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The Lost Boys

 

lost boys

Is soccer mom or Washington to blame for a lost generation?

The stock market roared approval of the fed decision to reduce fiscal stimulus from a whopping 85 Billion per month to a still whopping 75 billion per month.  Wall Street loves low interest rates and borrowing money for free so they can play the casinos known as the stock market.  As I read the reports I was baffled how every single bobble head on T.V just nodded in agreement and reported the news like it was a great thing.  Not one single person who is supposedly an expert even asked the question:  If the economy is doing so great and if everything is so hunky dory, why do we need an addition 900 billion next year in stimulus money in 2014?

As a person who grew up in the 1980’s I couldn’t help but think of the iconic movie ” The Lost Boys” as I think back across the last decade or so . The last 10 years has seen a whole generation come and go with relatively no impact on our capital formation or economy.  Sure, there is the occasional Face Book founder Mark Zuckerberg who was able to go from rags to riches but across America we have a whole generation that appears to be…lost.  In previous decades there was always an up and coming generation ready to go forth and put their stamp on the American legacy.  From the Greasers of the 1950’s to the Mullets and parachute pants of the  1980’s , each generation went out and formed things like Computing, the Internet, The Cell phone, Investment banking, Energy companies and sneaker companies. Today however?

The next generation is straddled with school debt and a job at Starbucks while they wait for their degree in “English Poetry” to eventually lead to a job that will pay off their $150,000 school loan.  I guess the convenient part about working at starbucks is the free WiFi so they can update their face book status to “employed part time”.  How did we get to this point? Here are a few theories that will surely irk some but are worth exploring

Soccer Moms

This may bristle some people the wrong way but is it possible the Soccer mom/dad who shuttled the neighborhood kids in her van has a role in this? I am not blaming the failure of a generation on Soccer or the minivan but rather wondering if the mentality that only non physical sports like soccer should be played. The  notion that everybody “wins” may be coming home to roost as a result.  As a child coming of age in the 70’s and 80’s I played every sport with one intention: WIN!

I was one of those people who had to win or else I would go and practice whatever it was over and over until I could win.  It didn’t matter if it was Basketball, Football or even Gin Rummy or chess, I had to win and would practice and study until I could beat my friends. Some where along the line this notion changed and suddenly scores were no longer being kept because “everybody is a winner”.  Even in my son’s basketball league at the YMCA they would turn off the clock and not show the score of the game once a team was ahead by 20 points or more.  Last place teams were given trophies for just participating and they were the same size as the league champions.  In school, each child receives an academic award of achievement  of some kind, even if the kid was going to be left back.  Everyone must receive something so as to not feel left out.  Angry outbursts in school no longer led to a but whooping at home but instead a trip to the couch to discuss emotions with a therapist.   Playing outside was replaced with playing inside.  Sure, my generation had Sesame Street, The Magic Garden and Popeye but by a certain time, all children’s shows ended and it was time to go outside and play and drink from a garden hose when we were thirsty.  This lost generation on the other hand was raised with the Cartoon network and Disney channel.  24-7 they could watch T.V. and for many parents it became a form of babysitting.  The garden hose was replaced by purified water and interaction with friends often comes on line.  The result in my opinion is a generation ill equipped to handle adversity.  In the real world there are Winners and Losers.  When you apply for a job, not everybody wins and they don’t give you a trophy just for applying for the job.  When you are in a job, they don’t give promotions based on a fair and equitable system.  They give it to the guy or gal who works harder, faster and more efficiently.   When you have an “angry outburst” at work, your arse is shown to the door not to the couch of a therapist.  It very well may be that a decade of coddling has left a generation ill equipped to work in the traditional sense.

