48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Strong Arguments for Change
At the age of 50, I have seen the deterioration of the job market over the past 25 years, to the point where there are very few jobs that can be obtained with a BA or BS degree that will not be outsourced. In addition, I have watched as companies sold out their employees for the bottom line and the almghty dollar. It has become nearly impossible to stay in a job for very...
Published on May 26, 2006 by Frederick S. Goethel
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting thesis that deserves a better treatment
While reading through this book I continually found myself thinking two things: she's probably correct, and she doesn't really know why.
Generation Debt is at its best when it emphasizes statistics and constant dollar comparisons. This is where it's easiest to see that young face financial challenges largely unknown and unpredicted by earlier generations. (In...
Published on July 2, 2007 by Mateo Palos
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Strong Arguments for Change,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
At the age of 50, I have seen the deterioration of the job market over the past 25 years, to the point where there are very few jobs that can be obtained with a BA or BS degree that will not be outsourced. In addition, I have watched as companies sold out their employees for the bottom line and the almghty dollar. It has become nearly impossible to stay in a job for very long, which in turn makes it very hard to pay down student debt.
I currently have a child in high school and I watch with amazement as districts push more and more students into the college merry-go-round with little thought as to whether or not they will be able to handle the work, or even finish a degree. At the same time I have watched as programs that would be very useful to the majority of today's kids are cut because the world has become so focused on testing and keeping little "Johnny" up to speed when he should be held back.
An example is the auto shop programs from when I was in high school. You could leave high school and get a job working as an auto mechanic directly from school. The programs now don't have the financing to buy the computer technology needed for these kids to actualy work as mechanics, even though the vast majority of graduating students will never go to college and will need some type of vo-tech training before they can become employable.
As is pointed out in this book, maybe we should re-examine the needs and desires of todays students to see what classes will actually beneft them. Adding classes which will allow students to work directly from school would decrease their debt loading and it would free up college space, as well as help employers get emplyees with a good solid training in a field that they want to work in.
I am fortunate enough to live in a district that is looking in that direction and is trying to figure out what classes the kids of today need to become employable in a global economy without having to become mired in debt while obtaining a degree thay may never use.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting thesis that deserves a better treatment,
While reading through this book I continually found myself thinking two things: she's probably correct, and she doesn't really know why.
Generation Debt is at its best when it emphasizes statistics and constant dollar comparisons. This is where it's easiest to see that young face financial challenges largely unknown and unpredicted by earlier generations. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I'm 22 and a fairly recent graduate.) Even if one doesn't accept that recent graduates are worse off per se, it's difficult not to feel that they don't have nearly as many financial certainties as their predecessors.
Where it fails is the solutions. Kamenetz clearly isn't a historian or an economist; even more problematic is her apparent failure to understand that this can and should limit her ability to suggest fixes to the current situation. She clearly considers conservative economics a failure, but what she writes about them reveals that she hasn't studied them very hard, or at any rate not very deeply. It's possible that they are indeed in large part responsible for the current situation, but as her evaluation of them never rises above the superficial, it's difficult to know how correct she is. Similarly, it would have been nice if she'd anticipated some of the possible downsides to the largely socialistic solutions she suggests. Kamenetz is clearly intelligent, but she doesn't seem to understand how serious intellectual debate works.
Overall it's hard not to feel like she's out of her league when discussing these issues, and I can't help but think that her editor would have done better to assign her a coauthor. Then we might have had a book equal to its thesis.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It would be bad if not so hilariously absurd,
The book is a liberal denunciation of the modern American society in general and of its educational system in particular. There are statements in this book one finds it hard not to agree with -- for example when it correctly points to the outrageous practices of banks collecting huge profits from channeling federal educational loans to students.
Declining opportunities for young people, degradation of their standard of living, increased costs of college education, while indeed occurring, are illustrated by a set of stunningly absurd examples.
"Stella" from Chapter 2 borrowed $5000 per semester when she only needed $1000 for tuition (but she qualified for a higher loan amount -- why not to have it all?) and spent all of it on moving out of Mom's home and then spent some more on vacations (paid via credit cards) eventually running her debt to $33,000. While Stella's problems were clearly self-inflicted, Kamenetz blames the society that does not prepare young people for life. Do we need a nanny-state then to remove any responsibility from young people in making sound decisions?
"Latoya" from Chapter 3, "had funding for college, from Pell Grants, and she had support from her mother, but they weren't enough to keep her in school." If you wonder why -- "she didn't show the same hunger as her contemporaries". A paragraph later Kamenez contradicts herself with the praise of Latoya's "school performance, ambition, and background". But the society failed her and so she had to go (horror!) to the Navy.
