These Graphs Keep Coming and What. Are. We. Doing?

Millenial Pity Party Incoming

I think the most distressing aspect of all the reading I have been doing over the past decade in economics is the fact that this information seems pretty obvious to everyone.

You don’t have to read a book by Thomas Piketty to understand the changing social landscape.

As a millenial, I can say with some confidence that we are living it.

Whether I have been reading The Meritocracy Trap, where the amount of money spent between rich and poor families on education, or even going so far as to read some Marxist ideology from the likes of David Harvey, the news that seems to take center stage is about inequality.

The middle class evaporated, is what it feels like.

And as an academically oriented laborer, I feel this stifling glass ceiling. I may be stuck teaching K-12 forever.

After the economic recession in 2008, college got more expensive, yet part time instructors ballooned, and then strangely the whole thing shrunk.

According to the Federal Data, it may seem like that’s not the case:

Yet the description into the Higher Ed piece reveals a deadly truth.

A second area of concern for faculty advocates is that as the overall higher education workforce is staying relatively level in number — it has risen (barely) to 3,983,860 in 2018 from 3,981,632 in 2015 — the faculty as a whole is shrinking. The 1,472,331 instructors in 2015 dipped to 1,454,136 in 2018, a decline of 1.2 percent. And the faculty share of the entire college and university workforce fell from 37 percent in 2015 to 36.5 percent in 2018.

The areas of the higher ed employee base that have grown the most over that period? Student affairs (6.4 percent) and business operations (7.1 percent), and a broad catch-all category that includes “community, social service, legal, arts, design, entertainment, sports and media occupations” (6.6 percent).

In K-12 education, administration has run rampant, especially in charter schools where I have seen it first hand. In the five years I worked at one, we hired new administrative positions in the form of a testing coordinator, an activities coordinator, while at the same time dropping our GT and ESL coordinator positions.

It seems that everyone wants to manage, and no one wants to teach.

One can hardly imagine that in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, where the transmission rate is so high, the immunity scale is so low, and the top-down leadership is missing entirely, that this environment is going to get any better.

Figure 3. Percentage of respondents reporting COVID-19-related job or income loss, by age

An already stagnant system in real time wages combined with the amount of job loss among younger people means that it is going to take a long time to recover, if ever.

Reading Capital and Ideology by Piketty, continuing this conversation in my head, sends me into frustrating tailspins that make me want to meditate all over this house.

Because of this, it is very difficult to have discussions with my parents.

The America of the baby boomer, or at least for those born in 1960, it simply does not compare in lifestyle.

When my dad became anxious, he bought a motorcycle and a boat. He bought an ATV and went on hunting trips.

When I get anxious, I check out a book from the library…

So those conversations about what is next on the docket in terms of a job, a career, is impossible really to convey to them.

My heart does not go out to the soon-to-be-retired, but to my own generation. The millenials. We have to not only deal with the prospect of renting rather than owning, with paying thousands of dollars in medical insurance, and with paying off student debt and doing so with an income that has not seen a formidable increase (unlike our productivity), in our lifetime.

The situation now is that not only are we working for less, the environment of our job is shitty.

The crossing of administrative duties of teachers and the increased caseload has teachers burning out or becoming demoralized within five years.

Small Mercies?

Are there benefits to living in 2020? Yes.

The internet, for one. For a book lover and writer like me, this time is wonderful. The basics of literacy have never been cheaper.

Umm…our devices have not only gotten cheaper, they’ve gotten better at doing the thing they’re doing.

A 2020 Toyota Camry is much better in possibly every way than a 1985 Cadillac.

And it is a lot harder to die of Polio and Smallpox.

But we have some major systemic problems. We keep saying this, and we have been for a decade. Now we’re put in a situation where it has happened…again!

There seem to be two Americas. Once corporations realized that they could go global and circumvent the needs and talents of the American people, they worked to provide consumers without giving them the money to buy the Model T they were producing. But that was okay, because the global market worked to provide far more profit in aggregate than what our domestic economy provided on its own.

How do we give back the wealth and promise of the 20th century to our millenials and beyond, while avoiding the horrific conflicts that leveled the playing field?

Inequality was only solved in The United States by accident. Two world wars and a pandemic.

We certainly don’t want that…

Okay. Pity party over…

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