Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Underemployment: 28.4% for Ages 18 to 29

Has anyone here been to a Third World Country?  I've traveled quite a bit before I hit rock bottom and one thing always struck me: Third World Countries represent Capitalism in its purist form.  If you're rich in Abu Dhabi, you're a king.  You're probably richer than God. If you are poor in India, you eat rats for dinner.  There are no boundaries to your wealth if you make it in a third world country.  Here, taxes will eat away at your earnings and you can't enslave people to serve your every need.  I guess you need to go to Mauritania for that.  That's against our social conscience here.

I firmly believe that India is not becoming more like America, but America is becoming New Bombay of the West.  So, long intro, but I just wanted to draw a comparison between something that has been a part of life in third world countries for a long time--and what is happening in our backyards.

When I was in Egypt with friends, we had an on-going joke.  Everyone that we ran across, the guy who sold meat on the street, the taxi driver, the man selling fruit on the street--they all claimed to be lawyers and doctors hard on their luck.  We naturally assumed they were full of shit.  It didn't make any sense to us.  Why would you be driving a cab if you were a lawyer or an engineer?  Why would you be selling me falafel if you were a doctor.  Not everyone can be so hard up, right?  Is it possible?

Even in my Third Country of origin, I have many cousins and second cousins who became extremely educated with B.S. degrees and Ph.Ds--only to sit home for years before securing a job.  My mother and I would tisk, tisk at them and question whether they did well in their programs or whether they were lazy in trying to get a job behind their backs.

So, now it's happening to us.  Can you believe that stat?  Nearly 1/3 of youth are underemployed.   With the cost of living at an all time high, that's essentially the same as being destitute.  It won't be long before your cabbie is a Harvard grad.

Americans aged 18 to 29 had easily the highest underemployment rate in July of any age group, at 28.4%, including 11.8% who were unemployed and 16.6% who were employed part time but wanted full-time work. Among all U.S. adults in the workforce, a higher percentage of women than of men are underemployed.
Yah. You don't have to tell me that more women are being affected than men.  I'm living it and I'm in the next age group.

I firmly believe, that a decent salary and benefits will not be forthcoming unless you make it happen yourself. In other words, in the years and decades to come, wealth in America will center around those who are born into it, and among large business owners.  Fewer and fewer companies will pay you a decent wage.  You will have to figure out a way to get it on your own.  When I graduated from law school, nothing was scarier than the thought of NOT having a regular paycheck.  I wish I wasn't raised to think of regular pay as a goal.  Maybe I would have been more enterprising.  Maybe you ought to be as well.  Invent your own way. If you see an opportunity, grab it.  Don't sit back and wait for anyone to hand you anything.  When the dust settles, I'm hoping that BIDER readers and I will come out unscathed.

I have a neighbor and, judging by his obliviousness, I'm positive that he will not read this.  Even if he does, he won't get my point.  He drives a beautiful car, a Z.  I love it.  He's in grad school.  He gave me a ride once and I asked him.... "You know, you're already driving a Z and you haven't graduated yet.  Where do you go from here?"

"I can't wait," he said.  There are no words.


  1. The only people who are going to come out of this rich are as you pointed out, the people already born into wealth, a few lucky entrepreneurs, bankers, and the CEOs of large corporations who will continue to steal and receive bailouts all the while paying lower wages and offering fewer hours to their employees.

    I'm writing another post for later this week that reveals how the college educated are doing in the job market compared to those with less than a high school degree. The data will be sure to shock a lot of people who believe education is still worth going into $200k debt.

  2. I am telling you, there is still money to be made in this country if you are a man who can work with his hands. There are ads right now for cable tv collect or disconnect contractors.

    $50-70K. But you have to have a vehicle that can carry a ladder and you have to be able to get that ladder out and put it against a telephone pole and climb up it.

    I can no longer do this. Otherwise, I would be making good money right now. That was the kind of money I made doing the same thing 20 years ago.

  3. "you have to have a vehicle that can carry a ladder and you have to be able to get that ladder out and put it against a telephone pole and climb up it.

    I can no longer do this."

    Why not?

  4. You obviously do not understand what capitalism is. It surely does not exist in corrupt, caste-ridden countries like India. We're losing it every day as ignorant liberals like yourself support one socialist spread-the-wealth scheme after another.

