God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off. — Tyler Durden
Salon: The fantasy of a vast upper middle class
College isn’t for everyone. Neither is the stock market
…The elderly in America can remember a long-distant era when progressive thinkers included leaders of organized labor and small-town populist politicians. But nowadays progressive politicians and strategists tend to be affluent meritocrats who got where they are by making good grades at highly selective schools. Their narrow personal experience leads many elite progressives to equate social mobility and increases in income with obtaining academic credentials like their own. While New Deal labor liberals and populists wanted to promote unions and a living wage, many members of the new breed of Ivy League-educated liberal technocrats prefer an alternate plan: send everybody to college.
Progressives love to claim that education is the key to upward mobility. But this is based on an obvious fallacy. The “college premium” that results in higher incomes for college graduates is the result of the relative scarcity of college degrees. If everyone had a B.A., then the value of a B.A. in generating high wages would drop. We know this to be the case, because access to college has expanded more rapidly in Europe, where the gap in wages between the college-educated and the rest as a result is smaller than in the U.S.
Nor is there any basis to the claim, repeated by politicians and pundits of both parties, that most of the jobs of the future require a college education. On the eve of the Great Recession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified the occupations with the largest numerical growth in 2008-2018: registered nurses; home health aides; customer service representatives; combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food; personal and home care aides; retail salespersons; office clerks, general; accountants and auditors; nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; and post-secondary teachers. Of these careers, only two — accountants and auditors, and post-secondary teachers — require a bachelor’s degree rather than on-the-job training or an associate degree, and only one — post-secondary teachers — requires a graduate degree (a doctorate).
The jobs Lind lists here that don’t require a degree (the “jobs of the future”) are kind of amusing. The ‘good’ jobs in his list actually DO require a degree, while the jobs that don’t require one are the very same service industry jobs that kids go to college to escape from. I really don’t think anyone dreams of working in fast food or retailing shoes when they’re young and I’m pretty sure such jobs would never support a family – they’d barely support someone living by themselves. And, seriously, in what state can a registered nurse work without a Bachelor’s degree?
…Conservatives of the bubble economy era had their own mass upper-middle-class fantasy. In their version, membership in the mass upper middle class depended not upon educational credentials but upon ownership of capital invested in the stock market. By the beginning of the 21st century, according to some calculations, a majority of Americans had private retirement accounts or employer pensions that were invested in stocks and bonds. In the pages of the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, conservative intellectuals declared that this made the United States a “nation of capitalists,” an “investor society” based on “universal capitalism.”
Defining janitors with 401K’s as “capitalists” is a kind of social promotion comparable to the elevation by progressives like Teixeira and Abramowitz of shoe-store clerks who dropped out of college into the “mass upper middle class.” Genuine capitalists derive most of their income from the return on their investments or savings, not from labor. By this definition, there are hardly any capitalists in the U.S. Most of the rich are the “working rich,” who derive most of their income from wages or professional fees, not from investments. We are a nation of wage earners, some paid well and others poorly. …
The result has been an experiment in social engineering that has gone horribly wrong: the creation of a faux mass upper middle class. Millions of Americans who by objective standards belong to the working class or lower middle class have persuaded themselves that they are part of the professional-investor elite, because they have worthless degrees from diploma mills, negligible amounts invested in stocks, and suburban trophy houses they cannot afford. For the college graduates at Starbucks working to pay off student loans for degrees that they will never use, as for the millions of Americans who are now “underwater,” owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, the American dream has turned into a nightmare.
… The alternative to the mass upper-middle-class fantasy peddled by Republicans and New Democrats is … (read the rest)