted by halation at 10:01 AM on December 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


Older generations were more likely to go to church, and to groups like the Elks and the Rotary and the VFW.

See book: Bowling Alone: "Drawing on vast new data that reveal Americans’ changing behavior, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures—whether they be PTA, church, or political parties—have disintegrated. Until the publication of this groundbreaking work, no one had so deftly diagnosed the harm that these broken bonds have wreaked on our physical and civic health, nor had anyone exalted their fundamental power in creating a society that is happy, healthy, and safe."

(I have the book. I haven't finished it. It makes me want to weep, realizing the social support network that existed in my father's time that's vanished like smoke.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


To be fair regarding the EITC, if you so much as mow a lawn or anything else that could be classified as earned income once each tax year you can get the EITC refund since it's a refundable credit.

Yeah, good luck with that. Republicans have re-directed the IRS from pursuing the wealthy and corporations to hassling poor people who claim the EITC with self-employment income. And the new Republican tax bill requires even more onerous documentation of income for EITC recipients. Under the new tax bill, EITC credits will be delayed by many months as the IRS agents investigate your income.

And the IRS will require that you deduct expenses from your hypothetical lawn mowing income, such as gasoline and maintenance. Because, while expense deductions are usually good for reducing income taxes, if your income tax is already zero, deductions reduce your earned income and thereby your EITC.
posted by JackFlash at 10:16 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Older generations were more likely to go to church, and to groups like the Elks and the Rotary and the VFW.

Weirdly I was connecting with some older relatives and connecting something I heard on “Talking Simpsons” of all places, about their parents watching three hours of the Today Show every day and it just snapped together: Americans are uniquely socially isolated as a people, Older Americans are even more isolated on average, Older Americans watch a staggering amount of TV.

It’s all TV, the social critics of the 60s where right and deregulation and political organizing by the upper class and right wing to consolidate and control media has led to a world where everything, everything is TV.
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2017 [18 favorites]


This depends on the city. A lot of the expensive cities millennials get scolded for moving to have public transit. In cities like those, even if you live in a few-jobs-area (which are also often in a food and transit desert) you still likely have some access, even if limited, to public transit.

I live in a middling neighborhood in a big city. (Our rent is cheaper than market because our place is a death trap, but anyway...) Any time I price out moving to an inexpensive rural area the math fails. Rent in the places I'd go is cheaper, but not, like, THOUSANDS of dollars cheaper, which is how much I'd be sinking into the car ownership required for living there. Moving to a less-desirable city neighborhood, where we could still squeak by without a car, would be much more efficient savings.

And I'm lucky to have a mostly portable job, but my partner's wages would be markedly lower in a rural market, if he could find a job at all.

We're not techies, though, so when we hear "work at WALMART" it means "as a greeter."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:26 AM on December 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


Older Americans are even more isolated on average, Older Americans watch a staggering amount of TV.

My mom retired a few years ago and now suddenly she has the TV on the all the time. She has lots of friends, so she's not exactly socially isolated, and she seems to watch PBS mostly, but still. Growing up we never had the TV on that much - maybe an hour or two in the evening, if that. It drives me crazy and I really wish she would find something else to do.

Started the article, not sure I can handle it. All I can say is that I've had it pretty good but I still get this pit of anxiety when I think about this stuff because it all could be taken away from me at a moment's notice and I'm not sure I'd be able to get it back.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:47 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm at the old end of genx, and my retirement plan is to die. I will spend as much of my resources as possible in launching mancub into the world, but I have no illusions that the retirement enjoyed by my grandparents is a thing I will see. After 15 years of owning my own businesses, the new tax laws and the new $2000 a month insurance premium mean I have to find a job with benefits, because I can't afford insurance if it's not a deductible thing. Try finding a job as a middle aged woman with lupus. Because I'm not having any luck.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:54 AM on December 15, 2017 [15 favorites]


Why the big hate on socialism in the US? Why is it so often conflated with communism?

Well, the very FIRST comment in this post was a joke about socialism/communism, so people in this very topic are conflating the two for comedy purposes. I don't fully understand why the difference is brought up right after I talk about my own family history.

But I admit that maybe my first comment was too short and lacked some nuance. Let me rephrase and extend my comment:

My grandparents were exiled by Communists after being on the losing side of a nasty civil war. The government they were exiled to was an autocratic dictatorship that became a one party authoritarian state that then became a democracy with universal health care, worker rights, and protection of minorities. I'm pretty sure I know the difference between communism and socialism.
posted by FJT at 11:06 AM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

And, that's officially. Which, in itself, is a bogus number given that the "official" poverty level in the US is set so ludicrously low that millions more, who are absolutely struggling in poverty, don't count as such.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:29 AM on December 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


the "official" poverty level in the US is set so ludicrously low that millions more, who are absolutely struggling in poverty, don't count as such.

