Friday, September 2, 2011

Recent College Grads On Welfare? Give Me A Break!

In Thurday's New York Times, an oddly sympathetic article shed a river of tears for recent college graduates who can't find jobs in their chosen fields, referring to them as Generation Limbo: "highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects."

Say what? Careers?? What careers? These newbies are just joining the workforce, navigating their way in the real world. To say their careers are stuck in neutral is like calling raw hamburger meat overcooked.

But what was most alarming in the piece is that a number of these youngsters are accepting government handouts, such as food stamps. One recent graduate noted that a half-dozen of her friends are gleefully taking $150 a month from the government.

In Michigan, however, 30,000 college students were recently booted from the state’s food stamp program. “Maybe (students) could go get a part-time job; that’s what I did,” said Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, a former justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. “We want to encourage people to be self-sufficient, not to be dependent on the government."

Salon.com, meanwhile, published an article in 2010 about 20-somethings using food stamp benefits to buy fresh produce, raw honey, soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream. "I'm eating better than I ever have before," one hipster boasted, while another commented, "I'm sort of a foodie, and I'm not going to do the 'living off ramen' thing," instead feasting on roasted rabbit, tarragon and sweet potatoes. "I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it's great that you can get anything."

Pardon me for sounding like the grizzled senior, but WTF? Don't tell me that young, attractive, energetic 20-somethings cannot find jobs as waiters, bartenders, retail salespeople and the like?

Unless circumstances have greatly changed since the sun rose this morning, it's not 40-somethings and beyond that are swiping those positions from recent college graduates. I know that the economy is in the gutter, but we're not talking about displaced career veterans who have families, mortgages and grown-up responsibilities. So how about spending less time braising the rabbit and instead work for a living?

When I finished college 1,000 years ago, I was fortunate enough to get a job that propelled me out of Lynchburg, Va., to metro Washington. My salary was $12,000 a year, which was as lousy then as it sounds now—in a top 10 market, at that, which was not cheap.

I had two roommates, lived in the basement of a townhouse and to supplement my income, I worked nights and weekends as a telemarketing rep, making cold calls from a bullpen to convince folks to check out vacation properties. It wasn't much fun, but that's what it took to make ends meet... and so it was.

Food stamps at 21? Perhaps the more accurate term is Generation Entitled.