The American Dream may be fucked

The more I consider it, the more it seems that the American Dream is completely fucked. I have a hard time understanding how we’ll continue to exist in 50 years. Here are some reasons.

Ultimately, it stems from the college tuition problem. In the 1960s, Americans got the idea that in order to have a successful life, you needed a college education. Apparently here, success is defined by how much property you own and how much money you have, rather orthogonal to the Jimmy Stewart view. This has been reflected by a lot of companies refusing to even consider job application candidates without a college degree.

So naturally, people decide to go to college. However, tuition rates have skyrocketed, especially over the last decade or so. It’s not unheard of for someone to be $160k in debt by the time they are 22. Of course, while this basically makes them indentured servants, it’s ultimately ok because their degree effectively guarantees them a job once they graduate, right? *Joker laugh*

Introduce the real estate bubble crash of 2008. Tradition shows us that the economy is usually spearheaded by the construction industry, which kind of makes sense. Building and repairing places for business, and building and repairing the homes for the folks who work in those businesses, among other things. So the real estate bubble crashes in a sort of physical manifestation of what we’re seeing with Bitcoin right now, and suddenly the job market goes away too. Wait a second, what happens to all those kids who just graduated?

They are fucked. The ones who are able to get a job cling to it and work hours that are sometimes harmful to their health, always in fear of losing it. Any spare income they might have had goes off the to student loan companies. Of course, they probably don’t have enough spare money to do anything besides work and sleep, but thank god for credit cards. Introduce yet another mountain of debt. A lucky few make it– especially tech workers in the Bay Area during the current boom– but the vast majority fail. “Fail”– that’s the word we use to describe when someone did not live up to the artificial standards society set for them.

So what happens? Some who are young enough move back in with their parents. Some who aren’t young enough still do. There’s a slew of others who wind up moving into homeless shelters and wherever else they can sleep. This has a few ripple effects. The ones in homeless shelters and such will not be able to get jobs, partly because they probably don’t have access to showers/etc, and partly because you generally need a place of residence to apply for a job. The ones who moved back in with their parents… this has an interesting social effect. That 22-23 year old who in 1950 might have gotten married and started a family, winds up being a boomerang. Which means in turn, fewer families are started.

I’ll be very interested to see what happens over the coming decade. Among other reasons this is important: if we have a declining work force and birth rate while the baby boomers reach retirement age, Social Security may wind up being a nightmare. Another thing to consider: now that we have coupled the notion of “college education” with “good paying job”, a lot of people begin to think that you should only get a degree that you can “use”, mainly in the applied sciences. This is coming from a culture that at the same time has eschewed the trade (plumbers, electricians, etc) as second-rate citizens. An interesting phenomenon that arises: the culture begins to also feel that traditionally important studies– the classics, philosophy, literature, etc– are also joined into that “useless” category. Which means more and more people do not learn how to “think”, which means in turn that we breed out a smaller workforce of idiots and robots.

Just some things to consider. There are ways we might be able to turn this around, but I’m not super optimistic.

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