The official poverty level is $12k for a single person; $24,600 for a family of four. (In case anyone didn't realize.) And that's regardless of location - that's the federal poverty level whether average one-bedroom rent is $500/month (Arkansas County) or $3300/month (San Francisco County).
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:02 PM on December 15, 2017


I’ve seen an awful lot of people who seem convinced that there are no decent tech jobs outside the Bay Area, and I have to wonder what the hell they’re thinking. If the point is to “pay dues” then go work for freakin’ WALMART for a few years, save all your cash because it costs peanuts to live in Bentonville, and then go wherever you like because that experience is in high demand. Every major city has large corporations in it, and most of those have IT divisions. There are start-ups everywhere, too. Go work in Chicago, or Dallas, go work in fucking Omaha! Damn. Yeah, it’s not “exciting” like the prospect of being part of the next big thing out of Silicon Valley, but a) that’s a sucker’s game anyway, and b) you are wasting all your best earning potential “paying dues” and you’re not getting a goddamn thing in exchange.

That's adorable. Chicago and Dallas are not cheap. Maybe not Silicone Valley pricey, but not cheap, not by a long shot. To live anywhere even remotely 'cheap' you've got to live at least an hour outside of the city and commute in every day. And if you can afford to live downtown, neighborhoods are hugely varied, food deserts are a thing, and commuting is still a huge issue.

Start-ups and large corporations alike now out-source their IT overseas. 'Big Tech' isn't as big as it used to be, and the move to automate and out-source and off-shore entire divisions of digital labor mean the jobs aren't there anymore. The jobs that are there require college degrees and experience and practically future-sight to determine what skill sets required to get a jump on the next big thing. Anything you learn in college is pretty much obsolete by the time you graduate. Plus now there are huge student loans.

And I'm not sure how working at Walmart is going to help any of that. Walmart purposely screws over their employees by short-changing shifts and benefits, and pushing out any and all competition.
posted by RhysPenbras at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


We're doing ok, but we have a friend who had dropped out of college for a variety of reasons, and now, almost 20 years later, he's struggling so much. He moved to a "lower cost city", but had to get an apartment inside the city bounds (more expensive), and has basically been working as an "independent contractor" for several years now. No savings, barely any credit, a broken down car away from not driving for uber, remote IT/help desk jobs require a dedicated land line, but his renovated apartment doesn't do land lines any more, and VOIP won't work. There are multiple factors for his struggles, but basically I send periodic care packages and we give him a financial gift now and then to help him chug along. And now he's trying to decide if its worth it to get ACA coverage, but the state didn't expand medicaid so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So every time I hear some jerk republican talk about about bootstraps I think of my friend, who is brilliant and could be such the contributor to the world, but has been ground down by bureaucracy, "the system", and a systematic effort to punish people like him "because they deserve it". As if he deserves every obstacle that has been thrown in his path.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 12:20 PM on December 15, 2017 [16 favorites]


there's another impending, built in rat-fuck depending on where you live. Imagine a parent gets sick or they have no choice but long term care, these can bleed what little as$ets they have until all assets are spent. Only once they are destitute will state funds kick in and cover any cost.
I'm over simplifying, yes admittedly, but it's essentially what's there in NC. I saw it with my mom's illness and at least my dad was kind of prepared. Imaging having nothing and getting a 4K bill for elder care every month. Or just getting old, we are so fucked...
posted by djseafood at 12:44 PM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


More than half of US states have laws that make adult children responsible for their parents' medical expenses. This doesn't apply if those expenses are racked up on Medicaid; federal law doesn't have this provision.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:52 PM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm also worried about what's going to happen to a lot of those boomer parents when they get old in a place where there are no good jobs, and their adult children don't have the ability to take them in because housing is so expensive.

Especially in that in-between situation where they don't need a nursing home or full-time care, but it would be nice if they didn't live alone or at least had a younger relative who could drop by now and then.
posted by smelendez at 1:06 PM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


And I'm not sure how working at Walmart is going to help any of that. Walmart purposely screws over their employees by short-changing shifts and benefits, and pushing out any and all competition.

Not that it materially changes the correctness of your comment, but I'm pretty sure that person meant working for Walmart in their corporate HQ/IT depts -- they mentioned Bentonville specifically.