Washington

For the last 20 plus years, Washington has become the father figure for a lost generation.  Whether its single moms or students who have straddled themselves with debt the size of a mortgage.  A whole generation has been raised on the belief that Washington will take care of them and their problems and why wouldn’t they?  They watched how the government bailed out failing and corrupt brokerage firms and banks as well as car manufacturers.  The message sent to a whole generation was that failure was ok;  Government will take care of you.  In the 70’s and 80’s it was still somewhat of a stigma to be a single mom, unemployed or on welfare.  We have removed that stigma to the point that some have figured out how to profit from being a baby factory.  We have a generation that didn’t watch mom sign the back of welfare stamps but instead, proudly swiped a Red, White and Blue credit card look alike.  Being poor no longer is motivation to be better and get out of poverty.  Indeed, it can be argued that Washington has gone to great lengths to make living in poverty as easy as possible.

Unemployment was once seen as the unthinkable while now it’s an opportunity.  Years ago I was in between jobs and someone asked me “why don’t you go get unemployment”? My response was “Are you Friggin nuts”? There was no way I was standing in line and asking the government to give me money while I figure out my future.  Today, we make it as easy as possible so as to not frighten unemployment benefit seekers. We even change the names of these programs to avoid hurting their fragile psyche.  The Government has become the cradle of all that is good and righteous and at every opportunity they ask a whole generation to nurse off them.  The recent Obama care act was just another example of this breast feeding.  The law required Insurers to allow “Children” to be on their parent’s insurance policy until age 26.  I’m not sure what would be more embarrassing to me when I was 26; accepting unemployment or being on my parents insurance policy.  Once again, this lost generation is being told to stay in the back of mom’s mini van and just let the government and parents take care of them.  When I was 26 I had already left my home state of NY with my wife and was saving furiously with her for the deposit for our first home.  I wanted a family and home asap, yet today we are telling 26 year old men to live at home and suck off your parents plan?  What ever happened to becoming a man.  That’s the right of passage that occurs in most men’s life when you end up working two jobs and burn the candle at both ends and live a minimal life so some day you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.  That’s when you decide not to go to a ball game or go out for drinks with your buddies because you are bucking for the promotion at work that will give you enough salary to be approved for that new home you and your wife want. I spent nearly every Saturday morning working overtime at a brokerage firm from 8 :00 am to 1:00 pm while my other co-workers were able to sleep in from a night of Friday night partying.  I wanted my loan, my house and my family. Meanwhile right now, we have a generation that is waiting for a promotion and a loan because “everybody wins”.

Experience

Due to coddling parents and an even more coddling Government, we have a generation of college grads that has been sitting on the sidelines for nearly a decade now.  Has it ever occurred to Washington when they continue to kick the financial can down the road that the next generation may not be equipped to fill the void? A whole generation has been working outside their degree/field and instead are sleeping in their parents house and getting insurance from them, however, as this group approaches age 30 what skills do they have? What job experience do they possess in their field?  By the time I was approaching 30 I was the Supervisor of Compliance Examiners of a NYSE firm and was entertaining offers from a Large National bank (once known as Wachovia) and a regional brokerage house.In my interviews, my experience consisted of working on Wall Street as a cold caller, insurance sales, Margin clerk specializing in manually calculating options requirements (thank you George Loveles!), compliance examiner for a Bond house and Supervisor of Compliance Examiners for a NYSE firm( Thank you Joyce Wagner!).  I had nearly 50 on site examinations under my belt and had responded and investigated nearly a hundred customer complaints.  In other words, I had street credentials.  These lower paying jobs were the resume builders necessary to get to the higher paying jobs and I can happily say it worked.  All the sacrifice and work in the early to mid 20’s paid off when I was turning 30.  In today’s economy however we have men approaching 30 who have been floating in and out of part time employment while not even utilizing their field of expertise. Instead of approaching 30 and making the big money, we have entry level workers who cannot possibly generate enough tax revenue to cover the financial can that has been kicked down the road.  It’s nothing short of scary in my opinion.  We have created a generation that literally has nothing to offer except for student debt and even that may be amnestied by Washington in order to avoid any sort of financial pain on the Lost boys. I am convinced that  Operation Wall Street was nothing more then a bunch of Lost Boys crying and acting out and hoping mommy and daddy will pick them up, give them a trophy for trying and put them in the back of the mini van with a sippy cup and a nap.

 

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Date
December 19th, 2013

Author
jbusacca

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