"Jerman" also from Chapter 3 was born to a family in good financial standing that owned multiple homes and wineries in California. Yet we can see how the society failed Jerman and his siblings. Jerman's brother had had five kids by five different girls. Jeremy's sister had had four kids from two men by the age of 21. Jerman himself graduated from high school, however "along the way he got involved in drug scene". Obviously the "drug scene" is a politically correct description of an activity that brought Jeremy a three month sentence in a jail for "reckless driving and possession of methamphetamine". Drug dealer killed Jeremy's buddy "over a bad debt" (wonder what kind of debt that was, not educational loan, I suppose?) and two more of his friends' lives were "lost to violence".
Next stop, Nita 22, was "working these dumb jobs with the idea of saving money to go to college. But you never truly save enough money. You get a pile of money and just blow it." Of course it is the same story -- instead of saving Nita ran up her $10,000 credit card debt "shopping, eating out, and partying".
We are led to believe that the society failed Stella, Latoya, Jerman, Nita, and many other kids. Surely the society is responsible that our youths contract the same illness of rampant consumerism that brought the current economic crisis upon us, but should we forgo the notion that one bears one's responsibility for making bad decisions?
Kamenez complains that Yale's tuition went up from $31k to $39k in just seven years. "How can they justify it?" -- Kamenetz's father wonders. How about the most obvious answer -- because of the raising demand (you don't have to go to Yale instead of the Ohio State, and you don't have to buy Mercedes instead of Honda or Ford simply because all your friends or neighbors have done so). American consumerism is equally obvious in college education as it is in retail sales and real estate. The book quotes that "enrollment in higher education doubled from 7 million in 1970 to 14 million in 2002, while the total population of young people barely budged from 36 to 39 million".
From my own experience of a university professor (belonging to the generation currently below 35 Kamenez is addressing her book to), many of the current college students should not be in higher education in the first place. Liberal and socialistic writers will led you to believe that college education of as many students as possible is for "public good", but they cannot change a simple fact that many of them are simply not a "college material".
Kamenetz assesses, "I don't think anyone would be willing to say what percentage of America's population should ideally be earning a bachelor's degree, though we can certainly agree that the current number is too low". Too low? Can we "certainly agree"? Not if you read the book further, as 30 pages later Kamenetz confesses that "most economic analysts agree that the jobs of the next decade will require only slightly more educational credentials than today's do. In 2002, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26.9 percent of the workforce needed a college degree to do their jobs. The share will rise by just one percentage point by 2012, says the progressive nonprofit Economic Policy Institute".
Why providing more people with college education is for public good then? Aren't all those multiplying college graduates supposed to compete against each other with many of them losing in the subsequent job competition to their frustration and despair? Isn't a better decision for a young person of below than average intellectual ability (and believe it or not, but half of the population is below that average) not to go to college and not to accumulate insurmountable amount of debt with no job prospects? Isn't the "degree inflation" promoted when herds of new college degree holders cannot find jobs? Isn't this what's causing spike in tuition prices of brand name colleges, since most of college degrees from second-tier institutions are not well regarded anymore by employers? (Kamenetz rightly notices that high school diploma is already not worth much these days.)
The book is nothing more than a disarray of stories lacking any meaningful analysis beyond liberal demagogy. There are blames to put and things to change in our present educational system and the way the society tends to its younger people, but the book offers little insight into it.
75 of 94 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More gloom and doom...and a faulty analysis of the root causes...,
Generation Debt is a depressing, gloom and doom "analysis" of the current financial state of the Generation X/Y kids. A variety of topics are covered: student loan debt, jobs, federal programs, and family relationships. I'm a fan of finance and sociology books but what made this a difficult read for me was the continuous negative and whining narrative. Kamenetz, a young Yalie liberal, interviews numerous financially strapped students to document their many (self-inflicted) misfortunes. There are numerous stories of students who borrowed huge sums of money to attend admittedly charming private universities only to graduate with degrees that afforded them nothing but poor job prospects. I didn't see many mentions of the plight of engineering graduates, but plenty of those who attained humanities degrees. I mean, really, is it any surprise to anyone that someone with an English/Women's Studies major will fare worse in terms of job prospects than a chemical engineering major?
