The “Stewart Generation”, Not Much To Laugh About


stewart generation

The latest demographic group of young people needs a new nickname. Generation Y or the Millennials, don’t do justice to the millions of twenty-somethings living in America today.

Compare those two bland tags with “The Greatest Generation”, and “The Me Generation”. Those labels, flattering or not, offer a historic thumb nail review of Americans whose respective lifetimes have spanned approximately the last 90 years. The Greatest Generation perfectly describes the men and women who showed uncommon valor and heroic resilience in the face of a staggering depression and World War II . Their “Me First” offspring, as a bunch, have likely gotten the unbecoming title they deserved.

So what to call this crowd of adults born after the year 1981? Given their hyper interest in media, digital communication, and celebrities let’s classify them using the name of someone they identify with….Jon Stewart. “The Stewart Generation” would seem an excellent handle for this band of brothers and sisters. Jon’s hip, smart, brash, funny and has his own, very successful, TV show. He is also the guy, to whom many in their twenties have turned for the news.

Not withstanding Mr. Stewart’s disclaimers about his show being comedy, plenty of his audience see it as an accurate, if satirical reporting of the days’ events. And why wouldn’t they? He interviews famous politicians, pundits and newsmakers. Jon Stewart is a very influential man.

The diminutive host has made a terrific living poking fun at all kinds of people, but seems to find right leaning thinkers an especially target rich environment. Sticking it to those stick in the mud right wingers makes for a terrific time on the Daily Show. Their “old fashioned ideas” on cultural issues and limited government make for lots of laughs .

While more challenging to get giggles, it may be better for the long term interests of his devotees, if Stewart would use his clever satire to inform them of the genuine problems being discussed by those stuffy conservatives. Jon could use his monologues to expose how under/unemployment, federal overspending, and a combination of national and college debt are stealing “The Stewart Generation’s” future.

About 50% of recent college graduates, a large part of Jon’s audience, have been unable to find full time employment, while total student loan debt is sitting at a record $1trillion. That figures to about $26,500 a person. An analysis of a 2011 Current Population Survey showed roughly 1.5 million of grads under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed.

A Rutgers’ study reported it’s three times harder for diploma holders to get a job now than it was in 2008, and the average starting salaries have dropped from $30,000 to $27,000. Their research also found 43% of those recently hired graduates said their work did not require a college degree. Maybe Jon could bring home this dispiriting bit of info with a grin and nod to Pink Floyd.

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teachers leave them kids alone. Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone! All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
 All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

Then there’s the federal government’s promiscuous spending. The nation’s tab is now well north of $16 trillion and every American’s share of that bill is over $50,000. But that $50k figure doesn’t do justice to the plight of today’s 20 somethings hoping to enjoy successful, long term, financially rewarding careers. That’s because if they do achieve their goal they’ll join only one in three “rich” taxpayers, paying money towards that debt. Their individual slice of our massive IOU is now heading towards $145,000.

Let’s use these numbers to illustrate the kind of financial dilemma facing “Gen Stew”. If 25 year old Jane Doe took a $145,000, 40 year mortgage @ 4.25% on a house, she would satisfy the note by paying: $629 monthly, and almost $302,000 over the life of the loan. If Jane and all in her age group were forced to send $629 every month to the U.S. Treasury, with the hope of paying down the suffocating national debt, how many of them would be able to afford a house? With apologies to Pink Floyd, given that fiscal albatross, any bricks in the wall are unlikely to be part of a home actually owned by persons in this demographic group. Tough to find any grins here.

The latest political struggle in Washington has clearly demonstrated Barack Obama, the “young people’s choice”, has no genuine interest in reducing federal spending in any meaningful way. The “fiscal cliff” debate was temporarily papered over with a “deal” getting only $1 in spending “cuts” for every $41 in new taxes. That, in this president’s view, is what passes for a “balanced approach”.

For men and women born after 1981 it amounts to unbalanced generational theft, and the generation being stolen from is them. The current employment outlook, growing student loan bills, and the $16.4 trillion federal indebtedness will likely create an economic perfect storm on the level of Hurricane Sandy…. drowning their prospects for a prosperous, comfortable life.

Jon has a wonderful opportunity to, in his unique, powerful way, alert the Daily Show audience to these real, ever growing threats clouding their future. It’ll be tough to make this cluster muck funny, but, given the current, dire circumstances, “The Stewart Generation” doesn’t have a whole lot to laugh about.