Five economic reforms every rational Millennial should be fighting for

I remember when I first began to understand the issue of poverty.

We were not wealthy by any means, but we weren’t impoverished. The concept perplexed me. One day I came up with a brilliant idea and suggested it to my dad:

“Dad, why don’t we just give money to everyone so then everyone has money?”

“We are supposed to give money, Matt. Jesus wants us to give to the needy.”

“No, I mean why doesn’t whoever MAKES the money… like wherever the money comes from… like the president… why doesn’t he just print out a bunch of money and GIVE everyone a million dollars? Then we are all millionaires and nobody will ever be poor again!”

That’s when he told me about things like taxation, and inflation, and how pricing works. He explained that if EVERYONE suddenly has a million dollars then, in effect, nobody has a million dollars. Having a million dollars would be like having three pennies. If you could end poverty by printing money and handing it out, then there wouldn’t be poverty anywhere.

And thus ended my brief flirtation with liberalism. I was six years old.

In other words, I became too mature for liberal economic theory, but I still ate Elmer’s glue during art class (a habit I’ve yet to break — the stuff is just delicious).

Not all kids develop at the same pace, though. Which is probably why someone in my generation — purporting to speak for my generation — recently penned a piece for the Rolling Stone called “Five Economic Reforms Millennial Should Be Fighting For.” The author, Jesse Myerson, points out how us Millennials have been “especially hard hit” by the economic recession. This, of course, is everyone’s fault but ours. Our personal debt? Well, that’s, like, because of society. And the bankers! The bankers did this to us! You decided to take out a college loan you couldn’t afford? Maybe put a bunch of iPhones and laptops on credit? Bankers! Wall Street! The rich!

Because that’s how the young generation should approach life — powerless, whiney, looking for someone to blame. A recipe for prosperity, is it not?

This is the philosophy that Myerson espouses. And he does it while using phrases like “you know else blows?” and “as much as unemployment blows, so do jobs.” I’ve got nothing against the guy personally. I don’t know him. I’m sure he’s a decent enough fellow. But what he represents, and the dull, juvenile, inarticulate, “hip,” way in which he communicates it — that’s what I hate. I hate it because it’s the sort of thing that festers on the soul of my generation like a toxic mold, and it will kill us all if we don’t work to eradicate it.

His idea for “reforms” to help my generation are:

1. Give everyone a job!

It’s that easy, dude. Unemployment blows! Just sayin’. Lolz. How do you correct the problem of people not having jobs? Well, magically create a job (and a market for these new jobs) out of thin air! Easypeezy lemonsqueezy.

2. Give everyone money!

As the author notes, “jobs blow” also. So if people don’t want to work — just hand them cash!

3. Have the government seize private land and give it to people!

What could go wrong?

4. Let everyone own everything!

And by “everyone” we mean the government. See, we have to take wealth and property away from the wealthy elite, and then promptly hand control of it over to the government… which is run by wealthy elite.


5. Public banks!

Well, the IRS already has unfettered access to your money, and now Obamacare owns the rest of you, so why not? The author makes the point that government run banks don’t make “seedy deals.”

Yes, governments totally never make seedy deals.

Government: honesty, transparency, and fairness. And unicorns.

Now, as a Millennial myself, I thought I’d offer a different perspective. We young people can sit around begging Uncle Sam to give out jobs, money, and land for free, or we can develop a different strategy for long term economic success and security. Here are my proposals for five economic “reforms” we, as individuals, and especially as young people, can immediately instate:

1. Don’t go to college unless you actually need to be there.

14 million people under the age of 30 have outstanding student loans. The average debt for the class of 2012 will be just under 30,000 dollars. Meanwhile, the median income for that same age group is about 23,000 dollars. This is what happens when you take out massive loans despite having no financial assets, no job, and no coherent plan for the future. Here’s how we cure this problem:

Stop doing it.

Go to college if you NEED to go to college. Go to college if you have a PLAN for the future that makes college a NECESSITY. Go to college if you won the megamillions jackpot at the age of 18 and can now afford to take a four year vacation. Because that’s what college is for many — not all, many — of the bright young folks who attend. We’ve got kids bankrupting themselves for the sake of getting drunk and passing out on vomit-stained couches for the next 48 months. This is insanity.

College is a means to an end. It isn’t a destination unto itself. Don’t go for the “experience.” You want an experience? Move out of the house and get a job. Pay your own rent. Get evicted from an apartment for failure to make a payment. Work three minimum wage jobs at the one time. Mop floors. Go a winter without heat because you can’t afford to keep it on and eat at the same time. Run out into that cold, wild world and muscle your way to the top of it. THAT’S an experience.

You want to be an engineer? A doctor? An astronaut? An architect? By all means, go to college. You want to build cars or become an electrician? Maybe a trade school is in your future. You have absolutely no clue what you want out of life, what your talents are, or what career path best suits you? College isn’t for you. In fact, college is an objectively BAD idea for anyone in this category. And this is a category that includes, for instance, most college students.