Kamenetz does adequately convey just how she and her peers think, which is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the book. The kids she describes are financially illiterate, with not even the remotest understanding of the far-reaching impacts of their financial decisions. Naturally they embrace the material trappings of modern society (iPods anyone?) but are frustrated they can't meet their financial obligations. Has society really failed these kids? To a large extent, that's what Kamenetz is suggesting. To her, taxpayers are apparently unresponsive to the plight of these poor kids. Never mind that most of them should have chosen more viable majors, attended cheaper public universities or community colleges, worked the whole time they were attending, and avoided debt like the plague. But, oh dear, that would ruin the whole college experience, would it not? Here's a newsflash. A college education is not a constitutional right. It's not even a guarantee to a successful life. And it most certainly is not the responsibility of already oppressively burdened taxpayers to further subsidize not only poor financial decisions made by students, but lavish, unnecessary spending by university bureaucracies.
I happen to work in the IT industry in the Midwest alongside a number of representatives from Generation X/Y and they are vastly more successful than the people interviewed for this book. And many of these kids weren't computer science or engineering majors. They went to school to learn any number of disciplines but were able to apply their knowledge to IT. In a word, they adapted--a vital skill in an uncertain job market. Nearly all of them went to state schools, worked one or more jobs while attending school, continue to live frugally, work hard, and find ways to add value to the organization every day. And I'm certain that their careers will reward them for it.
Kamenetz did provide a couple of pointers on the importance of living on less than you make (gasp!), but most of her advice either promoted activism or called for more taxpayer dollars to subsidize humanities majors hell-bent on a high society lifestyle on meager incomes in tax hells like New York City. Apparently the biggest thing lost on Kamenetz and those she interviewed is just old-fashioned common sense. In that respect, some of the blame has to be fall on parents of these generations. This is what happens when you indulge your kids and shield them from financial realities. But I really can't expect this author, who was given a $130,000 education, to understand or to articulate this. If my kids grow up this clueless, I will be devastated. Even at their young age, they are learning about the evils of debt, the importance of a college education that imparts practical skills, and the importance of work--regardless of financial aid.
Indeed, life isn't fair, and it never will be. But it's not impossible to make good choices, both vocational and financial, and to do the best you can with the talents you develop. This is as true today as it ever was in this country. But those who are looking to improve their chances will not find this book enlightening. On the contrary, they will probably find additional reasons to continue their self-pity. For those who want to achieve big things, they will find ways to be smart, positive, reliable, and highly productive employees or entrepreneurs. They will pursue financial education, shun credit card debt, and always save a part of their earnings. That's really the secret that eludes the author. I've seen it work again and again. It's not rocket science. This is the benefit of life experience. But since Kamenetz is young, idealistic, and mired in the victim mentality, she never mentions it. And, in a nutshell, this is why the book will fail to ignite the kind of activism the author intends and the results she so desperately desires.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The elite impersonating the oppressed,
I am the demographic this book was written for. I am of the generation she is talking about. I come from humble people; I'm the first person in my family to go to college, yet I managed to get a Ph.D. -in physics even (meaning, unlike some of the nincompoops interviewed in this book who got degrees in imaginary subjects, I had to do real work in school). When I got out, I was in debt up to my ears, and I had to take a job which didn't allow me to express my unique genius. Yet, I remain unmoved by, contemptuous even of her screed. Perhaps this is because I studied addition and subtraction in my long and sordid eduction, and fully realized that, if I took out loans, I'd have to pay them back. I also never needed the money to survive: it was all play money. Like Miz Kamenetz and the people she interviews, I spent my loan money on exotic vacations and baubles to make my life more comfortable. You can in fact, survive on very little money in america: even in expensive places like Berkeley or New York City. Yes, credit card companies are evil. Don't do business with them. Yes, higher education has become much more expensive. Make sure you get your money's worth. Take courses that can get you work.
Miz Kamenetz of course comes from a privileged background. Her parents were professors, well connected in the publishing industry, and she went to Yale (!). On her website, she describes not making her credit card payments for 3 months, while on a trip to Europe. Making a few guesses about her age and the exchange rates in the last few years, I'd say that was a pretty unwise decision, even if it did net her a marriage proposal from a google employee, and an eventual position giving finance advice for Yahoo. It is also symptomatic of a privileged generation, whining, essentially about its good fortune. 30 years ago, only people like Kamenetz would have been able to go to Yale, get credit to buy very nice things they can't afford, and take ill considered trips to europe. I don't know which generation she's talking about which had it better than ours: any such generation I can think of had considerably less access to both college education, credit (which is, frankly, nice to have: beats taking out loans from the local fingerbreaker) and easy living. A book by a Marie Antoinette who is unacquainted with anything remotely resembling financial hardship adds absolutely nothing to the discussion.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is more problem than solution,
This review is from: Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, No Benefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers--And How to Fight Back (Paperback)
"Generation Debt" is quite possibly the most severe case of entrenched whininess ever put into print. I disagree with nearly all of it, but let me first summarize the argument. Anya Kamenetz thinks that today's young adults face a terrible situation in every respect. We're being smacked by financial problems from all sides: college costs, credit card debts, "crap jobs", lack of benefits, high taxes, &c..., &c... Lest this sound like a `what else is new?' type of rant, Kamenetz is adamant about two things. First, things are worse for today's young adults than for the last generation. Second, it's not a result of our decisions; we're helpless victims of sweeping economic and political forces.
