Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 99%ers: Part 7

Looking for victims is as unproductive as playing the blame game.

The last posting closed with “Looking for victims is as stylish as searching for someone to blame. That’s sad. Neither is a very productive use of time.” But, at this point I’ve received so many victim pieces that a general posting seems appropriate.

We now seem to have degenerated into a society where the competition to be the most victimized is hot and heavy. It gets played out regularly in the media. A few stories illustrate. First, the coverage of “Generation Jobless: Young Men Suffer Worst as Economy Staggers” in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, November 7, 2011; or “US wealth gap between young and old is widest ever” ASSOCIATED PRESS, November 7, 2011. (The AP story covers “The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being,” a Pew Research Center spin of Census data). Now, contrast that with “Retirement Crisis Closes In on Baby Boomers,” a REUTERS’ story published the same day.

The first few articles see the young as victims. They choose to ignore the wealth youth have in the form of the present value of a lifetime’s earning. It also fails to compare their absolute wellbeing to the absolute wellbeing of previous generations. The other article makes the startling discovery the baby boomers have done less to prepare for retirement than previous generations and are beginning to worry about the implications of that strategy. Haven’t we known the savings rate has been falling for generations and that each generation has been saving less than the previous generations?

So, we’ve covered the tails of the age distribution. It would be counter to America’s tradition of inclusiveness to ignore everyone else. Sticking with age, we find “Older Americans [are] faring worst in the recession” in THE WASHINGTON POST, October 19, 2001. In an article on Social Security, it says: “… 55 to 64-year-olds have fared worst in the recession than any other demographic.” You think they found their star victim, but this is THE WASHINGTON POST. They’re experts at the victim game so we have “The graying of the long-term unemployed” on November 2, 2011 which focuses on those out of work long term, many of whom are older workers. By contrast, USA TODAY on January 1, 2011 was much more direct about victimization in “Long-term unemployed face stigmas in job search.”

Lest you think the 35 to 55 year olds have been neglected by our quest for victims, keep in mind they are in prime years for career advancement. Even short periods of unemployment or minor foolishness with debt management can set them back enough to take decades to recover. A little research and one could probably find them as the featured victim of the day.

People who borrowed too much make good victims, especially if they took it to levels that result in bankruptcy or foreclosure. We could tick through ethnic groups; gender; geographic regions; urban, rural and suburban; the poor verses the middle class, those who pay for health insurance verses those who skip the coverage, those with college loans or those who never got to go to college, the handicapped, and an endless list.

They all deserve sympathy, especially those who qualify for multiple victim status. However, no one seems to be willing to accept that like bubbles, busts are mass phenomena. If all the effort put into competitive victim debates was put into solutions, we’d be a lot better off. Problem with that is that the first step for most of us would be figuring out how we contributed to both the bubble and the bust, and most importantly, how we contributed to our own problems. That would be so much less fun.

We have fallen to a new low when people are more comfortable being victims than addressing problems. It would be disastrous if those more focused on their victim status than on solutions come to represent 99%. It’s especially sad that our political “leaders” and media elite have fallen to the same low; but then, at least they’ve figured out how to profit from it.

No comments:

Post a Comment