Don’t want debt? Then don’t borrow money. If you do borrow money, you better have a good reason. Hint: “Eh, I’ll figure it out” isn’t a good reason.

2. Don’t buy things unless you can afford them.

This is more of an addendum to point 1. But it’s a basic budgetary principle that escapes many of us. Before you buy something, ask yourself: do I have the money to pay for this? Remember: if your debt exceeds your financial assets — you don’t have any money. And “your money” really only includes what you have leftover after your bills for the month have been paid.

It’s a good thing the news constantly reminds us about how poor we are, because there’s little evidence of any of this at America’s shopping malls and Best Buys. It’s interesting: my generation is saddled with unemployment and college debt, yet how many of us own smart phones? Like, everyone? Those things aren’t cheap.

Something isn’t adding up here.

3. Work hard.

Will working hard guarantee you wealth and happiness? No, nothing guarantees you anything. You might get screwed over by a vindictive boss. You might get into a horrible car accident and lose three limbs. You might die tomorrow on your way to the gym. Horrible things might — scratch that, will happen to you. But if you’re my age and the first step in your plan for success isn’t “work my butt off,” then you have a problem.

You are a problem.

Fix it.

I suppose there might be some people out there who oversimplify and act as though hard work can achieve literally anything. But far more common, and far more dangerous, are the naysayers who insist that you have NO control and NO say over your lot in life. On the bright side, they offer a convenient excuse to people who’ve failed due to their own laziness, apathy, and complacency, but this also has the necessary effect of belittling and diminishing the people who’ve struggled against immeasurable odds to achieve their dreams. So, you might feel rather charitable telling an inner city drug dealer that he is a victim of his environment and not responsible for his choices. Now what about the guy who climbs out of the gutter to conquer and inspire the world? If the first guy isn’t responsible for his choices, neither is the second.

You just took that man’s achievements from him and turned his life story into a simple roll of Fate’s dice.

How dare you. You should be ashamed.

4. Develop a marketable skill.

Imagine a job interviewer asking you this question: “So, what are your skills?”

If you don’t have an answer, you better be charming as hell, because that’s your only chance at landing the gig. Most of us, however, aren’t that likeable. If we want to work in a particular industry, we need to have something that we do. Skills are honed and developed over time; this is a process that you should start before you even graduate high school. If you have a useful skill, you’ll always have a way to make money. It really is that simple.

5. Save money.

I used to think it was more fun to spend than save. Then I grew up, and began to understand the joy of making sacrifices in the short term, so that I might have some financial security in the long term. Social Security ain’t gonna be there for us, my friends. Our parents generation will cash out and leave us in the lurch. It’s a bad hand, but it’s the one we’ve been dealt. Deal with it. Save your own money for your own future.

Well, it isn’t as sexy as free money for everyone, but this is my proposal. The best part is that we don’t have to wait for any politician or president to make this happen. We can do this now. And we should.

And we need to.

We don’t have a choice.


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262 Responses to Five economic reforms every rational Millennial should be fighting for

  1. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/01/08 | Free Northerner

  2. Sandra Limjuco says:

    He can give some decent advice on rearing kids, it’s fun to read his stuff. But this is insulting. He claims to have understood liberal economics by age six, yet he still gets it wrong. He understands “Fox News” idea of Liberalism, Beck’s idea, Palin’s idea, but not what actual Liberals think. Sad. I thought he was smarter than to buy into all that noise. These types of articles perpetuate the gap between our parties. We already have an uncompromising, waring Congress because of misconceptions like this. The media spreads this stuff, not Liberals. Disappointing.
    Don’t go to college?? That’s his advice? Because then your menial job will only pay you 23,000/yr and you won’t be able to pay off your loan. How about paying the worker a living wage? That’s not a handout, that’s responsible employment. Then he says get a skill… how exactly is that supposed to happen if he’s telling people not to go to school? Make school affordable and pay the graduate a living wage, THAT will make college grads more successful, don’t just drop the institution. Then he’ll complain that people want higher wages but are untrained… he just told them it’s OK not to go to school… ?? Make up your mind, Buddy. And not taking out loans you can’t pay back or not buying a house that you can’t afford, is everyone’s idea of good money sense. Not just Conservatives. These types of articles are damaging. They perpetuate already incorrect assumptions about our parties. Shame on you, Matt.

    • HaMalYa says:

      “The media spreads this stuff, not Liberals”

      Oh that was so cute…Like saying. “My mother taught me to tell the truth, not the woman who gave birth to me.”

      “That big ball of gas produces light for the earth, not the sun”

      So cute.

    • It amazes me that one can purchase a $30,000 car and pay it off in 5 years, it will likely have a resale value 70% lower (actually greater if one considers the interest, fees and maintenance even if said car is parked the entire time) but complains of the cost of a $30,000 degree that is amortized over a 20 year period at amazingly low rates with deferment options etc also available.

