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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young

Posted on Thu, May 11, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young
Publishing House: Riverhead
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young
Last year, Time magazine ran a cover story about a new group of Americans it called 'twixters.â?� Though old enough to be adults, twixters behave more like adolescents. They change jobs frequently and eschew marriage in favor of serial dating. When they don't have the cash for something, twixters simply put it on plastic. In Generation Debt, Anya Kamenetz makes a compelling case that there is a lot more to this picture than fiscal irresponsibility. In fact, she argues, today's youth graduate from high school with a future full of red ink. Higher education is more expensive, and students graduate with record amounts of debt, some of it on credit cards. What does this money buy?

Not much, Kamenetz argues, and the trend looks even worse for those who don't attend college. 'In 1970,â?� she writes, 'high school graduates entered the world of GM and $17.50 an hourâ?� in today's dollars. Now Wal-Mart is the nation's largest employer, and their average wage is $8 an hour. Many of those workers don't get health care or can't afford it. And as Kamenetz points out, women still earn 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts take home. Compiling statistics like these, Kamenetz reveals how American society has undergone a radical 'risk shiftâ?� over the past decades, from the old to the young and from companies to individuals. As a result, young people are now often responsible for their own health care, their own retirement funds and, in all likelihood, the health care bills of their aging parents, too.

Kamenetz is right to find this alarming. She even has some good suggestions about how to address the problems she raises. But the one thing Kamenetz can't do ' even through this thoughtful and rigorous book ' is force her comrades to do something that might actually make politicians listen: Vote.

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