  5. @1203 - Anon
    in what fashion does capitalism not allow for corruption? last time i took civics or something like it, capitalism was about supply and demand, and taking advantage of opportunities you have or create that others can't or won't.

  6. capitalism involves a lack of regulation. "laissez-faire."

    corrupt countries are, by definition, not capitalist, because government officials control entry into the market and the conditions under which you do your thing.

    If you need to pay someone a bribe to get a business license; if you can't pursue your livelihood because there's a guild/union that won't let you do it and they have the force of the govt behind them, or the govt won't protect you from their wrath; if access to education is controlled by the governmet; and..... yes..... if the government intervenes so heavily in the market for education that it artificially inflates the cost of education to the point where it exceeds the market value by a degree rendering that education economically irrational... THAT IS NOT CAPITALISM.

    If we were a CAPITALIST country, then we might have no bar association, the practice of law being regulated privately by the market. We definitely would NOT have government guaranteed student loans. And we absolutely would not be demanding that American lawyers obtain expensive certification while allowing total competition with the third world.

    I understand 12:03's frustration with the people who run this site. You guys are brilliant in so many ways and expose so much that needs to be exposed... then you stick a maddeningly, 100% wrong label on it. NO.

    Angel and Hardknocks, if we HAD capitalism, we would have what you want. We do NOT under any stretch of the imagination have "capitalism" today.

  7. At the height of capitalism in the US, the early/mid industrial boom, most Americans led miserable lives working 12 or more hours every day in awful conditions while a scant handful of robber barons lived like Gods.

    In a pure free market capitalism if your services are not deemed valuable enough by someone in the society, you die of starvation. The goal of the capitalist is to employ as few people as possible while paying them as little as possible.

  8. Actually, we aren't a pure capitalistic society. We're something much worse. We're capitalism with some perks and protections for big corps (like Credit Card Companies, Sallie Mae, etc.). So, we actually incentivize taking advantage of the poor here. And we prohibit and prevent taking advantage of Big Corps. Health Care and insurance (which has artificially pumped up the costs of medicine) is another example.
    I'm actually a libertarian. I think supply and demand should be the only forces that dictate the markets. If student loans weren't federally guaranteed, many schools would go out of business because banks would be reluctant to give loans to youngins with no credit or track record. Schools would have to be cheaper if they were to survive and they would adjust accordingly. If there was no insurance, doctors would charge what people could pay. Grandma in a foreign country drops $30 when she goes to the doctor. Yah, no co-pay.. that's what she pays. So you shouldn't claim to know what I believe in when you don't even know what capitalism really means.

  9. If the government was mostly gone you would still have huge barriers to entry for someone to enter an industry. Huge corporations with vast resources can undercut you and drive you out of business with ease, even if the service you provide is superior! You would still need to bribe people, make the right friends, do the right favors, etc.

    One difference is that the government wields the force of military/police/prison, but without the government you would just have rival corporations with their own gangs. The gangs would do many of the same things, lock problematic persons up, issue threats, exert political influence by defacing that person, and possibly by killing.

    Power to perform good or bad acts, humane or inhumane, etc. is in the hands of individuals. Persons commit these acts. Government and Corporation are just concepts, concepts cannot perform actions. Love does not bring Dick and Jane together, Dick and Jane move toward each other.

    So it is persons in the government you should be pointing out and trying to bring down, not some concept called "government". Similarly it is a CEO, manager, etc. you need to direct your vitriol at, not "MegaCorp USA".

    There is nothing evil or benign about concepts like government or corporation. Persons that place themselves in either conceptual category are fully capable of making their own decisions and committing acts of virtue or atrocity.

    The polarization between them and us, private and public, left and right, capitalist and socialist, has to end. It is oversimplified to the point of meaninglessness, a vast waste of time. We need to discuss specific problems and what actions by what persons we think should be taken. People will naturally have differing opinions about which actions should be taken by whom.

  10. Angel:

    I agree that supply/demand are powerful forces for maintaining a stable and thriving society, insofar as that society is well educated and informed. The uninformed and ill-educated are at a disadvantage in transactions and lose out in the costs they pay compared to what the supply/demand curves dictate. You can argue that the extra cost they are incurring is balanced by the gained opportunity cost of not paying for and going through schooling or other ways of informing themselves. However, the problem is that these people are usually in the worst position to gain such advantages. Paying more in many transactions only makes it even harder. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer (or prison). Additionally in a purely libertarian market we have the traditional boom/bust cycles. This doesn't create stability. And when it goes "bust", suddenly many people are wondering how they're going to eat. Whether they live or die is dictated by a few major players' degree of risk aversion.

