Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Those Whiny, Lazy, Greedy Millennials

Megan McArdle has a special disdain for millennials, roughly those born between 1980 and 2000. As she (kind of) said earlier, they were hit hard by the financial industry's economic destruction. They are losers, which is nearly as bad as being lice and scum. They drag down the animal spirits with their whining about no jobs and rising rents and living underground like hobbits, only without the comfort. They're lazy and greedy and slutty. It's their own fault that they have trouble working and saving.

Back in September, McArdle told the millennials to "get over it." They thought they had it bad? What about her? McArdle went on to relate in detail the anguish she experienced in her youth while trying to nab a lucrative job. It didn't work out and she could never regain the lost opportunities and money but eh, so what? Others had it worse!

In other words, while it’s true that there are fewer guarantees than there used to be, it’s not true that everyone in the good old days had an easy path to lifetime employment. Those people were always a lucky minority. They still are, if a somewhat smaller one. Most people in the generations before the millennials had to struggle. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to make it. They, too, were woken up in the wee small hours by their own economic terror. The reason your parents’ lives look so carefree to you? Well, in part because Mommy doesn’t usually tell little Timmy that she’s having night terrors over how to get him outfitted for school if the old minivan finally gives up the ghost. But mostly because all this was taking place when you were 6 years old. And everything adults do looks easy when you’re 6.

So suck it up, whiners, and leave the nice corporate persons alone to enjoy all their wealth. And remember, if you can't find a job it's your fault.

Megan McArdle's Tips On Finding Jobs:

1. Take any job you can get.
2. Take any job you can get no matter how crappy.
3. Enjoy your dependence because you are bound to succeed soon, just like her.
4. Enjoy rejection because if you ask people for a job they might give you one.
5. Get a hobby.
6. Tell yourself and your friends that you're broke so you won't overspend while socializing.
7. Pay your student loans.
8. "Let go of your ideas about what you’re entitled to."
9.  Broaden your job search.
10. Volunteer.
11. Embrace fear of being unable to support yourself, for it will lead to savings.
12. Everything is going to be okay. Really. It is for Megan McArdle.

As we can plainly see, almost all of the entries on the list are not actual job advice, but instead are hints on how to enjoy your poverty. Her advice boils down to taking any shitty job around and begging people at cocktail parties to give you a better one.

She also leaves out one of the most important steps:

13. Hook up with the Koches' Institute For Humane Studies Journalism program and spend the rest of your career dining at the all-you-can-eat billionaire  wingnut buffet of jobs, speaking gigs, book deals, and seminars.

It's no wonder that McArdle is telling millennials that everything is their own fault, that they are broke because they bought large houses (or none at all) and had babies outside of wedlock (or sponged birth control pills off the government) or didn't look hard enough for jobs.

Of course, when McArdle was underemployed and broke it was not because of anything she did. It was simply her bad luck to be job hunting during bad times. Unlike the millennials, she was not lazy or spoiled.

About six years ago, commentators started noticing a strange pattern of behavior among the young millennials who were pouring out of college. Eventually, the writer Ron Alsop would dub them the Trophy Kids. Despite the sound of it, this has nothing to do with “trophy wives.” Rather, it has to do with the way these kids were raised. This new generation was brought up to believe that there should be no winners and no losers, no scrubs or MVPs. Everyone, no matter how ineptly they perform, gets a trophy.

As these kids have moved into the workforce, managers complain that new graduates expect the workplace to replicate the cosy, well-structured environment of school. They demand concrete, well-described tasks and constant feedback, as if they were still trying to figure out what was going to be on the exam. “It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their egos,” one employer told Bruce Tulgan, the author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. “They walk in thinking they know more than they know.”

When I started asking around about this phenomenon, I was a bit skeptical. After all, us old geezers have been grousing about those young whippersnappers for centuries. But whenever I brought the subject up, I got a torrent of complaints, including from people who  have been managing new hires for decades. They were able to compare them with previous classes, not just with some mental image of how great we all were at their age. And they insisted that something really has changed—something that’s not limited to the super-coddled children of the elite.

“I’ll hire someone who’s twenty-seven, and he’s fine,” says Todd, who manages a car rental operation in the Midwest. “But if I hire someone who’s twenty-three or twenty-four, they need everything spelled out for them, they want me to hover over their shoulder. It’s like somewhere in those three or four years, someone flipped a switch.” They are probably harder working and more conscientious than my generation.  But many seem intensely uncomfortable with the comparatively unstructured world of work.  No wonder so many elite students go into finance and consulting—jobs that surround them with other elite grads, with well-structured reviews and advancement.

Today’s new graduates may be better credentialed than previous generations, and are often very hardworking, but only when given very explicit direction. And they seem to demand constant praise. Is it any wonder, with so many adults hovering so closely over every aspect of their lives? Frantic parents of a certain socioeconomic level now give their kids the kind of intensive early grooming that used to be reserved for princelings or little Dalai Lamas.

