Solving the Economic Crisis, the Generation Y Way

Posted in: Iowa City Owl World News
“Employers Say Jobs Plan Won’t Lead to Hiring Spur,” declares the alarming headline of an article published by the New York Times earlier today. The article went on to explain: "… many employers dismissed the notion that any particular tax break or incentive would be persuasive. Instead, they said they tended to hire more workers or expand when the economy improved."

With a catch-22 of this magnitude, many are asking what hope remains for an economic recovery. If people won’t spend unless they are hired, and employers refuse to hire any people until demand is up, it seems the nation’s gears are grinding to a halt. The overwhelming debt our country has worked itself into is only contributing to a problem of a more global nature, while domestically individuals are drowning in credit card debt, student loans, and mortgages.

Any money which should be going into savings accounts is being scraped together just to make ends meet, while investments are plummeting with the shaky stock market, foreshadowing a dismal future for the working population. Retired members of society whose savings were lost to the housing market or investments are now hoping to get by on a dwindling social security fund — a fund which is supposed to be replenished by the younger generation, a generation struggling to find jobs which will guarantee a salary high enough to merely cover the cost of student loans and rent.

While many, especially those in Washington, will point the finger to one political party or the other, the truth is it no longer matters who is at fault. What matters is that politicians stop playing the blame game long enough to realize what hasn’t worked and figure out what will. With constituents demanding money to keep their homes and feed their families, it’s an easy task for Congress members to vote for benefits extensions and stimulus packages which promise to provide at least short-term fixes. When faced with a desperate and scared population, saying no is easier said than done if you intend to stay in office. But in this case, saying no may be the answer.

The most serious problem facing the economy is lack of private sector job creation. During the last Great Depression, America was pulled from its downward spiral by the need for war-time materials. Factories sprang up and started a ripple effect whereby people were getting hired, and in turn buying cars, houses, and products, increasing the demand for more variety and better innovation. Today, we may have a war (or several) to fight, but this is no longer creating jobs. The real job creation catalyst lies in the 18-30 year-old population, the social-networking, app-making, globalized citizens of the world who want to create.

They are tired of politicians’ empty promises and scandals. They witness their peers fighting and dying for the cause of freedom. They are connected to the rest of the world through online news and Facebook statuses. They’ve realized that something important lies in the instantaneous ability of a tweet to spread the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed, or that a natural disaster has struck. In a recent study conducted after an earthquake struck the East Coast, it was discovered that the Twitter posts about the earthquake occurring actually spread faster than the earthquake itself. They know Youtube can spread a message across oceans and borders, and they are ready to take on the challenge of fixing any problem with technology in one hand and a diploma in the other.

So why isn’t this working? Where are the jobs that should be sprouting up? This generation is unable to climb out of its mountain of debt and start pursuing dreams of entrepreneurship. The Bachelor’s degree has become the new high school diploma, while the cost of attending college has risen nearly 500% in the past thirty years. The average student leaves a four-year state college with $25,000 in debt, while those who choose to attend a private university are leaving with $35,000 on average. During times when a Bachelor’s degree could ensure college graduates a secure job making $40,000 or more starting, this debt was at least something that could be viewed as a wise return on investment. But in today’s economy, over 80% of college grads either return to graduate school or move back home.

Would it be reasonable to suggest that forgiving student loan debt would lead to a huge economic boost? Would it bring the younger generation’s small business dreams to life and create jobs? There is no guarantee that this solution would be foolproof, and many would cast this idea into a negative light, saying it would simply be releasing college-aged citizens from their responsibilities and helping them up out of the hole they dug for themselves.

But is it fair to bail out huge banks and corporations because of mistakes they made, while refusing to help the younger generation which made no mistake other than continuing its education? There are only so many scholarships, fellowships, and grants available. There are only so many part-time jobs. It is unreasonable to ask that each and every college student find a solution that provides them with “free” college or the opportunity to pay the entirety of their tuition by working 20 hours a week. Of course these things can help to offset the high costs of higher education, but they are by no means a solution. If the cost of education continues to go up while the availability of part-time jobs, scholarships, and assistance from parents with steady jobs decreases, college will be out of reach for most of the population. America will quickly fall behind the rest of the world.

While the middle-aged population would most likely use any additional or unexpected income to save for the future, the younger generation’s irresponsibility, recklessness, and willingness to take chances would actually serve as a benefit in this case. The extra three, five, or seven hundred dollars a month in student loan payments would not be hidden away in savings accounts by the average 23-year-old. He or she would spend it on electronics, travel, homes, cars, other products, or, best of all, creating a small business. This would boost the economy, create jobs, and hopefully pull our country out of this mess we’ve created.
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