Like, you should def not work for them in any capacity, because they are monsters, and they will turn you into a monster (REAL STORY: I have seen this happen to more than one personal acquaintance). But if you're in their IT department you probably aren't getting jerked around on shifts.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:07 PM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Me at uni: *basically a social democrat*

Wise old people: “That’ll change once you get a job and pay taxes in the real world”


I am nearly 50 with two adult children, and I'm still waiting for that "you'll be a Republican when you're older" thing to kick in.

I have developed some awareness of nuance and some sympathy for some of the pro-business approaches. But I still very much think, "reduce military by 25-90%; gov't should pay for uni education for everyone who passes an entry exam and keeps their GPA up; raise the official label of poverty-level to just below living wage; no income tax at poverty level or below; 40% tax above that and to all corporate income beyond deductible expenses; full health care for every citizen."

Paid maternity leave for gov't jobs, too; I don't know if I'd want that mandated for private ones, but if health care were covered it'd be a lot less of a hassle.

I think the "you'll get conservative when you get older" plan was "you'll be willing to screw over the kids as soon as you have something they don't."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:21 PM on December 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


I'm in sort of an interesting place on this.

My first time through, I was going to college in 1998-1999. Common wisdom expressed then was "Don't even bother with CompSci, everything's going to be outsourced to India anyway, just get a degree, any degree." So I started that but got a once-in-a-lifetime shot in San Francisco (lol) that I felt like I had to take, and naturally the bubble burst shortly thereafter. I bounced around and worked retail for a couple years before I got another shot, and that one stuck. So for about 15 years I plied my trade and got laid off over and over again because that's how things go in tech/startups, but I was always able to scramble and hit the next one, until I hit That Point. That's when they turn you into Soylent because you're too old so they think you want too much money instead of "snacks in the breakroom and ping pong whooooa so wacky" or they think you won't put up with working 100 hour weeks then hanging out with them at the bars after hours because you're the only friends you have. To be fair, they were probably correct.

So I did a couple other things but it was rapidly becoming clear I just wasn't going to make enough money to survive in Seattle long-term doing this.

For me and my generation, moving back home to live in your old room was totally embarrassing and cringe-inducing. But I was also seeing this girl and she was four years younger than me, and she wanted to come. Because even at that small age difference, we live in totally different worlds. Most of her friends live with a ton of roommates long past the time they "should have" gotten their own place, or they live at home, or they hop from couch to couch. So, hey, we live rent free and don't have to pay Seattle COL? Sounded pretty great to her! Even when we look at houses, we talk about how many bedrooms it has and which of our friends could live where and whether we could just buy land somewhere and let our friends drag RVs/Campers/trailers in and have our own little destitute friend trailer park.

I mean the age difference is small but the mindset difference is huge.

So now I'm back in college and decided this time I'm going to do it for the money, so I am doing CompSci (which as you can see upthread already has people telling me it's a bad idea and going to be automated).

But at the same time, I'm like why plan for or worry about the future? We're going to have to work until we die anyway. Assuming Trump doesn't get us all nuked, there's no way Social Security lasts until we can collect and my retirement fund is "lol". May as well enjoy the present because we're all fucked.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2017 [14 favorites]


we could just buy land somewhere and let our friends drag RVs/Campers/trailers in and have our own little destitute friend trailer park.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:26 PM on December 15


Sounds to me like you just described the beginnings of the MeFi farm. I'm all for it.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:38 PM on December 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


we could just buy land somewhere and let our friends drag RVs/Campers/trailers in and have our own little destitute friend trailer park.

Amazon has you covered.

Your job for the retirement years!
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 2:07 PM on December 15, 2017


Not to abuse the edit window, from WaPo.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2017


Take a job in IT as a CS major instead of trying to go work for Google? Hope you like being a sysadmin because you'll never actually make it to Google or Apple or even a random start-up with more VC money than sense.

You’re never going to make it to Google anyway, or Apple, and start-ups with more VC money than sense pay that money to their FOUNDERS while they expect the rank and file to work for below market. And why the fuck would you want to work for either Google or Apple anyway? Their work environments are hardly stellar, their pay is not particularly generous considering the qualifications they demand, and the cost of living of the area in which they’re located, and then you’re trapped in an extremely small, extremely expensive niche market. That sort of thinking is exactly what causes people to be “stuck” in cities like San Francisco that they hate but can’t afford to leave!

Yes, absolutely, get a job as a sysadmin! Stop looking at companies like Apple or Google as unicorns that serve as the one true way to success! That is as much a myth as the one colleges tell you when they want you to pay $200K for an undergraduate degree.
posted by Autumnheart at 3:06 PM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Sounds to me like you just described the beginnings of the MeFi farm. I'm all for it.