I don't know about you but thanks to all these articles about the crappy millennials I'm starting to think they deserve everything they get--or don't get. Not everyone agrees, however. Kristin Iverson at The L Magazine notes Why Anyone Who Suggests Millennials Suck It Up and Move Back In with Their Parents Is an Asshole:

Doesn't that sound nice. I mean, sure it might be embarrassing to move back in with your parents, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, millennials. Stop your whining. 
Except, of course, this is totally bullshit advice. What I hate most about this advice is that it's pretending to be coming down hard on overly privileged millennials and yet it is itself coming from a place of unbelievable privilege. Telling millennials to move back home with their folks is shitty advice because it presupposes that this is even an option at all. Not everyone has a parental home that they are able to go back to, for reasons that range from financial to emotional. Some people have bad relationships with their families. Some people have parents who wouldn't have an extra room for them. And, newsflash, Megan McArdle, some people don't have parents at all. But let's say you do have parents who can let you move back in? Well, not everyone's parents live in New York City where, tough as it is, there's at least a viable job market. What if your parents live in a rural area where you wouldn't be able to find a job where you could earn enough money to hope to re-enter the work force? What then?  
I think the thing about these "Advice to Millennials" articles that drives me absolutely insane is that they all operate under the assumption that things will be ok. Maybe you will have to settle for less, maybe you'll have to spend some awkward time in your parents' basement, but things will be ok. Well, things aren't ok for a lot of people. Things aren't ok for people who have tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debts with no hopes of paying them and paying rent and no one to turn to for help. This is part of the problem of only having privileged people like McArdle in a position where their voices and experiences are the only ones that are heard. McArdle can't speak for the majority of young people in this country, and yet she tries to give advice to a segment of the population that she can't relate to at all. So she dismisses them as whiners.

 But if you do get a job and find out that your paycheck doesn't stretch as far as you parents' did, well, that is your fault as well. Sing it, Sister Megan!:
[W]hat we have is people spending more than they have to on the big basics. The average car loan, for example, is more than $25,000, and for people with the worst credit ratings, it’s actually higher: almost $30,000. This is not because you have to spend $27,000 to get yourself from Point A to Point B. It’s because people are pouring a big fraction of their income into driving something “nice.”  
By the same token, raising your kids in a modestly sized home is not physically impossible. But we’ve come to regard as deep deprivation anything less than one bathroom and one bedroom per person. Cash-strapped people mention giving up vacations as if doing so were as great a sacrifice as giving up food or heat.  
And don’t think that this is all driven by inequality. The Bankrate survey shows lots of high-income folks living paycheck to paycheck. If you look at the expenditure data, you’ll see that although people in the bottom two quintiles are spending more on housing and food, that's not enough to explain the overall trend. Americans are spending more on this stuff because we want to, not because we’re being driven to it.  
So why do we want to? Some of it is competition for homes in top school districts. Yet that’s largely a regional phenomenon in coastal urban areas; it also can’t explain why we’re spending so much on cars and restaurants.  So what does?  
I’d argue that a lot of it is a consumption cascade. People think a certain level of consumption is normal for their income level, so they spend that money whether their income will support it or not. When a gap opens up, they cover it by cutting back on spending.
Naturally Princess Megan has more advice for the peasants millennials on how to refrain from wasting money, since gross economic inequality is not affecting anyone.

Princess Megan's Advice For The Poor:

1. Stop thinking you'll ever live as well as your parents.
2. Stop thinking you'll ever live as well as your friends.
3. Stop thinking you'll ever live as well as people on tv.
4. Stop thinking you'll ever live as well as people on HGTV in particular.
5. Stop thinking you'll ever live as well as people in nice neighborhoods.

Princess Megan's heart bled for the rich but the millennials will just have to suck it up and quit whining. It's ruining being rich for the rest of them.


mcfrank said...

I missed you Susan.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Me, too!

Susan of Texas said...

Aww, thanks. I just can't quit no matter how many times I try.

Downpuppy said...

She's basically saying inequality doesn't matter because averages.

What's the term for so stupid it's not even wrong?

Ah, yes - "Megan".

VCarlson said...

A local evangelical megachurch has been running ads lately, wherein their public face (smiling, cleancut thirty-something) chastises the audience for not saving any money, totally ignoring the fact that it's really difficult to save money if your (necessary) expenses are greater than your income, no matter how hard you work, because non-rich income has flattened or dropped over the past 30 years or so.

Anonymous said...

You know, the sad thing about McMeghan's rant is that it was the same rant I heard about people in my cohort , who graduated into Reagan's recession back in 1984. We, the ass end of the baby boom, were spoiled, coddled, and should just suck it up, and take our $3.35 minimum wage jobs and get on with it. These kids are going to end up the way that we did, behind the eight ball, making less over a life time than the older boomers and wishing all kinds of mayhem on Ms. Peruvian Salt.

Susan of Texas said...

And at the same time we saw all sorts of services cut--including my SS and VA as a military orphan--to pay for tax cuts to the rich, literally.

I live near a very very large megachurch. The pastor couple that run it arrive in a motorcade of luxury vehicles. They spend Christmas skiing and hand out videotapes of a Christmas Service. And they tell their followers that God loves them and will make them successful and happy.

Hey, it worked for them. Like McArdle the pastor inherited his advantages, including the established church, from his father.

Anonymous said...

I told my nephew and his wife, working hard and just getting by with their two little kids and less than optimal jobs, the secret to my financial success. The smartest thing I did was to be born in 1950.


mew said...

"Of course, when McArdle was underemployed and broke[...]"

And of course she was never really broke.