  3. Stephanie H says:

    I really do love this post! I am not a millennial (Gen Y I believe?) I was reading this blog saying to myself “yes, and YES.” As far as point #1 goes, you are correct. I applied and was accepted into a 4-year state university for post high school. Right before HS graduation I had a nervous breakdown because I didn’t know what I was going to do and I wanted a year to figure it out first. My parents convinced me to go. I spent 2 years as a business major, which I hated and then 1.5 as a linguistics major, which I was horrible at. I left my university after my 1st semester of senior year after a huge wake up call. I realized that I wanted to be a nurse, and I had wanted to be a nurse for some time, and my college did not offer nursing. I left with 90 credits, $350/month in student loan payments to spend 13months at a vocational training program to get my LPN. This added $5500 to my college debt. After I got my first LPN job I enrolled in an RN program at the rate of $184.88/month for 5 years. This is almost paid off. If I had just taken the time off and THEN gone to nursing school, I would have bypassed my LPN completely and then gone to a state university that had nursing as a program. I would have graduated at 22 years old and would have been two nursing degree levels over what I am now at 26 years old with an income that could have easily handled $300/month in student loan payments that a state college would cost me. Overall great article!

  4. Marty G says:

    The same mindset behind these utopian schemes is the same type as those that are fascinated by impossible perpetual motion devices. Which is the same mindset drawn to the Ponzi scheme. There is no such thing as a free lunch short of the Creator’s grace.

  5. Sandy Shoaf says:

    Overall I love this column. However, I would say college or some training after high school is a must. But it is not necessary to go into massive debt to do it. You can make choices that make it affordable such as going to a local or community college and living at home. Plus you can work when you are in college to keep debt low or non-existent. I don’t know where people got the idea that if they are in school, they can’t hold a job, too. My daughter will graduate in May with no debt. She got scholarships, worked three part-time jobs, and lived at home. She also worked to get done in 3 years, saving another year’s tuition and books. It can be done! Sure, it would have been easier and more fun to just borrow the money, live on campus and not work, but it is so worth it to start out in life with no debt.

    • lula says:

      College or trade school is not a must but you have to have a skill. I work for a man who didn’t even finish high school and now he has a booming million-dollar business. But, the man had learned (by experience) a marketable skill – carpentry.

      I agree 100% that people should go to community college to save money. Community colleges are thought to have a lesser quality of education, but that’s not always the case. Locally, we have a 4 year university and a community college. The community college pays its professors more than the university does and in doing so, attracts some excellent staff.

    • Some Yahoo says:

      College is NOT a must. I have one daughter who is an Electronics Engineer – she needed college, and another who is apprenticing to be a dog trainer. There is no way on God’s green and verdant Earth that she needs a $30,000 debt and classes in feminine studies.

      Most of her high school friends are in college because Mom and Dad will make them get a job if they don’t go to college.

      …unless you are saying that our high school education is so useless in the US that one needs some college to scrape by in this world. Then you might have a case.

      • Sandy Shoaf says:

        If you read my statement more carefully you would see that I said “college or some sort of training after high school” is a must. Your daughter is getting some additional training. Most places of employment just won’t let you get a foot in the door or let you advance if you don’t have something beyond high school. I know the company I work for will not even hire a secretary without some sort of additional training. You may be able to do the job but getting on somewhere is difficult without some additional training. But there are certainly lots of options for that training besides a degree and a lot of debt. Some high schools do have school-to-work or vocational training program that can help and even just taking a few secretarial courses at a business college can help.

    • Naomi J says:

      Not everyone can work through school. There were 17000 students at my college in a town of 27000 people (this is including the student population too). There just aren’t jobs for everybody. I think it’s great when people can do it, but not everyone gets that choice or chance. So for the majority of college students who are there simply because they were told that “college is the way to go; you can’t get through life without college!” then I think just not being at college would be the better option. No reason to build up all that debt for no reason than “secondary education is the best!” which in all honesty, is just something recruiters say because the university is out to make money first and foremost, not educate it’s students.

      • Sandy Shoaf says:

        I understand your point but if a student really needs to work to avoid debt, perhaps he or she could have chosen a different college where there are more opportunities for work.

  6. Casey says:

    You couple broad, political labels like ‘liberalism’ with insultingly oversimplified arguments that you likely did outgrow by age 6. Arguments like these only serve to divide the lines causeing each side to become entrenched. And when someone is entrenched they are not capable of thinking freely. No point of view is perfectly right, and no point of view is perfectly wrong; it is only when we look for the right and wrong of each point of view that we find workable solutions. I do respect a lot of what you have to say about attitude. However saying that printing a million dollars for everyone would create economic equality is no more incorrect than me saying there already is equality because everyone is equally able to be rich or poor based on their own decisions. Attitude is important, but we also do not live in a perfect system. Why can’t we work to fix our attitude while at the same time work to fix the system?

    • Raoul says:

      Because look at Matt’s picture up at the top. He’s got a radio show. Presumably with advertisers, who pay him. And what do talk radio advertisers pay for? Divisive labels, oversimplified arguments, and unfree thinking. These things are Matt’s skills, and they pay his way in life.

