Eating Our Young


It is popular now to talk of race, class, and gender oppression. But left out of this focus on supposed victim groups is the one truly targeted cohort -- the young. Despite the Obama-era hype, we are not suffering new outbreaks of racism. Wendy Davis is not the poster girl for a resurgent misogyny. There is no epidemic of homophobia. Instead, if this administration’s policies are any guide, we are witnessing a pandemic of ephebiphobia -- an utter disregard for young people.

The war against those under 30 -- and the unborn -- is multifaceted. No one believes that the present payroll deductions leveled on working youth will result in the same levels of support upon their retirements that is now extended to the retiring baby-boom generation. Instead, the probable solutions of raising the retirement age, cutting back the rate of payouts, hiking taxes on benefits, and raising payroll rates are discussed in an environment of après moi le déluge -- to come into effect after the boomers are well pensioned off.

The baby-boomer/me generation demands what its "greatest generation" parents got -- or, in fact, far more, given its increased rates of longevity. The solution of more taxes and less benefits will fall on young people and the unborn, apparently on the premise that those under 18 do not vote, and those between 18 and 30 either vote less frequently than their grandparents or less knowledgeably about their own self-interest.

The Social Security pyramidal scheme is merely the tip of the ephebiphobic iceberg. Currently student indebtedness exceeds $1 trillion. Many of these loans begin compounding before graduation and are pegged at interest rates far higher than parental mortgages. The cause of this tuition bubble is also not controversial. The prices colleges charge for annual tuition, room and board have for over two decades far exceeded the annual rate of inflation.

There were four causes of such price gouging of students. None of them had anything to do with offering better education for a more competitive price for job-hungry graduates. The first was automatic escalations in the amount of money students could borrow that would be backed by federal guarantees. If campuses hiked their wares at prices consistently twice the rate of inflation, they could assume that students -- while in college -- could qualify to borrow the needed sums. What happened afterwards was not all that much a concern of the campus, at least as long as it did not affect subsequent admissions.

Second, the size and compensation of the administrative class exploded. Again, the reason why was not difficult to understand. Awash in federally backed loan dollars, hoping to lure students with high-tech and social amenities, and to indoctrinate them with race, class, and gender ideology, campuses created new positions from diversity associate provosts to technology gurus -- all to oversee everything from rock-climbing walls to on-campus lectures and paid workshops from fashionable cultural icons.

Third, there was a radical bifurcation among faculty, a sort of divide-and-conquer strategy that rewarded fossilized tenured professors with reduced teaching loads and support for research, while cutting back on new replacement tenure-track billets and upping the percentage of units taught by pastime adjunct teachers. The new younger Morlocks did the grunge 1A work for their more rarefied and contemplative elder Eloi, and the students who paid for it sat through their lectures on fairness and equality.