Thursday, June 7, 2012

America....The Land of Lowered Expectations

( A Vogue cover from 1981, www. )

     I remember that when I was in high school, things were very different than they are now.  Many of my classmates, even from an upper middle class suburban high school, went right into jobs with insurance companies,  drug manufacturers, or other large companies, following high school graduation.  Sometimes, they had a parent or an uncle who worked at their new employer, but often they didn't.  It was possible for a fresh faced person who wanted to start at the bottom to get a job with real potential for growth. Many of these people started in these types of jobs while I was in college.  By the time I completed college, many of them had made use of the training opportunities they had while working for American companies.  One was a junior level lab worker for a drug company. (I think it might have been Sandoz)   One worked for M&M Mars, and there were others who in a sense, did an apprenticeship for a company who trained them as they wished.  By the time I got out of college, they were all married, and most of them had bought a small house, and most had tiny children.  Many of them eventually went to college part time, the expenses paid wholly by their employers.  College slowed me a bit.  When I graduated, I had so many offers for jobs that I was unclear as to which path to take, so I accepted two.  I declined one just before starting. It seems unethical now, but was commonly done at the time.  There was a recession when I started life as a full time working tax paying person, and it was frustrating because it fuelled high interest rates, especially for buying starter homes.  Somehow sellers and buyers adjusted by locating owner financed properties, or by adjusting prices downwards in order to acomodate buyers whose payments would already be high with what was then, a 14 1/2%  housing interest rate.  Still, most of those who wanted to, entered the housing market if they wished to.  Our first two children, of the five, were born when I was 24 and 25, so to my way of thinking, they were not born eons ago.  Now, the eldest two have completed college and are in the life stage I was then.  It's hard to be supportive and understanding when the world is so different.
          Now, not a single one of my kid's friends have been able to consider high school as an educational completion point. There simply are no good jobs that any of them have located, which could support them, or in the future, support a family.  Even the lower end jobs are seeking someone with an Associate's degree, or even a Bachelor's.  These may not be good jobs and often they have low pay, and not a lot of potential.  Jobs in the trades are hard to come by here.  The public technical college, in a city far away has a waiting list of years and is very particular.  Training slots as electricians and plumbers seem to be going to the sons of people who already do that.  The community colleges, which are a good educational value in our state, but not always in others, have entrance exams, and are crowded with people who would normally have attended a state university in a better economy.  Fast food jobs are about the only jobs available here for young people, and even then, in some places, there is fierce competition.   Our kids all went to college, one by one.  Some years we had two in universities and that was difficult.  We survived by being frugal and helping them as we could. They worked when possible, and took some student loans when it was necessary. We are fortunate that they owe less than many of their friends.  In sharp contrast to my own graduation, there weren't jobs to meet them upon graduation.  The job offers our daughter had  were offered six months prior to graduation, and were no longer there upon her graduation with honors.  Our son who graduated a year later found absolutely no jobs, for him, or for any of his classmates.  They graduated to find that if they did not have a job prior to graduation, like Subway, the movie theatre, Barnes and Noble part time, or at the gymn, then they would not have one afterward.   This has made paying student loans for this generation, difficult to say the least.   These loans are no longer $35 to $112. as many of them were when I was in college, but are $500. to $800. monthly.  My kids friends have become expert in quoting terms and procedures for things like "forbearance" , something no one in my generation knew anything at all about.

It doesn't look like progress to me.   (Graphic:


           My kids and their friends in large part, don't expect to buy homes, prosper in their twenties, or to have children.  Most of them, even with college complete, expect a life of simple survival or of endurance.  How could we have fallen so very far in terms of an anticipated standard of living in just twenty years ?


Matt said...

You said, "I declined one just before starting. It seems unethical now, but was commonly done at the time."

While I certainly appreciate and respect your ethical standards, my view on this is that a company may (especially back then in a right to work state) terminate your employment without reason at any time. That shoe fits both ways.

Even now if they spend money on drug testing and background checks and all that, I don't feel any obligation to start if a better offer comes my way at the last minute. The employers expect to lose money and people in these hiring affairs anyway. At the company we worked, it was the cost of doing legitimate business. A numbers game.

You did nothing wrong.


As far as the rest, much of this started under Clinton and very much supported by conservatives like Rush Limbaugh with the coming of NAFTA. It continued under Bush 43. I think a lot of it was done to get away from Unions, but many places in the south were badly affected. Of course there is some corporate greed involved as well.

Once we allowed our manufacturing jobs to go, the writing was on the wall.

JaneofVirginia said...

In the early 1980s, nurses were still largely ethical creatures focused on the hospital believing that they would indeed have the number of nurses they had hired to take care of their patients. Most nurses, at the time, would not accept two jobs, and then just before, choose which one to take. Also, at the time, there was no drug testing. The chest x-rays, tuberculin testing, blood testing, and extensive physicals did not start until the day you turned up for work, and then, an exhaustive orientation occurred for weeks focused on that particular hospital. Since then, registered nurses have become decidedly more mercenary, changing jobs frequently to maximize both position and salary. I am not saying it's wrong, just that it is, what it is.

Gorges Smythe said...

The irony is that many of the JOBS don't require college degrees, but the EMPLOYERS do!

JaneofVirginia said...

This is also a good point. My daughter has a very good job now which focuses on her computer,analysis, organizational and managing meetings skills. The job normally goes to those with degrees in computer science. She graduated from a university with a degree in illustration, graphic design and photography. (She also had high grades in physics) Her employer was wise enough to understand that her skill with computers, spreadsheets, project organization, etc. would prepare her well for clients and for day to day challenges, and she has done very well there. Employers are less likely to take a chance or to train people, even when they should.