  7. Andrea says:

    Rolling Stone rarely produces anything of quality anymore and Jesse Myerson is a perfect example.

    There is without a doubt a clear generational difference between Millennials and the rest of the working world. A lifetime of being rewarded for participation, helicopter parenting, and not working while in school has taken its toll to produce a soft workforce only associates “hard work” (if you’re lucky) as taking place in a classroom at sporadic intervals, or studying at a coffee shop. I’m 36 and – while I’m not an old salt by any stretch of the imagination – I work with many colleagues falling in the Millennial range from fresh out of college to 30. While I HATE generalizations it is tough not to see 1-2 dozen people acting similarly on a daily basis and not draw a specific conclusion.

    I work in NYC (first was raised & worked in Cali) so while it tends to be more of a dog-eat-dog workforce in general, my experiences in Cali help to make my expectations more realistic. However, I’m still disappointed, underwhelmed and shocked at the M generation. And, while some of the actions are just more irritating, some seem borderline unethical requiring that everything that was understood as common sense actually have to be spelled out. Things like “don’t get drunk with your clients and do a puppet show with your nuts & berries” should not have to be spelled out in a company memo.

    There is also a lack of self-awareness that, while many are college graduates, that means you are now AVERAGE. Got a Bachelors? Great, so do I and so does every single person who works at my company and the majority of white collar workers. Happy for you that you went to a small liberal arts college where you could very special in your smaller classes, and that you’re parents celebrated your graduation like the Pope was coming to down, but this is NOT A BIG DEAL. Talk to me when you’ve gotten your Masters or Doctorate and let me know how that will immediately impact our business in tangible ways. Then, you’ll be worth something.

    I could rant for days. Instead, here are a few G-rated experiences that have colored my outlook:
    1>Interviewed a new college graduate for an entry level position. Told me in the interview that his (limited) experience entitled him to have my job instead (3 levels above the entry spot, requires 10-12 yrs experience). Wasn’t hired. He was 22, from the midwest and went to college in Chicago.
    2>Had to fire someone I managed last year as even after a variety of managerial approaches were tried (by both myself and previous managers) she had no idea on how to do anything without being spoon-fed the information (no independent work, no critical thinking skills). And yet she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t being promoted. She was 27, from the midwest went to a midwest college.
    3>Someone in the department next to me ‘had a rough day’ and went home after lunch. Thought that was only an option when you learn of an immediate family member’s death?? He was 25, from the east coast.
    4>While taking clients to a NBA game, followed to a quick trip to a stadium shop for t-shirts for the clients, a colleague also purchased a handful of jerseys for his nephews and an expensive jacket for himself. On the company tab with no hesitation. He was 26, from the east coast, college in NYC.
    5>Coworker arrived in Miami for a company conference a few days early to enjoy the weekend. All non-Millennials realized that we could do this but, common sense states, expenses are of course all on the employee for non-conference expenses. Coworker proceeds to charge 6 meals of room service and multiple bar tabs to the company. No hesitation. She was 27, from the south, college in Alabama.
    6>Observed multiple employees doing required work and whining that they’re not getting promotions for going ‘above and beyond’.

    Anyone who has worked with Millennials will appreciate this mockumentary of a training video in working with Millennials. It’s funny and sad because its true:

    • TheApostlePaul says:

      *Rolling Stone rarely produces anything of quality anymore *

      Matt Taibbi has done heroic work exposing Wall Street corruption, but most of the people who read Matt’s blog have bought into the right-wing mythology that we’ll all become rich the moment business becomes completely unregulated.

  8. LDC says:

    President Walsh… has a nice ring to it – don’t you think? =)

  9. Cameron Smith says:

    Dear Matt Walsh Blog readers:

    Truth and opportunity have just knocked on–nay, kicked down–your door with a message that could change your future.

    In all seriousness, Matt, I wrote about this exact same topic a few days ago and I feel this problem is one of the great ills of our time and place. GREAT POST!

  10. barrycjacobsen says:

    Well said, young man. There may be hope for your generation yet!

  11. Christian says:

    Agree with your sentiments 100% but you fail to mention the fact that most kids take out college loans at the behest their parents, guidance counselors, and other trusted people. Most 17 year olds do not have the foresight to realize just how adhesive those loans are. The problem is that since the day we first enter the school system, anyone with any type of influence in a child’s life is telling them they NEED to go to college. And that’s a problem. We need the adults to wake up so they can be smarter parents. I wish someone had told me all of this ten years ago instead of “just do it, it’ll benefit your future.” The narrative needs to be changed, there needs to be less of a stigma of failure for failing to get into a “good university,” and kids need to be presented with other options at the same rate as the option college.

    • raritysally says:

      ^ This!!