Speaking as someone with some small expertise in communes, remember to plan your sanitation needs first.

In actuality, a few of my friends and I are considering doing something similar in a few years. Where we create a cooperative, shared assets commune. There is much to negotiate, especially given land governance and titles, and we're not sure that staying in the U.S. is going to be economically feasible, given that the republicans are going to gut the safety net and seem to want to line their nests with the dead bodies of Americans.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:24 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, my previously turbo-lefty girlfriend is now fully onboard with my paranoid prepping after hearing about Katrina from my folks and Puerto Rico. I don't mean the race war or religious part, mind, just the "let's have food and emergency supplies on hand just in case disaster strikes and no one is coming to get us" angle. Because it's likely nobody IS coming to get us.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:28 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


And why the fuck would you want to work for either Google or Apple anyway? Their work environments are hardly stellar, their pay is not particularly generous

A dear friend of mine was hired by Google while being five months pregnant, they made special accommodations (divided the process across multiple days) during the interview process to allow for her being easily exhausted and nauseous, and then they not only hired her they gave her six months of paid time off after the birth.

...exactly how many US companies will do that for a new hire? Not FMLA shit, but full-on regular salary without any kind of “buy-in” or other HR-style BS. Seriously, let’s list them out in-thread.

She’s now making (I am not joking) >$300K annually after having worked there four years.

I mean, FML, I should have gone into software why did I waste my life won’t someone please hire me too but holy god that’s atypical and if you think there are other companies lining up to behave this way then I want to come join your world please. Mind, it is possible she’s an aberrant super-genius, but I still cannot get over the maternity leave thing, especially when compared to everywhere I have ever worked.

So, yeah, places like that in Dubuque? Cool! What’s their name?
posted by aramaic at 4:17 PM on December 15, 2017 [17 favorites]


You know what's an easy way to get by when you're young with no job prospects but lucky enough to be in college? Just stay in college as long as you can and live off of student loans, and pray that it works out that you can do income-based repayment for as long as you need to afterwards. It's a pretty common choice and oh man is that bubble primed to blow.

I did that for a couple years when I lived in Chicago, because there were NO job prospects. This was right after the 2007 crash. I kept applying for jobs and never hearing back. I went to an interview for a minimum-wage job at some stupid waffle/ice cream place, and easily 60 people were there. They were playing games with us. "OK, you can have the application IF you can balance this pen." Motherfuckers. I wish more people understood that when people my age say the job market is horrible, we're talking about shit like this. I'm on a full-ride scholarship right now, but I'm frankly terrified of leaving school because I have no idea how I'll support myself once my aid dries up, let alone pay off the debt I already have.

Not super happy with the running theme in this thread of "people struggling in big cities are idiots, because there are plenty of jobs in cheaper places." It's almost like no there aren't, and not everyone works in tech. It's one thing to say "people should consider moving elsewhere" or "not all cities are as expensive as San Francisco." It's another to say "they're idiots and they're only 'stuck' there because of bad decisions."

We moved to the Bay Area so I could go to school here, and my girlfriend had been unable to find work where we had been, but got two job offers up here. Stupid us!
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:39 PM on December 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka the Big Baddies Who Might Nuke Us At Any Moment For Any Reason At All Or Even No Reason.

Our sworn enemy was a superpower that called itself "Socialist".

That's a big part of why older people find the word distasteful.
posted by cats are weird at 6:10 PM on December 15, 2017


This phenomenon is not unique to the United States. If you read Spanish, go to El País , read the 2005 article by Carolina Alguacil titled "Yo soy mileurista" ("I'm a Thousand-Euro-a-Month Person") and weep.

In 2015, El País did a "decade later" piece about the phenomenon:

"In the summer of 2005, a 27-year-old called Carolina Alguacil wrote a letter to EL PAÍS about an emerging low-wage generation. Headed “I am a mileurista,” it attacked Spain’s labor market, characterized by short-term contracts and low wages (mil euros is Spanish for a thousand euros). Alguacil wrote: “The mileuristas are those young people aged between 25 and 34, college graduates, well-educated, who speak foreign languages, have postgraduate qualifications, masters, diplomas. They normally start out in the hostelry sector, and have spent long periods working unpaid as what are euphemistically called interns.” After several years, they might finally get a full-time contract, she wrote, but “the bad thing is they never earn more than €1,000 a month, with no bonuses. And you’d better not complain…”

"The term mileurista has come to define the plight of the best-educated generation in Spain’s history. A decade ago, when Alguacil wrote her letter, the Spanish economy was already slowing down, and hundreds of thousands of university graduates like her were discovering that there weren’t enough jobs to go round. The euro had sent prices soaring, wages were falling, and the property bubble was about to burst. Even at the height of the economic boom, people’s purchasing power was falling rapidly. Today, the ongoing recession has killed off 3.7 million jobs, unleashing the worst crisis since the Civil War."