I found all this hard to swallow for several reasons. As a 26-year-old myself, I have fine job. I may only earn $35,000 a year, but it suits my needs just fine. Nor can I name any friend or relative suffering the horrors that the author describes. Moreover, the statistical case in "Generatio Debt" is quite weak. While there are a lot of numbers, there are few actual comparisons to earlier generations. The case that we're suffering worse than our parents rests mainly on hyperbole:
"The typical college student today is a striving young adult ... She is spending several years in chronic exhaustion, splitting her days between a nearly full-time, low-wage job and part-time classes at a community college or four-year public university. She uses her credit cards to make ends meet--for books, meals, and clothes--and barely manages the minimum payments. Overloading and falling behind." (page 6)
This is not an isolated example. That narrative style pops up in every chapter. Most of the book, however, is given over to interviews with the young adult victims of oppression. The interviews are invariably short, usually just half a page or so, not nearly deep enough to tell us much about a person's story. A smaller selection of longer interviews would have served better. What we do get in the interviews, however, points to the book's real problem. Consider a few examples.
"Latoya chose the academic program at Community College of Philadelphia, the only public, broad-access college in that city. But the classes left her cold. `It's boring', she said. `I'm not used to the way they teach. The professors are old and they sound like a tape recorder.'" (page 63)
"`I lived at home until I was twenty-two,' Nita told me. `I was working these dumb jobs with the idea of saving money to go to college. But you never truly save enough money. You get a pile of money and just blow it.' Nita barely manages the monthly minimum payments on $10,000 of credit card debt, mostly run up in one summer two years ago of shopping, eating out, and partying." (page 78)
"`At first it was like a party,' Amelia said of her downsizing at age twenty-six. `I got the severance check and went out. Everyone I knew was losing their jobs, going out late and drinking.'" (page 113)
These three people have all made mistakes, but you'd never guess it from how Kamenetz treats them. The impression from the book is that these three, and countless others like them, deserved to be coddled by society, even as they spend recklessly, drink, and drop out of school. As she sees it, young adults can do no wrong. Whatever they choose to do, they have the right to do it and have someone else pay for it.
Therein lies the real problem. Our generation is obviously not the first to be bored in school, or to have drinking problems, or to covet expensive clothes and such. We are the first generation to think that these desires are legitimate needs and that someone else should take care of us while we indulge them. In the past, college students who got bored learned to deal with it. That was simply part of an education, and could not be avoided. Those with low-wage jobs accepted them for a while, seeing them as steps up to something better.
That ethos is completely missing from "Generation Debt". Nowhere does Kamenetz demand that we change our own behavior. She suggests voting, activism, and so forth. All decent ideas of course, but she seems totally unaware that real change must come from within. That is our generation's real problem. We think that words like responsibility, modesty, and thrift may be interesting for readers of Jane Austen novels, but they can't possibly be useful for anyone alive today. If we maintain that attitude, debt is likely to be the least of our problems.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and balanced discussion,
Even after I have read all the negative reviews on this book, my girlfriend had decided to pick up this book for me anyways. I usually trust Amazon reviews, especially the bad ones, but this is one of the exceptions, and I am glad I read it. Whether the reader agrees with all her points or not, this book is undoubtedly very well written. Kamenetz has a very engaging writing style, without being overly emotional. The point of this book needs no reintroduction, but I think, her one sentence sums up the mounting problems that North Americans face in general.