      Gen Xers have been telling Gen Yers that they need to go to college… they have been doing this for several years. I think that now Gem Yers are sort-of beginning to understand that getting loans to pay for a college education that you aren’t sure that you will use in the workforce is not always in one’s best interest because of the outcry from older Gen Yers who are upset that there are no jobs available to them like they were promised by their parents, counselors, professors, etc…

      The first time I was ever told that I didn’t need to go to college after all was by two different professors during my first year at university. While I was there I worked as a student secretary in one of the departmental offices, and saw over and over again people who kept getting terrible grades in their intro classes (these people wanted to be doctors, by the way…) and there was no sign of improvement. I could never understand it… they are wasting their time and money on stuff that they aren’t even good at and probably don’t even enjoy. Probably because of some outside pressure? Or their own desire to just make lots of $$ because apparently that is ALL college is good for, right?

      I wouldn’t have gotten a job after high schoolif I weren’t at university with work study. I tried to get a job over the summer but nothing. My work study job taught me very basic work and administrative tasks that honestly probably helped me get the job I have now. I was a creative writing major, which you might laugh at because is isn’t the kind of major where you get a degree and you get a job, but one, I learned a lot during that time. Two, the arts need to stop dying and have people appreciate them. Three, even though I do not currently have a writing job, I intend on writing and hope that somehow it can be my career. I will figure that out.

      A lot of Gen Yers are spoiled brats. But a lot of other Gen Yers are not. You know who raised the Gen Yers? Matt, you believe what you do because you had good and realistic parents who didn’t give you the special treatment. Your dad bothered to educate you on why money can’t be free. Other Gen Xers failed to give good advice to their children.

  12. Aaron F says:

    I disagree with your point 3. It should not be work hard, but work smart. Working hard is great for the way it looks, but if you can do a job that took someone else 16 hours in 4, point out that you can, do the job, and take the money. Working hard is a great way to build a skill up, but once you have that skill-use your brain.

    In addition, you cited the most irresponsibly worded reasoning (Rolling Stone *smh*) I have ever seen for any of those concepts rather than an intellectually sound voice that can point out why they might be good, although for the most part they are terrible ideas. It made a pretty counterpoint to your positions.

    Overall, well done.

  13. Pingback: Five reforms every Millennial should be fighting for | Superset

  14. Kendra says:

    I would disagree with the college section slightly. Yes, it can be a waste of money if you’re not certain on a degree and don’t commit to anything. But in the world we live in, unless you want to be working minimum wage for the rest of your life, you need to acquire a degree. Sometimes, even regardless of what the degree is. Employers are much more likely to hire an individual who has a degree (not necessarily specifically towards that specific field) over someone with no degree or qualifications.

    • raritysally says:

      Yup. I agree with this.

      It is ridiculous that jobs that barely required a high school education now require bachelor’s degrees but that is what happens when Gen Xers tell all of their kids that they need to go to college. Something needs to change in the system, otherwise the debt will only grow higher. :/

      • wesj says:

        And ironically, once you’ve got that first few years of experience, the degree ceases to mean anything. But getting that first few years without a degree (in many many many fields) is virtually impossible.

        • If you are laid off and start to look for a job again, a degree is a must on your resume. Since so many people are competing for one opening, your resume will be filtered out by computers without a degree. Your resume may never be able to reach to HR.

    • dianabodytalk says:

      What happens when everyone graduates high school and goes to college is that the standard of performance drops. I teach at a vocational school and many of my students, despite being high school graduates, are reading and writing at 3rd-4th grade level. There are a fair number of them who currently make more money as security guards, servers, and retail salespersons than they will make after they graduate as medical assistants and medical office administrators.

      College is not required for a job that pays more than minimum wage ( and since when was obtaining a job the holy grail of success?). My undergrad degree was in biology and after graduating, I had the skills and opportunity to wash test tubes for $1 per hour more than minimum wage, because apparently you need a bachelor’s degree in bio to wash test tubes. No thank you. I continued to work in restaurants averaging $30 an hour. You don’t need college to be as server, and it was a lot more fun, easy, lucrative and bullshit-free than the “real” jobs I’ve had that required my degree.

      • Jesse Janes says:

        in direct reply: even tube washing is going by the way, by the way. yes, living your dream equals college has been long over-sold. This life-long under-achiever yearned to “do cars” but was prevented by my grades; counselors, family had Decided for me. unfortunately, i learned to let the world form me. actually forgot i wanted to weld, build cars. no, its not too late now, but learning is hard to forget.

  15. lynn says:

    Hello, Jesse…your five points spell out a basic communism- and we all know how well that already worked out.

  16. mtc says:

    While I completely agree with your basic argument that not everyone NEEDS to go to college, I think it is irresponsible to not follow through the logic socio-economic outcome of that idea.