In Spain, like the US, the Boomer generation did very well; their children did not. The mileuristas couldn't buy houses or cars, couldn't afford to have kids, were forced to share apartments, and so on.

Adulthood deferred is adulthood denied.
posted by A. Davey at 6:16 PM on December 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


Our sworn enemy was a superpower that called itself "Socialist".

That's a big part of why older people find the word distasteful.


But some of us older people paid attention to what was really going down in the real world and how socialism was perverted by greed. It all boils down to greed and power. It all boils how you define it and who pulls the strings.

I guess I'm one of the olds that would like to define socialism "as an economic theory, system or movement where the production and distribution of goods is done, owned and shared (fairly) by the citizens of a society."

Just another old hippy out of touch with the real world.

Let me stand behind the millennials, please.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:27 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


breakin' the law: “All I can say is that I've had it pretty good but I still get this pit of anxiety when I think about this stuff because it all could be taken away from me at a moment's notice and I'm not sure I'd be able to get it back.”
I can say from experience that no, you aren't. You're respectable middle-class and then one day, you aren't. The instant that happens it's as if a switch gets thrown and you're less than. As far as I can tell, there's no way back. Even if you become independently wealthy somehow, you'll never get back what you lost.

Not that I'm bitter.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:22 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


the other costs of living (food, utilities, etc.) are still going to be every bit as high as they are in the got-jobs areas.

I think that's right about utilities, but food costs in no-jobs areas are always lower, in my experience. Chain grocery stores, even Targets and Wal-Marts, have different pricing in different neighborhoods.
posted by rokusan at 8:32 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


She’s now making (I am not joking) >$300K annually after having worked there four years.

Big fucking deal, she makes $300K in a city where that rents you a nice one-bedroom apartment less than an hour out of town, and you’re still utterly shut out of the real estate market. Ask her how far that money goes! $300K in the Bay Area is like $100K everywhere else, maybe, and it is hardly unusual for an experienced software developer to earn that much in most major cities.

Can we stop pretending that it’s totally reasonable to waste all your earning potential trying to get hired at Google? Honestly, it’s like reading about people trying to fund their retirement by buying lottery tickets. Yes, 6 months of paid maternity leave for one pregnant new hire sounds really nice. I’m sure that totally makes up for their DOJ investigation for rampant institutional discrimination against female employees and their other diversity problems, not. And then there’s the turnover rate at these supposedly amazing companies. Average duration of employment is between 1-2 years. That is insanity. Healthy, engaged companies with good cultures do not burn through employees that quickly. You would have to be fucking nuts to bet the house, literally, on trying to not only get hired, but somehow be the exception that actually sticks around.

I’m not arguing that people who go to big cities to make it are idiots. But people who waste their most productive years living somewhere that they hate, trying to get into a known meat-grinder of an employer with zilch for job security, just so they can make enough money to afford to move somewhere where they *could* finally achieve a better standard of living? That is idiocy. Skip the meat-grinder step and go straight to the affordable place—or else don’t bitch that you have nothing to show for all your work when you turn 40. It’s one thing to be derailed by a streak of bad luck, winding up at a place like that because you don’t have any other real options. But actually choosing to do it on purpose is blatant stupidity.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:39 PM on December 15, 2017


Incorrect, her rent is 30% more than it was in Chicago.
posted by aramaic at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


But she still rents.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:57 PM on December 15, 2017


Proving what, exactly? That renters are fools? You give me literally in excess of $180K/yr in exchange for me paying $24K/yr rent and I will absolutely take that deal. Wouldn't you?
posted by aramaic at 10:02 PM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


The whole point of this thread is the inability for millennials to achieve enough stability and job security to build assets. Your one friend makes a lot of money but is spending a crapload of it on basic living expenses out of necessity. Renters are not fools, but you are literally arguing *for* living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, for companies that are legendary for their problematic short-timer cultures. Your one friend makes a good living and has disposable income right now, but that is, by far, the exception. I know that perfectly well. And considering the average Google salary is between $120-140K, then your friend clearly *does* have a particularly valuable skill set and is even less useful as a “typical” example of what one could expect from working at Google in particular, let alone anywhere else in the Bay Area. This is like me arguing that working for my company is automatically amazing because the VPs have great compensation packages. It’s ultimately meaningless.

