Note: This was written in Spring 2008, before the economic crisis this fall.
As I grow older and more mature (not necessarily the same thing) I become more and more confused with the youth of today. I also realize that “youth” is a subjective term that is constantly in a state of flux because medical science continues to find ways to prolong the expected life-spans of human being into the triple digits, ways for women to have children well beyond the natural child bearing age and surgical procedures that allow the very wealthy to look like they are 25 well into their 60’s. Taking all of these factors into account I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans consider “youth” to be from birth until college graduation. This is the developmental period when the offspring should attain the proper knowledge and skills (through schooling, home life, and other influences) to become a self-sufficient and productive member of society. The fact that many “youth” make it all the way through college without even a fraction of the skill set required of American adults should tell us that there is a problem somewhere along the line. Where exactly this happens is arguable, however, the fact that American colleges unleash tens of thousands of graduates every year into our society that have no idea how to balance a check book, finance a car or handle a credit card, is not.
This year President Bush has authorized a payment of $600 to a large segment of the US population to “invigorate the economy.” Unfortunately, the problem with the economy is not that 20-somethings working their first job do not have a Playstation 3 or Louis Vuitton’s spring handbag, because honestly, this is where most of this money will go. The problem is that people in this age group spend money like the “Reality TV Stars” they have grown up watching with no regard for the fact that not everybody can afford designer clothing, expensive cars and lavish Sweet 16 parties. However, this is not a diatribe against the wealthy, if you can afford to buy your daughter a Range Rover and a $300,000 gala with a performance from 50 Cent for her sixteenth birthday, without even noticing the money is gone, who’s to tell you not to do that? But, if you are a student or entry level employee struggling to put gas in your car (not to mention the high-interest rate monthly payments on that car) a $500 purse or a weekend in Vegas is not for you. There is nothing wrong with living within your means, not everybody can have alligators on their short-sleeve collared shirts, it’s just not for everybody, somebody has to have tigers and some people have to wear shirts not adorned with any animal, it’s just the way of the world.
That is why I propose that the billions of dollars that Bush is borrowing (most likely an attempt to be remembered for something other than the worst approval rating in history and being constantly lampooned by the entertainment industry) should not be used to give Americans the means to buy electronics that will soon be obsolete, clothing that will be laughed at in two years and vacations that will result in myspace/facebook pictures that may eventually cost the individuals in question their jobs. Instead, the money should be used to start a mandatory nationwide education program in all high schools that will address finance and economics and prepare the next generations of Americans to make smart decisions and lead us out of the quagmire of credit card debt, home foreclosure and impulse buying that has lead huge numbers of young people to financial ruin before they have even started a family or had a chance to establish themselves professionally. Even though I have professed the need for this “class” I am still unsure about exactly what the curriculum should include , mainly because most of the “problems” we are having fall into the category of common sense, issues like:
1. If you work for somebody else, you may lose your job…plan accordingly.
2. If you own your own business, you may go out of business…plan accordingly
3. If you don’t make enough money to support yourself, do NOT have kids. This should not be hard with the wealth of contraceptive options currently available, however I am perpetually confused as to how poor people seem to get laid so much.
4. If you work at a job that requires you to wear your name on your shirt the following items are out of the question: New Cars, Boats, Jet Skis, Concert Tickets, Vacations and eating in restaurants. These items are off limits until all income is used to improve your situation in life (community college, trade school, becoming physically attractive enough to attain promotions) You can enjoy the fruits of your labor as soon as your “labor” does not entail wearing your name on your shirt.
5. If you are overweight no amount of designer clothing will make you attractive to the opposite sex. If you are broke, start running around your block and stop eating. If you are wealthy, get plastic surgery. Either way, do it before you buy a $3000 jacket. There is a reason they don’t make Gucci in XXXL.
6. If you do not own the home you live in your car should not contain any of the following: TV’s in the head rest, rims that did not come with the car, an audio system that can be heard from 3 miles away, leather/heated seats, any video game console or a camera to show you what is happening behind you. If you can not back out of a parking space without the use of an elaborate surveillance system your license should be revoked.
7. If you are not a rapper, do not try to live like one. The fast life of Bentleys, mansions, Big Pimpin’ on yachts, jump-offs and Champagne in gold cellophane is not for regular, workin’ dudes…and since the advent of digital downloads it’s not for most rappers.
8. Don’t go to strip clubs, it is literally throwing money away. They do not like you; they are at best indifferent and in some cases actually hate you. They are paid professionals that take your money in exchange for pretending to not be repulsed by you for the length of one techno song. If you think it’s more than this or you think this is a good use of your money, you need serious psychiatric counseling (which you probably can’t afford after blowing all your dough at the Go-Go Rama).
9. Don’t use credit cards in bars. Buying everybody you know rounds of shots on your “tab” seems like a great idea, but rarely do people open up their bills a month later and say to themselves “Wow, I’m really glad I had those 3 more Long Island Iced Teas!”
10. Gambling is dumb. There are teams of mathematicians (that are still smarter than you after they drink a quart of Hennessy) working day and night to ensure that you can not beat the house. If that is not proof enough, look at your house and then look at Donald Trump’s house and ask yourself if it’s realistic for you to beat that guy at anything, ever.
Follow these if you want, I gotta run and spend the better part of the day in line at FootLocker for a pair of $300 Jordans that I may or may not actually wear.