Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Screaming at George W - or - A Fantasy About Real Family Values

If you’re not reading Alternet – and you really should be – you missed two interesting stories today. The first hit home to me as the mother of a just-turned 20 year old.

I was fascinated and worried by what I read in a review of the new book by Tamara Draut called “Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead.”

Reviewer Jodie Janella Horn writes:
In the five years since I graduated from college, the same argument has arisen again and again. I insist that it's much harder to make a living now versus when she was my age in the mid-'70s. My mom disagrees, and continues to wonder why I haven't taken her advice and purchased a home.

This ongoing fight with my mom had reached an all-time high recently because my husband and I have begun to panic about our future. Unless, somehow, we can genetically engineer offspring that needs neither food nor diapers, our hopes of being able to afford a child are not great. In addition to cash flow issues, my job does not provide paid maternity leave, and our insurance doesn't cover much, let alone pregnancy.
As a result of this stress, I have developed a recurring fantasy of taking President Bush, grabbing him by the hair and slamming his face on his desk repeatedly while screaming, "Family values? I'll show you family values. I'm moving to Canada so I can afford to have a family."
Draut lays it out like a pro without indulging the whininess that so often creeps into my voice when I try to convey my generation's situation to my mother. The problems for us youngsters are as follows: College is expensive and induces debt, paychecks aren't rising with the cost of living, rent and home prices are prohibitively high, starting a family is costly, and finally, We Are All In Debt (sing it to the tune of Weezer's "We Are All on Drugs" if it'll make you feel better).
Frankly, I’m scared to death about the debt my kid is going to face. So far, we haven’t had to take out loans for college. With tuition going up 20 percent or more each year, along with the sky-rocketing cost of everything else, his college fund is dwindling. I don’t know how he’s going to get through school without piling up huge debt, and debt = limited choice, which = limited life.

The real kicker is that the reviewer notes that “young people have lost faith in politics and government as a mechanism for enacting real change in our lives.” This echoes a conversation I had with my son last week and is a real concern. Living in an age of the Republican government “of the rich, by the rich and for the rich,” no one can afford to stand on the sidelines politically.

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