And no, of course I wouldn’t do that, as evidenced by the fact that I have not, in fact, done that, and have been arguing vehemently about what a terrible idea it is. Yeah, it sounds like a great idea if you actually make the money, but considering you have a far greater chance of making completely average money (or none at all!) in an extremely expensive and unstable market that is also heavily biased against women and minorities, I think I will stay at my average job right here, where my 75% smaller salary was nonetheless sufficient for me to buy a 3-bedroom house about 20 minutes outside of downtown.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:37 PM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


unstable market that is also heavily biased against women and minorities

She’s Indian and, as previously indicated, was pregnant when hired.

I’m still waiting for the list of companies in Dubuque that would have hired her. Or Chicago. Or Cincinnati. Or, really, anywhere else. Literally anywhere else. A few of us celebrated her latest compensation letter just last week (Fall ritual, it would seem), which is why I know how much she makes. She’s going to save in excess of $100K this year alone.

For reference, I pull $65K in Chicago.
posted by aramaic at 10:57 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Why don’t you look up that list for yourself? I’m still waiting for you to display an understanding of cost-of-living discrepancies. You seem to persist in the idea that making $300K is objectively better because no other company will pay that much, but the simplest way to put it is that other companies don’t have to pay that much in order to provide the same level of value. Here, try this.

Compare cost of living between two cities

I make $67K plus a small bonus in Minneapolis, which apparently is the equivalent of earning $75K in Chicago, or $110K in San Francisco, so I have the quality of life of a typical Google employee, except that my housing expenses are much cheaper and I’m in a much more stable job market. (At a company with a much healthier culture, too.) Heck, my salary is $75 more per paycheck than yours, but I’m willing to bet that my earning power is considerably better.

And again, just because your ONE friend makes bank at Google doesn’t mean that’s the typical experience even at Google, much less anywhere else, because it is thoroughly well-documented that it isn’t. Feel free to produce some sources if you want to demonstrate otherwise.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:29 AM on December 16, 2017


The average experience is shitty everywhere. Arguing over which is the lesser of two evils is missing the point.

Also, people actually grew up and live and have friends and family and support networks in these areas that have recently become super expensive tech centers. Telling people to just move to a cheaper place is telling them "You don't get to live in the state where you grew up. Rich people get to live there now." Honestly, that's kind of a nasty thing to say.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:41 AM on December 16, 2017 [17 favorites]


Autumnheart, if 67K is the equivalent of earning 110K in San Francisco then your housing expenses should be adjusted for by the index you referenced. Your quality of life would be similar but your housing expenses would be proportional as well. It nets to zero.

Regarding WHERE to work, the overwhelming majority of my current and past millennial housemates (that number clears 100 now) go where they get a job offer, or they go home. There's not a lot of pick and choose.
posted by avalonian at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's honestly pretty bizarre to me to see these numbers (100k! 60k! 3fucking00k!?) being bandied about when I live in Seattle and, now at 34, make the highest wages of my life at thirty thousand a year (just under 3k a month! except I skip months because I'm a college teacher!) and am supposedly expected to:
1) not live in the city where my parents, friends, uhhh job is? jobs really, since my side hustle is being a barista when I can get hired.
2) move? like, where? farther than somewhere I can beg and scramble and call in favors to use friends cars? so how will I afford that? to the burbs? it's not cheaper to live out there unless you mean like ex-burb rural areas, so no.
3) rent an apartment? with my credit the best places are the ones who don't check, and those places don't advertise or are total fucking ratholes.
4) but I will do all these things if a philosophy professor with only an MA/pretty decent barista who is overqualified can make 60 thousand a year. That sounds like... a dream. Everyone I know is literally a fed up landlord away from being homeless.
Basically, when you're nitpicking about merely making a hundred fucking thousand dollars a year please remember there are broke ass people living in these communities you're sniping about.
posted by zinful at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2017 [25 favorites]


Also, people actually grew up and live and have friends and family and support networks in these areas that have recently become super expensive tech centers. Telling people to just move to a cheaper place is telling them "You don't get to live in the state where you grew up. Rich people get to live there now." Honestly, that's kind of a nasty thing to say.

this is Vancouver, Canada right now in a nutshell. People who were born and raised there are leaving. I already left. The new money (which is coming from various places) isn't changing things, it's already changed them. If you weren't smart (lucky?) enough to buy into the housing market in some previous decade, you're pretty much shit out of luck now ... unless you're either A. willing to live a long, long way from where you work, B. willing to live with minimal square footage, or C. rich.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]




That Bowling Alone book is a bit dry, but I'd call it essential reading. I'd love to see a 2017 update.