    First, If we encourage only people who can afford to go to college to go, we end up with an even more polarized elite educated class and a poor uneducated class. Education is the great equalizer. It is power. It provides opportunity. To simplify things to the point that we say, “hey, you don’t have $40,000 for college in your bank right now? Too bad, college isn’t for you then” is to ignore what the whole point of what a loan is- someone taking a chance on you. I fear this type of thinking will discourage students who dream of higher education and prestigious jobs, but settle for a trade or manual labor field because someone told them only people who could afford college deserve the access and opportunity it provides. I even see this thought process in my own bf. He hasn’t continued on for an advanced degree because he is scared of the debt and fears he won’t get is a good job. Instead he continues in his well paid trade job (his mechanical engineering degree didn’t get him a good job so he became a finish carpenter) and stays put- no raises, no insurance, and no prospect for growth. Is he being financially responsible? Sure. No debt. But, he is acting out of fear and discounting his own talent and smarts. Psychologically, he doesn’t “deserve” the architecture degree or Phd in Mechanical Engineering- that’s for wealthy people, and he’s just a laborer. The long term effects of this “economic reform” thinking isn’t going to help boost our economy, but instead continue to polarize it.

    Second, your idea that only people who know what they want to do should go to college is oversimplified. Some students don’t know what they want to do, but figure out their passion and direction within a year of studies. Some students claim to have it all figured out, go straight to an expensive college, and proceed to change their majors 4 times. Some people get a Law degree only to later decide they want to be a tv reporter. Unfortunately, answering the age old question of “what should I do with my life” isn’t that simple. I don’t support 4 years of partying or students going to college because they don’t know what else to do with themselves, but college is often the exact the place one should be if they are trying to figure out what they want to do. Living on your own and bussing tables at a restaurant (which I did during college anyway) will give you life experience, but it is not necessary going to show you “your path”. College campus is just about the best place in the world to discover our calling. Any interest one has can usually be pursued at a university. Sure people can do the same thing at a community college for less money, but I have seen so many people uninspired by their CC classes… often equating it to a high school level. I’ve taken CC classes for fun since college, and it really just isn’t the same. I read books and articles authored by my professors at the university. I toured art exhibits featuring professors in the art department. If I had a question- the actual author or artist was there to discuss it with me- because they were my professors! If you spend a year exploring and you still don’t have a direction, then sure step away from school. Try something else. Work. Travel. Those all have value. You don’t necessarily need a degree to have a good life. But, higher education teaches you how to think, question, write, form an argument, etc, and you shouldn’t be discouraged from learning even if you don’t quite know exactly what you want to do.

    Now, if you are not even trying to figure out what you want to do and what skills you want to have- then yeah, stay away from spending your money on college. But I think most people are searching for what they want. Most people do want to be passionate about something and provide a valuable skill of service to society.

  17. Bill says:

    Excellent post. The only thing that needs to be clarified is that the older generation, ( my generation) were not responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security. Personally, I’ve paid into it since the age of fifteen, in other words, forty-five years. Weasels in our government decided, quite a few years ago now, to rewrite the rules and began dipping into the Social Security fund to pay debts, subsidize bullshit programs, and generally squander other peoples money. Sound familiar? Now it will begin with the millennials who will begin to pay the price and hopefully find another way to secure their futures. Originally, Social Security was dreamed up by well meaning people then ruined by the self serving few. The second oldest idea on the planet.

    • Oliver says:

      Your generation (and those prior) kept voting in the weasels. One of the problems of democracy that people refuse to confront is that with the power to vote comes the responsibility for the actions of those who are elected. You cannot simply wash your hands of those you elect, and the actions they undertake in your name.

      • Bill says:

        I didn’t vote on simple little rules like no term limits etc.. So always be careful where you point fingers my friend.

  18. Curtis says:

    “It isn’t as sexy as free money…” so true. It doesn’t sound as fun or as easy, but truth is very seldom what we actually want it to be. I don’t believe what I believe because I like it: I believe it because it makes sense.

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  20. RJ says:

    This is great. There is a middle ground for college. Education is important, college, vocational training, diy. There are opportunities to reduce the debt – work, scholarships, grants – but there is no ignoring that hard work is important at every point along the way. There is also no ignoring that the expectation to figure out what you’re going to do your whole life after just 20 years is a lot. That preparation has to start before college.

  21. sdh says:

    You still eat glue, don’t you? Probably inhale it too.

  22. Gabriel says:

    Uh, I think that article you linked from the Rolling Stones was satirical piece. At least, that’s the message I got.

    • Gabriel says:

      was a satirical piece* Sorry about that.

      • Kelsey says:

        I (and many others) wish that were the case. The author has made it clear through multiple tweets that he believes every word of what he wrote for Rolling Stone.

  23. Very well written, but there is a small flaw in your argument.
    Regarding giving everyone money…
    It’s true that if we give 1 million dollars to everyone, then that will not accomplish anything.
    However, if you say gave 100 dollars to everyone, that would do something. (For example, everybody in Alaska gets $900 a year right now)

    There should, in theory, be a price point, which keeps people from being homeless and starving, if they are not mentally ill, and at the same time does not destabilize the economy. If say everyone got $1,000 a month, it might be enough to rent a shared room with some people if they find themselves laid off or their small business got burnt to the ground, or their investments become worthless, but it’s not going to be enough to remove the need for people to work, save, and be responsible. And it might actually save money in the long run, as other services would not be needed.

