Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Whatever Happened To Earning It?

Five years ago I dated a girl who made $150.00 a week as a Chili’s hostess and spent $500.00 a week on pedicures and pocketbooks. By the time she was 25, she was 30K in debt and applying to another credit-card company. One day I said to her, “whatever happened to earning it?” She didn’t like that. The relationship didn’t work out.

Now our state is in an 8-billion-dollar grave and this country is STILL teetering on the precipice of a second Great Depression. If you want to blame the Political infrastructure, I’m right there with you. We’re asking multi-millionaires to lose sleep over Middle America’s deficit. They’ll do the monkey-dance and meet behind “closed doors” but it gets worse every day. I don’t know ONE person who’s not worried about his/her job. Not ONE.

How’s this happened?

I have some theories. This country has lost all patience. When I was young my parents bought an $80,000 house and over the next 20 years built it up to a $200,000 house. They took their time, lived within their means, and eventually all their hard work paid off. They showed me what making a fiscally-sound life plan really meant. But now? You have 20 year olds on Ruby Tuesday’s salaries buying 250,000 houses they can’t afford. Why? Because Americans want it RIGHT NOW. Logic and reason have gone out the window. Grocery baggers and fast-food employees want Tony Soprano’s digs and the flashy car to match. The greedy banks have been giving it to them for years. Make the quick buck on Joe Public and worry about the fallout later. Well, later is here and the fallout has arrived. Foreclosures are everywhere and if the housing market’s in the toilet, the whole system falls apart. No industry feeds more industries than housing.

But we already understand that. Sure.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I have a cousin who’s 21 and another, he's 18. Neither has really worked a single day in their whole life. Yet she drives a $20,000 car and he’s going to Italy next month. I’ve been working since I was 14. I can’t even afford Little Italy. Am I jealous? No. I’m worried because the message sent is that you don’t have to work hard to have the nice things in life. You just get them. You are ENTITLED to them. It’s this entire generation. The message has been softened. We are now telling kids, YES, this world DOES owe you. So when they enter said world, that mindset stays the same, and by the time they’re 25 they’ll be 30K in debt (on top of college debt). The problem? Nobody’s taught these people the value of working to own something outright, not owing some credit card company your shirt. There's a lost joy in knowing they can never take it away from you. It's yours.

How do I know this? I’ve seen it firsthand. See above.

What about college? If someone gets a B.A. then they don’t have to work hard, they can work smart. Are you kidding? This pipe-dream that a college degree means the cushy corner-office is a joke. Everybody goes to college now. Need proof? HVCC just broke its all-time enrollment record this semester. You need a B.A. to wash dishes in this country. But the problem is nobody wants to climb the corporate ladder. They want the big-shot title today. Honestly, college acceptance is too easy. It needs to be much tougher. We need college/vocational schools to be a farm system for our society. The fact is higher education is cake, and anyone who can fill out a Loan Application Form can get it. There’s no weeding out. Then college degrees are everywhere, kids who can't get jobs are in debt to loan providers. It’s education inflation. But hey, the universities got their money, and that’s all that matters. Right?

It’s not only the young though. Look at Barack Obama. Nowadays you can be elected President with nothing more than a couple “real” years of political experience? I thought a man/woman took a shot at the Oval Office after a lifetime of public servitude, after decades of being a player on the National Scene. Guess not. But what choice did we have? We had to elect Obama. His opponent ran with a woman who couldn’t even name a single Supreme Court case. How about the former Broncos’ QB Jay Cutler, who demanded a trade last season, and got exactly what he wanted? Now he's stinking it up in Chicago. How does an NFL player who’s never won a meaningful game and is making millions for it get to DEMAND a trade, and GET it!? What’s the message there? Whine and cry and be rewarded?

A metaphor for America: the parking lot outside the Jenny Craig in Latham is packed year round. The same parking lot outside ABC Fitness? Packed in January for resolutions. After that? Not so much. Give me the magic pill. The quick fix.

The truth is we live in an I-Phone-DVR-society. We don’t even have to sit through commercials anymore! Everything is instant. I WANT IT. I DESERVE IT. GIVE IT TO ME. Between cell phones, and scanners, and Twitter, It’s all about me. This world OWES me! Patience and working for it is a thing of the past, and because of that this upside-down country will continue to slip into the financial abyss. And until we turn the I-Pods and Facebook pages off, I don’t know how we reverse this generational mindset. And that makes me sad.

Brian Huba


  1. In 100% agreement with you! Well done, sir!

  2. Very true. College degrees, while not meaningless, have certainly lost value. I have a masters degree and right now, I am managing a Stewart's Shop, a job I'm grateful for, given the economic climate in our nation. What's scary is the jobs that ARE available. They are sh*t, and are blown away by a job at Stewart's.

    Colleges do not prepare anybody for anything and they are very misguided. Look at UAlbany. Thy began a journalism program/degree and had tons of applicants. Where are the jobs? Newspapers are headed to the tank and online journalism doesn't pay very much, certainly not enough to justify the $90,000 tuition costs.

    How about education? Colleges love it when students major in education and want to become teachers. Yet, for every job opening, there are at least 200 applicants. Schools like St. Rose and Albany allow students to major in education regardless of where the jobs are. Where is the guidance? Where is the advisor telling the 20 year old female that elementary education might not the best area to major in.

    I'm also amazed at how few young people work. They don't really want to work, and they have no problems calling in when they want a day off, money be damned. They apply for a job, and will work when they want to.

    But, our society has condoned it. We are society that is in to gossip and American Idol and that's the lifestyle we're supposed to live. That's why the putrid singer cires after getting undressed by Simon Cowell. They're crying, not because they can't sing, but because they now have to go home and figure out what to do for a living.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This isn't new. People have been living outside their means since money was invented. By putting it all in the laps of people making barely a living wage, you seem to forget predatory lenders. This couldn't happen if lenders didn't make loans they knew couldn't be repaid with a person's present circumstances.

    No one knows the future. Money is just a concept. In the end you can't take it with you and you don't owe it to your children.

    Maybe your sister should go to Italy. With a brother like you throwing her under a train she'll probably enjoy the distance as well as the scenery