The Talking Dog

May 12, 2011, Who says you can't go home again?

Evidently, not parents of college graduates, some 85% of whom move back in with Mom and Dad after graduating college, according to a recent survey.

I readily concede that, in the typical superficial American way, the Time piece gives us insufficient context, to wit, are we talking about a few months before graduate school or full-time employment?, what is the percentage of grads going home in a typical year?, and so forth. Still, the staggeringly high over 5 out of 6 number does jump out, and certainly provides strong anecdotal support for the obvious point that our economy just isn't creating the kinds of management and white collar and skilled (at least in the Bachelors degree sense) jobs that it once led the world in creating.

The broader point is that while key social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security are now under relentless bipartsian attack, this is a continued reflection of uniquely American short-term, and downright magical (not in "the good way") thinking: even ignoring the fact that it's fairly obvious that "growth" is pretty much done, quite likely forever, even in a treading-water economy, most of the opportunities for younger people will be created when older people get out of the job market, the attrition usually resulting from retirements (the other alternatives being death or dismemberment disability). By putting ever more pressure on older people to remain in the work force by threatening not merely the dignity of their dotages, but quite possibly their very survival via threatened cuts in pensions and health care, many more such people remain in the work force... it's a vicious cycle, and unfortunately, it starts from the ongoing magical thinking that (1) we can't increase taxes (mostly, but not just, on the rich), (2) we can't divert Defense spending into social programs, and (3) aren't we just the greatest country ever in every single way? (ignore the actual facts, please... they're not important).

Anyway, what is required is some sort of "systemic" approach, rather than the piecemeal, ad hoc, half-assed way Americans and their policy-makers do everything. Just as our health care system is based on insane individual choices to engage in poor personal habits (smoking, bad diets, lack of exercise) which maximizes the need for medical interventions, followed by demands for the most aggressive interventions available (after all, "someone else" is paying for them), so with job growth (or indeed, the very existence of jobs for our college grads... and everyone else), everything is interconnected-- interest rates, our foreign trade policy, our lack of a coherent national industrial or energy policy, and, of course, our Dickensian sui generis approach to social safety net issues and our neo-feudal worship sui generis approach to our super-rich people, particularly (and peculiarly) in the finance sector. It's all connected.

But, hey... pretend it isn't. Go on demanding the status quo: those college degrees will look really nice next to the White Snake poster, right behind that bowling trophy. Mom, what's for dinner... and will Daddy mind if I borrow the car to go to the mall?