I’m Gen Y, and I’m Not a Special Snowflake. I’m Broke

by lizard

Because of their successful Baby Boomer parents, entitled Millennials grew up with unrealistic expectations of their own potential for success. That’s the gist of this article, titled Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy. In this incredibly condescending depiction of GYPSY’s (Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies) the sneer toward this up-and-coming generation stems from how these entitled youngsters consider themselves special. Not only that, they also have the audacity to want a level of personal fulfillment from their careers. Crazy kids.

Adam Weinstein has a response to this article, and it’s this: Fuck you. I’m Gen Y, and I’m Not a Special Snowflake. I’m Broke.

A bunch of you people on Facebook and Twitter keep sharing a Huff Po stick-figure thing about how Gen Y is unhappy because they’re unrealistic delusional ingrates.

If you wrote that, or you liked that, carefully consider these thoughts:

1) These are weirdly contrived generational categories, too weird for such black-and-white reasoning. I’ve always thought myself more tail-end-of-Gen-X in temperament, age, and outlook. But ’77-’79 is a sociologically ambiguous no-man’s land, and we typically get lumped in with the millennials, especially when it comes to money matters.

2) Go f**k yourselves.

You have no idea about student debt, underemployment, life-long renting. “Stop feeling special” is some shitty advice. I don’t feel special or entitled, just poor. The only thing that makes me special is I have more ballooning debt than you. I’ve tempered the hell out of my expectations of work, and I’ve exceeded those expectations crazily to have one interesting, exciting damned career that’s culminated in some leadership roles for national publications. And I’m still poor and in debt and worked beyond the point where it can be managed with my health and my desire to actually see the son I’m helping to raise.

Younger journos see me as a success story and ask my advice, and I feel like a fraud, because I’m doing what I love, and it makes me completely miserable and exhausts me.

Last weekend my baby had a fever, and we contemplated taking him to the ER, and my first thought was – had to be – “Oh God, that could wipe out our bank account! Maybe he can just ride it out?” Our status in this Big Financial Game had sucked my basic humanity towards my child away for a minute. If I wish for something better, is that me simply being entitled and delusional?

There *are* delusions at play here, but they are not our generation’s. They play out as two contradictory lectures that we are told, simultaneously, by our monied elders:

1) This is AMERICA. Everybody does better than their parents!

2) This is AMERICA. Suck it up and quit bitching that you’re not as well-off as your parents!

The latter maxim lurks in the heart of every critique of millennials. It assumes that if we’re worse off than previous generations, the fault is ours, and our complaints are so much white whine. We should shut up and be content, because we do work less than our forebears, and spend more time enraptured by our own navels, trying to divine some life-affirming creative direction in them.

But there’s nothing for us to suck up, really. As a rule, our parents did end up much more dedicated to their careers than we have. But as a rule, they were laid off less. They didn’t intern or work as independent contractors. They got full medical. They were occasionally permitted to adopt magical unicorn-like money-granting creatures called “pensions.” Or, barring that, they accumulated a huger 401K to cash out before the Great Recession, because they saved more. And they saved more because the costs of college, of kid care, of health care, of doing business and staying alive and buying groceries and staying connected, were far less than they are today. They could raise a family on one salary if necessary.

Economic summits where folks grovel at the feet of corporate executives are fun and all, but largely useless. Here is one question every speaker in Butte should have been asked: Why don’t wages follow the upward trends of productivity?

FEDERAL income tax rates will rise for the wealthiest Americans, and certain tax loopholes might get closed this year. But these developments, and whatever else happens in Washington in the coming debt-ceiling debate, are unlikely to do much to alter one major factor contributing to income inequality: stagnant wages. For millions of workers, wages have flatlined. Take Caterpillar, long a symbol of American industry: while it reported record profits last year, it insisted on a six-year wage freeze for many of its blue-collar workers.

Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent. Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a steep slide.

“We went almost a century where the labor share was pretty stable and we shared prosperity,” says Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. “What we’re seeing now is very disquieting.” For the great bulk of workers, labor’s shrinking share is even worse than the statistics show, when one considers that a sizable — and growing — chunk of overall wages goes to the top 1 percent: senior corporate executives, Wall Street professionals, Hollywood stars, pop singers and professional athletes. The share of wages going to the top 1 percent climbed to 12.9 percent in 2010, from 7.3 percent in 1979.

With that in mind, I’ll let Adam have the final say:

This state of affairs does not exist because we’re entitled and have simply declined to work as hard as the people that birthed us. American workers have changed from generation to generation: Since 1979, the alleged Dawn of the Millennial, the average U.S. worker has endured a 75 percent increase in productivity…while real wages stayed flat.

Those changes are blips on a timeline compared to the massive, psyche-altering vicissitudes of American Industry, its self-Taylorization to the point where profit-making and shareholder value have been maximized in ways that Morgans and Carnegies and Vanderbilts couldn’t even have conceived — in ways that have stiffed workers and the families they can no longer afford. Since ’79, the top 1 percent of earners in America has seen their income quadruple.

So take your “revise your expectations! check your ego!” Horatio Alger bullshit, and stuff it. While you’re at it, stuff this economy. Not this GDP, not this unemployment level: this economy, this financial system that establishes complete social and political control over us, that conditions us to believe that we don’t deserve basic shelter and clothing and food and education and existence-sustaining medical care unless we throw our lives into vassalage and hope, pray, that the lords don’t fuck with our retirements or our coverages. (Maybe if we’re extra productive, someday they’ll do a 4o1K match again, like our ancestors used to talk about!)

Take the system that siphons off our capacities for human flourishing in hopes that we get thrown a little coin of the realm in return. Take that system and blow it up, you cowards.

Oh, and also, stop thinking that you’re special.


  1. He’s right: Baby-boomers are entitled to their entitlements, which future generations will have to pay for. Millenials are just entitled to a long hard slog of it.

    You’ve got two generations propping up the fat and bloated Baby-boomers: the generation that spawned them and the one that’s got to make sure they die in style.




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