I feel like this is the time to be investing hardcore in our social capital, and... I don't have the first clue how to do that.
posted by hishtafel at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2017


I work for a big tech company in one of those expensive cities (Seattle). Most of my coworkers moved here for their job. I can't really think of any who hate being in the city and wish they could be elsewhere. It probably happens, but I doubt it's as big a dynamic as you're making it out to be, Autumnheart.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2017


Social Capital

Look into Mutual Aid efforts
posted by The Whelk at 12:42 PM on December 17, 2017


It IS possible to win at the whole elite-job-in-a-big-city game but the only people I know who've done it have some really exceptional qualifications and are really, really lucky. Like, they work in a handful of high-paying fields (mostly finance or tech or services related to that) and went to an elite college and are super-intelligent and faced no major setbacks in young adulthood and were in the right places at the right times.

So I don't see the point in debating one particular case. The problem isn't that it never works; the problem is that the people that it doesn't work for are pretty much screwed (whether they've tried it or not) and it's not a viable path for the vast majority of people, and never will be, even if rents in San Francisco suddenly tumbled.

Also, people actually grew up and live and have friends and family and support networks in these areas that have recently become super expensive tech centers. Telling people to just move to a cheaper place is telling them "You don't get to live in the state where you grew up. Rich people get to live there now." Honestly, that's kind of a nasty thing to say.

As a native New Yorker, I would like to second this.

I can say from experience that no, you aren't. You're respectable middle-class and then one day, you aren't. The instant that happens it's as if a switch gets thrown and you're less than. As far as I can tell, there's no way back. Even if you become independently wealthy somehow, you'll never get back what you lost.

Yeah, uh, that's what I'm afraid of. I know it's probably gonna happen someday. And I'm not one of those people who won at the game, the game's not available to me (not in tech or finance; degree from a middling school). I've just been fairly lucky thus far.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:35 AM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


The Nation: Since Trump’s Victory, Democratic Socialists of America Has Become a Budding Political Force
Bhaskar Sunkara, the 28-year-old editor of Jacobin magazine, joined DSA in 2007. It was the summer between high school and college for him, and he had taken an internship at DSA in the same office that it’s located in now, on Maiden Lane in New York City’s financial district. One of the small office windows, he recalled, faced a brick wall. The organization felt “austere and bleak,” an aging remnant of old radical New York. Its activities consisted of going to events and protests that had already been planned by others, mostly just to be there symbolically, as socialists. DSA had two permanent staffers in the office, and Sunkara guessed that a lot of the members might have known Harrington personally. The whole thing was “pretty much unblemished,” he told me, “but also it was utterly irrelevant.” During his internship, Sunkara and another junior office worker wanted a watercooler in the office; instead, they had to bring their own mugs to fill in the bathroom.

At DSA meetings, Sunkara said, organizers used to ask: “Is anyone here under 60?” The question now is: “Is anyone here over 30?” Today, the median age of DSA’s membership is 33, down from 68 in 2013. Like the organization itself, all of the events I attended were social, chaotic, and hopeful. There were icebreakers, happy hours, and scraps of paper passed around to gather e-mail addresses. The age distribution is immediately apparent at gatherings, and it gives DSA meetings a funny dynamic, like a multigenerational family get-together in which the parents have left the room.

[...]

Like Melissa Naschek, many new members referred to their “radicalization” when I asked what led them to join DSA. It sometimes seemed an odd term to use for signing up as a dues-paying member in a diffuse organization with few requirements and no strict policy line. The term covered a lot of things about the lives and thinking of these new members, but the most common was a rejection of the Democratic Party. Often, that translated into diminished faith in party politics altogether; for many, the appeal of DSA is precisely that it isn’t a party. These days, there is far less interest in the soul of the Democratic Party than Harrington and his generation had; today’s new members see themselves as further left, and often favor militant ideas more than their predecessors did.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:29 AM on December 21 [2 favorites]


Our sworn enemy was a superpower that called itself "Socialist".

That's a big part of why older people find the word distasteful.