"Americans have accepted a lack of public support under the guise of more freedom." (p 61)
Though the outlined in this book, we know all too well, but none sum up *all* the additional risks, for instance, debts, lack of health care, devaluation of employment, "work-life" balance, etc, in one setting. The discussion on each topic shows much depth and balance. Her research was thorough, and her claims are backed up with both statistics and interviews. There are also some facts, such as the military provision on the No Child Left Behind Act, and the replacement of GM as the US's largest employer with Wal Mart, which are very disturbing. In addition, some of her conclusions on working conditions and collective behavior, also loosely coincide with the observations of authors such as Al Gini (The Importance of being lazy) and Robert Caldini (Influence). This indicates that her research is, at the very least, not out to lunch.
Her "resolution" section does come across as simplistic, maybe she was pressed to give hope to the reader. While I agree "just-in-time" learning as the alternative to mounting massive student loan debts, the consequence of "deschooling", as she called it, can be quite dangerous. A similar movement happened once in China, under the umbrella of Cultural Revolution. She also applauded the Canadian efforts in maintaining affordable tuition. What she didn't mention, Canada has deregulated university tuitions some years before this book was written. To add insult to injury, while some universities have agreed to freeze tuition, the revenue shortfall is made up by increasing mandatory service fees. The exchange rate remains the only advantage for US citizens to seek post-secondary education in Canada. Despite some radical (but not well thought-out) solutions, Kamentz did, give some not so subtle hints about making drastic changes to expectations and life choices if one is determined to survive and succeed through Generation Debt. This is a not-so-sunny but necessary step towards financial and social independence, in my opinion.
Finally, I would like to respond to some of the negative reviews. Browsing through them, I got the jest that most of them came in three flavors, and I would like to comment to each of them.
1) "This book is written for a bunch lazy whiners who prefer to live on mum-and-dad and plastic. They should grow up and man up."
This is no evidence of this kind of anywhere in the book. The interviewees display more maturity than the stereotype, and they are in debt (or are very slowly on their way out) to make ends meet.
2) "Anya Kamentz blames all the problems to the Boomers, and she thinks spending money on them is counter-productive."
Her concerns of the soon-be-retiring Boomer is genuine. While the Boomers are while well represented in many political and economical institutions, the generations that follow do not (yet). The real issue on what the newer generations must do to adopt the Boomer legacy to their advantage, not how to blame each other.
3) "I am disciplined enough to not let this happen to me so the people she mentions on this book are really a bunch of losers."
You've been there, so you know these problems are not made up. Others, however, are not so fortunate to have their problems solved, because they have not enough resolve or support to do so.
I think, overall, this is a very well written book, and summarizes very well the problems that is faced everyday by the people she collectively terms "Generation Debt". Though I think her resolution needs more critical thinking, her overall research is very thorough and well balanced.
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars She Perfectly Articulates The Problem!,
A lot of people writing negative reviews of this book start off with, "Young people just go into by buying bug TV;s with credit cards!" As far as most Conservatives are concernd that's where the problem begins and ends.
But as this book corrctly points out there are 3 MAJOR forces that are holding this and future generation back:
1) Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control. Our parents paid a fraction of their income on healthcare and spen the rest on buying a decent home. My generation and future generation are spending almost HALF our income just on insurance (which doesn't cover much so we get a second huge billl in the mail from the hospital)
2) Temp jobs. Our parents grew up making an average of $17-$20 an hour and could count on making that for decades so long as then worked hard for a company. Now the average wage is $10/hr and only last a few months or a few years with NO BENEFITS and no holiday pay. The author correctly points out that the employee model that existed in the 50', 60's and 70's simply doesn't exist. It's cheaper to simly make everyone temps (you cut their wages in half) and eliminate all their vacation pay, sick pay and health insurance (you save in more as a company)
3) Job loss. The one issue that really brings it all home for readers is that there simply aren't that many good paying jobs available anymore. When huge manufacturing companies shut down plants it has a ripple effect that effects hundreds of other businesses that supported that one company. So what's happening is the market is being flooded with highly skilled laborers while at the same time the number of high paying (middle class) jobs is shrinking by 25% every five years. It doesn't matter if you have a college degree because EVERYONE has a college degree. You have 100 people with Masters degrees all fighting like dogs for one (yes, just ONE) job opening --- and that job just lost all it's health benefits.
Yes, it would be cute and easy if we could blame our national economic problems on "those darn kids buying a bunch of stuff on credit" -- but the reality is that our national economy is dying. The rising healthcare costs, the falling wages, the shrinking jobs, etc. You can't sustain this type of wage and job erosion coupled with skyrocketing housing and healthcare costs indefinitely. Rising costs and falling wages. You don't have to have a Phd in economics to see that eventually this country will go bankrupt.
62 of 86 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SUPPLY AND DEMAND!,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
To summarize, IT'S CALLED SUPPLY AND DEMAND!
