Has This Low-Expectations Economy Changed the Youth?

Fears abound that the state of the current economy may very well be the new normal (though, at this point, can it really even be called “new” anymore?). These fears, I fear, may be warranted. Consider: when you drive by a gas station that is selling fuel at $3.30 per gallon, you have to stop yourself from slamming on the breaks as you exclaim aloud to nobody, “Wow, that’s cheap! I must get some!”

While incomes are falling and there are fewer people working today than there were when President Obama took office in 2009 (thanks, Bush), we’ve been conditioned to expect and accept that filling up our tanks will put a hole in our wallets that once would have been thought so unacceptable that most middle-income earners would have turned to bicycling. But now, paying double for gas what we were paying five to ten years ago provokes nothing but a blink from us.

But maybe a bad economy is not such a bad thing. We have learned in these tough times to be more frugal and to place more value in our dollars (when I say “we,” I mean we ordinary citizens, not the government). I can think of no better way to teach my future children the value of a dollar than to make him use his own money to buy the things he wants, charge him interest when he borrows from me, and to levy a hefty tax on any amount of money I pay him for doing chores around the house.

The youth of today have had to find some way to survive in this economy in which incomes have fallen while the prices of commodities have risen. Their parents have less money to dole out to them, so they’re forced to learn the hard lesson of fiscal responsibility.

Released yesterday was an analysis of a study that began 40 years ago. As the Associated Press reports, “The authors of the study compared responses of high school seniors from three time periods– 1976-1978 and 2004-2006, as well as 2008-2010, the first years of the Great Recession.”

One of the findings was that “at the beginning of this latest recession, more of the 12th-graders were willing to use a bicycle or mass transit instead of driving–36 percent in 2008-2010, compared with 28 percent in the mid-2000s. However, that was still markedly lower than the 49 percent of respondents in the 1970s group who said the same.”

But the study also notes that the youth have become more community-minded rather than individual-minded. In that case, maybe my analysis is totally wrong and it’s not that kids are becoming harder workers due to less money—biking around town is hard, but it does save money—but that they’ve all be suckered into the global-cooling scheme (yes, I’m calling it global cooling from now on, just as politicians and their hired “climatologists” called it in the ’70s), since biking around town also supposedly rescues the planet from Armageddon.

Darn. I was all ready to credit Obama as benevolent and an economic genius whose seemingly dastardly plan to wreck the economy had a greater goal in sight—that of saving our youth from themselves, from their selfish ways, and thus saving the future of this country—but I’m going to have to refrain and revise: my fellow Millennials are all just a bunch of hippies.