When survival is touted as a job goal, self-sacrifice becomes a virtue. These people– A lawyer, a computer scientist, a military analyst, and a teacher–have something in common that fifteen years ago would’ve been unimaginable; they are trained professionals, most with advanced degrees, who cannot find a full-time job.
Since 2008, they have been tenuously employed –either working one-year contracts, taking consulting gigs on the side, or just hustling to survive. Almost all of them have spent thousands on undergraduate and graduate training to somehow avoid that hustle. They shunned thier dreams – journalism, art, entertainment – for safer bets, only to discover that the safest bet is that your job will be contingent and disposable.
Unemployed college graduates are now being told that their dilemma is their own fault. They should have chosen a more “practical” major, like science or engineering, and stayed away from the fickle and loathsome humanities. The reality is that, in the “jobless recovery”, nearly every sector of the economy has been devastated. Companies have turned permanent jobs into unforeseen event labor, and entry-level positions have been turning into unpaid internships for years.
And to further exacerbate the problem? Try changing your major thinking it will make a difference. It won’t, and a change in your major will not change a broken economy.
And as long as the American public allows the GOP to obstruct and distract the public—aided by the most unprofessional “news” media in fifty years—AND the weak-willed, unorganized Democrats, we the people lose. The public and social media fight harder to get the truth to Americans than the once- revered 4th Estate for pete’s sake.
People are Undervalued at an Alarming Rate
In the United States, nine percent of computer science majors are unemployed, and 14.7 percent of those who hold degrees in information systems have no job. Graduates with degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine – are facing record joblessness, with unemployment in those positions at more than twice the pre-recession levels. The job market for law degree holders continues to erode into a sinkhole, with only 55 percent of 2011 law graduates, nationwide, in full-time jobs. Even in the military, that behemoth of the national budget, positions are being purged or becoming contingent due to the sequester.
And it is not skills or majors that are being devalued. It is the people themselves that are no longer wanted.
Among the hardest hit are the most extensively educated. “You got a PhD – what did you expect?” they are told when they note that 76 percent of professors work without job security, usually for almost poverty-level wages.
Now, the academic job market has been terrible for decades. But until the Bush Crash of 2008, PhDs could have expected more. Since 2009, most disciplines have lost roughly 40 percent of their positions, while the backlog of qualified candidates continues to grow. Most PhDs work as adjunct faculty or in the new euphemistic sector of high-brow impoverishment: “non-stipendiary fellow”.
|Survival is not only a matter of money, it is a matter of mentality – of not mistaking bad luck for bad character, of not mistaking lost opportunities for opportunities that, unfortunately,were never really there.|
What to do When All Options Are Bad
Despite the awful employment conditions of higher education, young people continue to enroll in graduate school. Cynics roll their eyes in disbelief: Why would a young person spend years of hard work and garnering enormous debt loads earning a degree of questionable value? Why not “go get a job”? The typical 20-something laughs, having graduated into an economy where peers spend years vainly looking for a job only to find the aforementioned unpaid internships or low-wage contract labor, and most often while living at their parents’ homes. A funded graduate program, with health insurance, seems a no-brainer.
“But it is not just about your current earnings,” the cynic continues, “It is about the wages you lose while in the program.” Because when the 20-somethings become the 30-somethings and have spent their adult life in an economy of stagnant wages and eroding opportunities, they have to admit to the new 20-somethings what they already know: It’s hard to plan for that which is already gone.
In many ways, although each generational segment of the middle-class has been abused and ignored in their own particular way by the GOP, we all live in the tunnel at the end of the light.
None of the advice of the old economy applies under the assault that the GOP has waged on the economy, women, LGBT, the poor, and even Veterans. We are living in the post-GWB, 2008 Crash, GOP obstructionist economy. It hit its stride, and some say created by the GWB tax cuts, followed by two unfunded, unnecessary wars—depleting the Social Security Trust Fund, exacerbated by an unfunded Medicare Part D drug program– where corporations have made the decision to buy-back stock to keep their prices up because no one has money to spend on products. If you are in your 20 or 30s, odds are you will work without a raise, benefits, or job security. Survival is now a commendable goal.
Higher education is merely a symptom of a much broader socio-economic disease. As universities boast record endowments and spend millions on lavish infrastructure, administrators justify poor treatment of faculty by noting that said faculty: 1) “choose” to work for poverty wages, and 2) picked specializations that give them limited “market value” – ignoring, of course, that almost no one is valued in this market, except the 1% who are reaping its greatest profits.
Failure of Media Politics and Founding Teenagers
It is easy to criticize a broken system. It is harder to figure out how to live in it.
What must be made clear to the public is that this is not a crisis of anyone’s individual choices. It is a complete failure – within:
- Higher education
- Necessary business regulations to prevent fraud and deception (see 2008 Housing Crash0
- The Media which no longer views its role as keeping politicians honest
It is quite literally a crisis of managed expectations – expectations of what kind of job is “normal”, what living wage is “normal”, what kind of treatment is to be tolerated by women, minorities and veterans–and what level of sacrifice is “reasonable” for the middle-class and poor, but forbidden for the wealthy.
When survival is touted as an ambition, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A hero is a person who willingly does more than what is necessary for the common good even if it means they have to suffer some degree of loss…the very idea of which is an anathema to the GOP/TeaPublicans.
Harvey A. Gold