What does that imply for our up-coming war with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea?
posted by ambulocetus at 1:16 PM on December 22 [2 favorites]


ob1quixote: “You're respectable middle-class and then one day, you aren't.”
Cf. “The Digital Poorhouse,” Virginia Eubanks, Harper's, January 2018
posted by ob1quixote at 9:40 PM on December 29 [1 favorite]


One thing that rubs me the wrong way is the idea of homeownership as a magical wealth-building ticket to the middle-class. I think that framing is actually one of the things we have to undo as a society. When housing prices shoot upwards enough to qualify as an "investment" (like they have here), it's largely because the current crop of landowners (who bought low) have pulled up the ladder behind them to choke the supply of housing near where there are the most jobs. What we need is housing that is stable.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:11 PM on January 11


Housing should be treated as public utility like power and clean water.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


What we need is housing that is stable.

Yes --- and as you say it is entirely plausible that making owner-occupied housing the primary savings vehicle for most households is just a fucking terrible way to do that. Anyone whose primary income is wage labor already has massive economic exposure to the general level of economic activity in their geographic market. Encouraging people to live in their accumulated assets exposes their stocks (wealth) to that lack of diversification on top of the flows (income).

Housing should be treated as public utility like power and clean water.

You probably want something like council housing to put a limit to how shitty slumlords can be but typically if you regulate things that aren't natural monopolies as utilities it goes sideways one way or another.

(I mean if you want it as a transitional goal for abolishing privately held real property I can think of ones that are going to have better uptake, like aggressive seizures of/confiscatory levels of taxation on unused properties. Or just abolishing private ownership of real property, actually -- I dunno how unpopular that even is any more. If the goal is just that everyone have a roof over their head there's easier and simpler methods for that. And explaining the difference between a utility model and public provision is nontriv, so why go to the trouble if you don't have to.)
posted by PMdixon at 11:19 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


like aggressive seizures of/confiscatory levels of taxation on unused properties

I’ve long thought that places like New York, which has a housing crisis due to unoccupied housing and empty storefronts, should just say if your unit is empty for over a year you have to lower to the rent or it gets seized by the housing authority.

But I’m pro anything that limits landlords ability to function cause fuck them.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


My current preferred housing model is Vienna (2), but I'd settle for Berlin or Montreal as well. As with so many other areas of policy, what we have in large cities in the US is the worst of all possible worlds.

I do think there's another aspect of American housing that needs discussing, which is that racist city governments used "urban renewal" policies to essentially expunge Black neighborhoods from places like NYC and SF. You can understand why housing activists in, e.g., SF's Mission district are not in favor of redevelopment in their neighborhoods: they want to prevent that kind of massive top-down theft from minority communities from taking place in any form today.

I think one problem, though, is that the language and policy that was initially meant to defend vulnerable residents and their neighborhoods has been thoroughly co-opted by wealthy landowners whose real motivations are that 1. they don't want the cost of housing to drop (in addition to the obvious benefits of high housing costs for landlords, Prop 13 eliminated what little incentive there was to control property values), 2. they don't want it to be any harder to drive and find parking, and 3. despite living in a city they feel entitled to have as little contact with others as possible, especially the "wrong kind" of others (see e.g. the blatant hypocrisy of allegedly "progressive" Norman Yee and his wealthy constituents on building low-income housing in a one of the few affluent areas currently well-served by rapid transit).

Perhaps naively, I do think there is a way for both people squeezed by the housing crunch and people worried about the erasure of minority neighborhoods to get their needs met (see again Vienna). But ironically, because neighborhoods have been given so much veto power and are not likely to cede it any time soon, the city is not powerful enough to make that solution happen. So in the meantime we get, again, the worst of both worlds: housing becomes so rare and expensive that rich techies are the only younger people who can remotely afford housing (especially with decent transit access); new residents end up gentrifying poorer neighborhoods anyway because even a low six-figure income can't get you housing in the wealthier ones these days; rich neighborhoods get to hang on to their anachronistic quasi-suburban lifestyle despite the externalities for the rest of the city; money in the form of all these tech salaries gets essentially funneled from venture capitalists directly into the hands of already-rich landlords without ever benefiting the people who most need access to a lively local economy; etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:28 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I’ve long thought that places like New York, which has a housing crisis due to unoccupied housing and empty storefronts, should just say if your unit is empty for over a year you have to lower to the rent or it gets seized by the housing authority.

Well, and the theory of Georgist land tax schemes is that it gets you this aim but also charges for under-occupation in a more continuous manner. If you do it through some legal standard of occupied its going to be hard to do so in such a way that it's not easy to game.

Or just seize it all. I can be persuaded of the merits of either. Prices are useful when you have a market that's generating them, otherwise they're just a tool to work schemes with and upon. And it's not obvious to me that a meaningful market in land is possible, so not clear that losing the price signal matters in practice.
posted by PMdixon at 10:38 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]




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