  11. Thanks for the libertarians and right-wingers turning this into a debate on political ideology (I pronounce it "idiology"). Yes, this country has not been truly capitalist since slavery. Capitalism often involves exploitation of the weak, and politically marginalized. That is how the big players thrive in the system, thereby gaining greater economic, social and political advantanges.

    Right now, we have a form of corporate socialism, where Big Industry receives GIGANTIC bailouts - under the pretense that such industries are "too big to fail." If these entities did not receive such handouts, many would fail, i.e. go under. Smaller businesses are allowed to fold, all the time. For $ome rea$on, this is not the case for Big Players. Businessmen buy/rent politicians and win contracts. Does anyone actually believe that these contracts are based on merit alone - or even primarily on merit?!?

    Government regulation was a necessity, unless of course, anyone here wants to return to a time when no one inspected meat, tools, workplaces, etc. After all, life is FULL of risk, right?! Why should people's safety or welfare get in the way of a greedy pig who wants to make another hoof full of dollar$?!?!

    Now that I have that out of my system, I know of one former licensed attorney who is now working as a janitor at the University of Utah. He needed a regular paycheck. Luckily, he is older and did not take out $100K in loans. I personally know a shuttle driver, in his 60s, who was licensed to practice law in Utah and DC. Apparently, he didn't make enough - as an attorney - to retire.

    And before any apologist tries to say, "Maybe he likes to work", I can assure you this is NOT the case. He works because he must pay his bills and feed his family.

  12. If you go through the news articles from 2000-2001 you should find a few about American physicians taking the wife and kids and living with their parents and driving cabs. I am not joking.

  13. That's strange on the women being more underemployed than men. On one of the other blogs, I think ivy league educated and unemployed (something like that) they had an article up on how men were now the ones that were unemployed and women were working.


    I've also read statistics that the recession has hit men and minorities the hardest.

    I don't have a link for that one as it was awhile ago though.

    So what actually is it? I dunno, I've obviously seen both claims now. Methinks that statistics are generally lies and spun in different ways.

    Unemployment is allegedly 9.5% but we all know better. Shadowstats.com has it at about 20%, and that's probably more accurate.

  14. "I'm actually a libertarian. I think supply and demand should be the only forces that dictate the markets . . . Grandma in a foreign country drops $30 when she goes to the doctor."

    No offense, but if its really just that simple, then why aren't you back with Grandma in the foreign country, where "market forces" are dictating supply and demand and controlling price?

  15. Hey Nando,

    I, too, am vehemently opposed to the huge bailouts under the excuse of "too big to fail". If the failure of these big companies was going to put people out of work then the bailout money should have been directed toward unemployment benefits for these people and programs to help them find new jobs. The people running the company sure as hell shouldn't have been allowed to continue on as if nothing!

    Society runs largely on individual pragmatism, which often involves preying on individual idealists. An individual makes a decision (such as a decision to give/sell a contract to some particular person) based on the practicality of the expected outcome to that individual. It isn't made on the practicality or benefit of that decision to everyone else. So individuals with a lot of power can be bribed and threatened to make a decision that is less onerous to themselves but deleterious to an entire nation.

    Anyway, this line of discussion has probably gone too far.

