Being a college graduate in the developed world has always been a position of privilege and promise for the years ahead. Students from Los Angeles to Berlin have been told their entire lives that they needed to work hard, stay in school and go to college. The reward for this dedication was the promise of a good job with gainful employment and stability for the rest of their lives.
If you look hard enough you may find examples of people who are succeeding out of college or university; students-turned-professionals who have made a seamless transition from Econ 101 to working 9 to 5. Unfortunately, those examples are increasingly becoming few and far between in the stunted and shrinking American economy.
Don’t let the reported GDP numbers fool you, the American economy is shrinking. The job market has not bounced back much from the depth of its slump in the winter of 2009-2010. The officially reported unemployment rate in the United States hovered around 10 percent in January 2010. Nearly two years hence it has only dropped to 9 percent.
With millions of people to put to work, and millions more set to enter the work pool in the next few years, the best America has to offer is anemic growth and the ‘promise’ of a better tomorrow.
There are some markets that are still growing in terms of total employment. Virtually all healthcare fields are growing in our profit-driven medical system. The Baby Boomer generation gets older every day, creating new costs and new demands for services. An increasingly unhealthy general population also contributes to the need for increased manpower in medical professions.
Public sector employment did provide some respite from unemployment in the last days of the Bush administration as well as early in President Obama’s term in office. However, in the last two years a focused and rabid Republican opposition has successfully dredged many government offices of their workforce. In recessions past, the government was always expected to pick up the slack to help the economy recover. Today, with the intellectual and economic braintrust of the Republican Party leading the way, public sector positions are being driven over a cliff.
Unsurprisingly, there is one sector that has risen above the fray of a half-decade long economic downturn: Wall Street.
A recent article inThe Huffington Post detailed the many ways that leading financial and banking institutions gobble up America’s best and brightest. As the Occupy movement continues to grow around the country and the financial centers of Europe find themselves on the verge of chaos it might be hard to believe that the cream of the crop are still flowing toward financial industries.
The fact remains, thanks to billions of dollars in taxpayer money, the world’s financial titans are turning record profits and looking for enterprising young minds to tend these ill-gotten gains.
Ivy League educated attorneys are coveted for their abilities to litigate and lobby for pro-Wall Street laws. Mathematicians and computer scientists are required to formulate the ultra-complex commodities markets that create enormous profit for banks and investors and shockingly little ‘trickle down’ to the rest of the economy.
Everywhere you look on Wall Street you find a stockpile of young intellectuals directed toward the sole purpose of making incredibly wealthy people marginally more wealthy and powerful. There is of course an incentive for the employees themselves. They can make large sums of money to pay down often crippling amounts of student debt, but the price of holding a high paying job is the fact that everyone else wants to replace you.
In the first few months after the collapse in December 2007 experienced financial professionals with a decade of experience, along with graduate-level academic credentials, were laid off in exchange for cheaper, younger labor with freshly-minted diplomas. These once enterprising young minds now find themselves increasingly on the receiving end of pink slip notices.
Our economy cannot subsist on Wall Street alone. In the last ten years that has been our only economic option. Even today, with trade deficits booming and a government shutdown perhaps only months away, the Gross Domestic Product of one of the most out-of-control economies in the world continues to grow thanks almost entirely to the profits of Wall Street.
None of that money is made available to the rest of the economy and the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow. But at least we can all rest easy in the knowledge that, for now, the banks are happy.