    • Isaac says:

      To give every American 1000 for even one month, you’d need to find 300,000,000,000 dollars someplace. That’s 300 billion dollars.

  24. Patrick says:

    Most of the people that come from nothing and work their way into the top 10% apply the principles in this article by looking at college as an means to an end, work to minimize debt and go to a community college for a couple years, and don’t buy what devalues quickly, like a new car. The old saying that it takes money to make money is only partly true, it also takes understanding of the value of money and how to make it work for you. This is a complex and competitive world, requiring an understanding of social, monetary, regulatory intricacies combined with a good mind for long-term planning, memorization, excellent people skills, and being good with budgeting / paperwork. Add in the ability to be a jack-of-all-trades when you haven’t much money, i.e. carpenter, plumber, electrician, computer nerd, bookkeeper, mechanic minimizes expenses so you can save to have money to make money with. Bottom line is our modern society is much too complex for a majority of people to work their way into the top 10%, for that matter just trying to get to middle class status is pretty damn hard! These are the same people trying to get what they can’t earn on their own cause they’re not capable of it, don’t have aptitude, or don’t want to make the effort.

  25. Joe H says:

    Matt, I like your logic and your common sense. You reason well. But even the best computers cannot make the right conclusions if they start with the wrong information. We had a term for this concept: GIGO — “Garbage in, garbage out”. You seem to need to take an economics class, as you clearly start with incorrect information and a lack of understanding of basic macroeconomics. If you don’t agree with John Maynard Keynes, then you (a) have not learned his theories, (b) don’t understand his theories, or (c) deliberately choose to defy established fact. Perhaps you are one of the ignorant deniers of climate change! Learn the established science and facts. It will help you a lot. I did like your statement about getting experience. It is important for people to take the path that is right for them instead of automatically choosing the default of their social group.

    I take it you get some pleasure out of bashing liberals and progressives. If you want to know what has improved our society the most, it is the agenda of liberals. We fought for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We fought for the Voting Rights Act. We got schools desegregated. Big government is not always a bad thing or the enemy. Big government created the Interstate Highway System. Big government created Social Security and Medicare, which lifted millions of senior citizens out of poverty. Big government created the National Parks System. Big government’s labor regulations have made workplaces safe across the country. Big government’s transportation regulations have made air travel safer. They have also brought car manufacturers into the practice of innovating better safety devices and higher fuel efficiency. CERCLA, RCRA, and the Clean Water Act have greatly improved the quality of our environment. All these environmental improvements were passed by progressives. Public schools would not exist without the intervention of liberals. We are the ones who make society better.

    • Isaac says:

      There are people who believe that Keynesian economics is “an established fact?” Big government had something to do with desegregation and civil rights? As in, equal rights, as in, the thing where the laws apply to everyone the same? You need to make the government bigger to do that?

      Hey, I’m all for Ponzi schemes. They make people’s lives better (for a while).

  26. Meg Bowman says:


  27. Bill Wilson says:

    Articles like Myerson’s give me a brain aneurism. When did it the right to pursue happiness become a right TO happiness? Education is my right. Food is my right. Housing is my right. Cell phones and Internet are my right. After a while, I won’t need to work for anything, I can just live at ease on the public dole. Oh wait…that’s exactly what Myerson is suggesting.
    This is someone raised on the Star Trek Next Generation social utopia in which Captain Picard says, “The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.” Myerson admits this by saying, “Imagine a world where people could contribute the skills that inspire them – teaching, tutoring, urban farming, cleaning up the environment, painting murals – rather than telemarketing or whatever other stupid tasks bosses need done to supplement their millions.” That’s pie in the sky. Who leaps out of bed excited about another exciting day of cleaning public toilets? Whose life inspiration is to pick up litter behind other people whose inspiration is to lie on the beach and think about painting murals? No one, that’s who. I’ve cleaned public toilets. I’ve cleaned up after people enjoying themselves. I was paid very little. It’s called an entry-level job, a great position for someone with no experience to gain experience before moving on to better paying jobs.
    Twenty years ago, I thought everyone should go to college, but I was wrong, especially now that college has become so expensive. I’m heartened by the increased discussions on trade schools. Local community colleges should also be supported. Get core-classes out of the way cheaply, while living at home, working an entry-level job and gradually taking on some adult responsibilities. Diana Carew of the Progressive Policy Institute recently said, “It’s completely unacceptable to suggest that every college student does not have the right to go to school. They should all have the right to pursue an education. As soon as we all agree that education is a social good, we’ll all be better off.” Yes, that’s why we pay taxes for public school up to 18 years of age, the age of adulthood. Sooner or later you have to be responsible for yourself, not for the public to be responsible for you. We’ve left Realityville and arrived at the city of Diffused Responsibility, in which – since the public is responsible for everything – the individual is responsible for nothing.