  16. I don't understand these unemployed JD blogs. I'm sure theres some valid reasons to vent about unemployment, underemployment, and general corporate mistreatment and discontent. However, most of these blogs have the concept of entitlement as their foundation. Even the title "but I did everything right" has a ring of entitlement to it. A common theme on these blogs is to assume that salaries of attorneys should be higher than those with bachelor degree or no college degree. That has no basis in reality. Society rewards people based on the economic value that they input. All you really "did right" was do what people told you to do- by being a cog in the machine- and not wanting to pick your own future. It's easy to play the victim now that the machine has broken. My friend who makes the most money only took 2 college courses in his life before he dropped out for personal reasons. He's now an executive at a fortune 500 company and his company even sent him back to school at age 30 to finish a degree so he can be promoted to a senior executive position. Do you deserve more salary than him because you supposedly "did everything right"? I don't think anyone was scammed since all of life is a gamble. People in all professions have it difficult today, but, if you dedicate your time to what you desire, there is still opportunity. People complain about their economic circumstances on these blogs but then waste hours of their lives posting on various "JD scam" blogs and boards. Those hours would be better spent repairing your careers and finances than talking incessantly about some supposed "scam" and being the victim of it. Sometimes you lose in life and need to move on. Not everything can work out for a person in life. This embittered victim attitude of "having done everything right" won't get you anywhere. The truth is that most college graduates are not that intelligent. Only about 20 percent of college graduates are really skilled and talented. To read all these media articles about these supposed phenomenally talented, underemployed college graduates is somewhat disengenuous. It's not that more arduous academically to complete college as most degrees are not anymore difficult than high school today and most graduates have little social skills or real world business skills that employers desire. The truth is most commenters are scamming themselves that they did everything right when all they did was live a prototypical, programmed life with no gambles or truling taking chances.

  17. @1:02 (and @12:03 for that matter)

    I love this line of logic:

    Capitalism can never fail. If there is corruption, and a lack of opportunity, it is because our country is not capitalist by definition.

    Great rhetorical device you got there. Mind if I borrow it?

  18. @2:40:

    "No offense, but if its really just that simple, then why aren't you back with Grandma in the foreign country..."

    If I were to guess, I would guess she's stuck here because of her mortgage.

  19. 3:07, you make some very good points. There is no guaranteed way to secure a materially good life(or happy one). Ultimately it boils down to personal talents, hard work, and luck.

    I also agree that a college degree really doesn't mean much in this day and age.

    However, do you believe law schools should be guaranteed income by the federal government? Should the government intervene on behalf of corporations to minimize their risk and pass it on to the general public?

    FYI I am not in law school or the legal profession.

  20. We live in a age of entitlement! Money is given, not earned. If you were born to rich parents, then you are set for life. If you are well connected, then you are set for life.

  21. HKs is the one who likes the idea of leaving the country. I'm american now and I have a life here. I can't go back to be with Grandma. So, not really an option. Yah.. mortgage is here too..l home and bf is here too. My immediate family is here. Actually, Grandma is the only one that didn't leave.

  22. The United States is not capitalist. A better way to define our economic system is corporatist or fascist - the merger of government and corporate power. Corporations and government collude through "regulations" that too many naïve people believe are created to protect them. Regulations in every industry protect the powerful in the industry against competition.

    Regulations, especially in the banking industry, have bred fraud, theft and various other forms of dishonesty. People tend to rely on these regulations and believe that the financial products sold by Wall St. are safe simply because the government allows them. Oh, that's right - financial institutions are "regulated" by the Federal Reserve, which is owned by the big private banks. :-/. The Treasury is simply the Federal wing of the big investment banks, which has also been given more "regulatory" powers. The SEC is another awesome tool for the big boys. Without these institutions, many of these larger banks would have gone bust. Other more responsible banks would have risen with better products.

    In the food industry, "regulators" have helped destroy family farms with ridiculous "fees" (ransom) and other barriers to entry. The FDA sends goons to arrest people for selling pure non-GMO, non-hormone food. They are "protecting" us, right? Meanwhile, the FDA doesn't require labeling of the corporate GMO trash that most of us eat every day. Oh, that's right - the FDA is basically big agri's armed wing.

    But thank God, people are starting to think for themselves again and not rely on a bureaucrat to do their thinking for them through "regulation." People are turning back to locally grown and raised food. They verify quality with basic trust through word of mouth and their own research.

    People are also turning back to basic saving and precious metals rather than these ridiculous financial instruments that are given stamps of approval by the SEC. Keep in mind, they are turning back to these things DESPITE the regulators and NOT because of them.

    And if you think that just changing the people at the top of these agencies will alter the environment, think again. This type of crap is inherent in regulation agencies. They are just like any other organization - business, non-profit etc. Thus, it's main goal is to protect itself and its power. Your safety falls very low on the priority list. We need more government regulation about as much as we need more federal student loans.

    Prosecute fraud, theft etc. Encourage transparency. Let people think for themselves on the rest. We will learn not build a false sense of security and be better off for it.



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