I agree with Anya, in that most kids don't get a good financial education from their parents, and that the loose consumer debt laws border on usury. However, nobody is making kids rack up this credit card debt! The point on college is true too. I cringe when I hear someone is majoring in communication at a $30k a year private third-tier college. What do they think they're going to do? It's called supply and demand!!! If Anya had her way, everyone would be a fashionista, journalist, or work in TV or film. What these kids don't understand is that a small, small, small percentage of the population can do those things. It's like in Office Space, when they put down the "do and major in what interests you" myth. Peter points out, "if everyone listened to that, there would be no janitors, because nobody would want to clean up sh*t for a living!" That's what these interviewees completely miss.
A very telling statement is on page 6, when Anya points out, "Only 24.4 percent of the adult population has a B.A., according to the 2000 census..." What the hell? Who cares about a BA? Does she actually mean a bachelors degree? I would suggest that only about 5% of the population needs a B.A., but more like 50% needs a B.S. As Anya herself has found out, unless you're among the idle rich or an extremely talented writer, a B.A. isn't going to get you anywhere. A traditional "liberal education," where you sit around and think about stuff and write papers and get your degree should be for only a small part of the population. In super future utopia world, sure, everyone could get a traditional liberal education, but we're hundreds of years from that point. We have to solve world poverty, war, and hunger first. Anya decries the lack of vocational education throughout the book, but there's a huge "vocational" collegiate job training program out there, and it's called "a technical degree from a reputable institution." Ipods don't spontaneously generate from the earth- they, like every other convenience of your life, were made by hard working, technically oriented people. And there's no such thing as a person fundamentally not good at math or science. It's like exercise. Studying math or engineering, like working out, isn't easy or fun, but accomplishing something.
Also, not everyone can live in NYC or SF. If you're living somewhere, and you're wondering why you can't pay your rent with three roommates, perhaps you should think about moving somewhere else. It's called SUPPLY AND DEMAND. You can buy a nice, two bedroom house in West Virginia for $30,000, today. Think about that.
Also telling is the attitude of the interviewees. Angus, who drifted around "[...] jobs" for 10 years, is quoted as such: "'I've had difficulty focusing,' Angus admits with a sheepish smile.'" Let me tell you, sheepish guys with no agenda are lucky to have credit card debt and [...] jobs. A hundred years ago, they would have just starved to death, or gone to debtors prison. That's really the lesson from this book- society has become so socially permissive that those who would have been bums a few years ago now can be disaffected, disenfranchised youth. I don't want people to starve to death, but I don't want people to be bums, either.
Anya seems pretty down on the military, but joining the military would have solved any of these kids problems. I think I'm a good example-- I went to Annapolis, majored in Electrical Engineering, and still today am in the Navy. Is it the greatest thing ever? No! In fact, some days I'm downright unhappy about it. I don't consider myself an engineer, nor do I really want to work in that field. My family is secure, though, and my prospects are pretty good for a job someday soon-- moreso than if I had majored in sociology at UAB, for sure.
If you want to see what pain and suffering is about, read "The End of Poverty." At least look at the first picture in the photo section, where there's a grandmother that must feed her fifteen grandchildren on half a hectare of rotted grain because all her children have died of AIDS. Activism to fix that situation is something I can get excited about. The plight of the young and fabulous is not something I can get excited about.
I would recommend you read this book, although I warn you, it's like a bad horror movie. You can see the characters fates before they even finish their stories. All of them, unless they change their attitude, will be in the exact same place 5, 10, or 30 years from now. Anya has tried to demonstrate the injustice of our society, but she inadvertently has only elucidated the real cause.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Unfortunately Terrible Book,
The arguments set forth in this book are often poorly reasoned, the research is inadequate, the people interviewed by the author are far too similar ... but worst of all, the book is horribly unbalanced in terms of the (liberal) political bias of the author. And speaking of the author, readers will rarely have encountered such a self-absorbed promoter of ideas she clearly has not taken the time fully to understand. I don't know how many times she interjects that she went to Yale. Who cares? She suffers the delusion that affects many (young/second-rate) journalists, which is that anybody cares about the personal opinions of journalists. This is a great topic for a book, and Kamenetz accidentally blunders upon a few good points, but it is unfortunate that the subject matter is done such a disservice ... the only redeeming quality is that she quotes a few other authors who actually have something to say.
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Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, NoBenefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers--And How to Fight Back by Anya Kamenetz (Paperback - December 26, 2006)