  28. James says:

    Sent this to both of my sons who are in high school. I hope they’ll read it and heed it.

  29. Joel Mabry says:

    This piece just gives 5 non-suggestions. (1) Nobody goes to college who doesn’t think it’ll actually help them in the long run, even if they don’t try hard while there. (2) People buy things they can’t afford all the time, and it’s a good thing. It’s called investing in the future. (3) Everyone works hard if they have an actual chance to help themselves. Nobody sits around thinking, “Well, I could drastically improve my life if I work hard, but I’m just going to be lazy.” What they do think is, “Well, I could work very hard and get a little more money, but it’ll take all my time and energy and overall give me a worse life because the impersonal economy doesn’t value my skills.” (4) Duh. Everyone would develop a marketable skill if they could. But they can’t. (5) Everyone would save money, if they had enough money to save.

    The REAL problem with this article, is it uses these trite “work harder” aphorisms to shoot down any drastic changes that could fix these systemic problems. In that, this article places blind faith in an impersonal modern economy that has only really been in existence for about a hundred years to feed and clothe and provide jobs for people. But the fact is that we have no reason to think the economy will provide jobs for people or that it even needs most people anymore for whatever they have to offer compared to ever advancing technology that reaps more and more profit through higher and higher productivity and concentrates it into the hands of a very wealthy few. Most people’s skills in our economy are unnecessary and simply glossing over that and telling people to work harder won’t change that.

    • Roadpathonthereef, New Times, says:

      Hallow,Mr Matt Blogs,We All Standing In To Most Frightening Shaking Weather Cycle In All Lives Today In 21 Century Many Family Has Lost Many Houses In These Fire Spreading In The Country Atmosphere Because The Climate Chaos Has Massively Complications In Many Country Today Atmosphere Clearly. These Financials Systems In Many Country World Wide Still Harder To Mat, That Needs That Country Can Stand Form Stronger In To, For That Beyond Future In More Better Visions All Community And Generation To Build In Better Strength To Be More Protected Properly In To.The Australian, Our Country His Better Future Leaderships His Bigger And Small Business He Strongly Needed To Look Properly In To His Own People His Own Nation Has Been Living On Sleep Badly On That Streets, For Many Century, That Presents, Today Has Many More Living In Government Money.And Yet?His Country Bigger Business Still Looking To Other Country To Do Those Jobs.And His Own People His Own Nations In His Country Needed Massively To Work And New Rebuild His Family In Better Future Protections Mostly Today.The Deadly Fire Also Has Many Family Has Lost Many Houses Living In Many Confused Ways Today.That;s?, What Our Country Government He Should Look In To, Clean UP The Homelessness Educate Them, Taught Them Carefully To Work And Help Farmers,Clean City Streets,Ocean Water Ways,Park Toilets, Many More Can Be Done Properly, Police Can Use Yong People To Look Out In Better Future Security In Country Surburn Areas ,And His City Streets, Also Needed To Help All Police In Better Future Duties He Needs. There Is More Can Be Done Properly In Fixing This Homelessness Problems, To Be Working Their Proper Beyond Future Protections To Stand Properly In To,And Have That Healthy, With In Out, In More Better Higher Standard In Health In The Country Today Beyond That Importantly.The Country Government Has Lost Many Money In Drinking, Drugs Problems, In That Streets In Past Century, Today?Is Still Frightening To Look At.These Problems Can Be Fix And Clean Out And Done Properly In To.For All Our Better Beyond Future To Stand, In To More Healthy Nations In Stronger Ways Needed Massively.All Church Leaderships Also Needed To Work Together With His Country Government In Tackle Properly This Massive Problem In Homelessness.That Beyond Future Needed Strongly Free From Homelessness.We Needed All To Whole Proper Future Jobs Through To Stand Stronger In To, And Move In More Brighter Healthy Future And Beyond That Massively In More Blessing Manners Strongly Needed,.We Will Talking,Millions Thanks, Mr Matt.Catch You Soon,.

      • Gen Oliva says:

        Are you a college student? If you are, then I’m glad that I’m at the end of my life cycle… do not make sense!

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  31. Stephen Peterson says:

    An interesting take on the college issue in this blog:

  32. MamaofOne says:

    I struggle in part with your first point. Not because I don’t agree with you that we should only go to college unless we need to be there (still undecided on where I stand on that) – but because of your reasoning that post-secondary education will put you into a ton of debt. I think if you follow some of you other points – work hard, don’t spend on what you don’t need, and save – it is possible to not be buried in debt on graduation. I’m a young stay at home mom … Who is 3/4 through a masters degree with no debt to show for it. We have a paid off condo that we rent and a house that we live in. We save almost 10% of our income. We give close to 15% of our income. We have received no assistance from our parents & live in one of the most expensive regions in the country. My husband works very hard (he’s a youth pastor with a journeyman ticket who works on the side) & I’m thrifty – make food from scratch, shop sales, kijiji & consignment. It’s not like our lives completely suck either – we took two vacations last year & did some weekend trips.

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