My son and his girlfriend have been living in a small one-bedroom apartment with their cat for the past year. I basically kicked them out of our house when my daughter announced her pregnancy, since living space is the one asset we have that could help our grandson get off to a good start in life. Bill and Simone have been struggling and making do, and hopefully they're learning more of what it takes to make it in this not-user-friendly society we've created.
It's Bill's birthday today, and I just saw him briefly. They have new roommates, he says. A couple with a dog and a cat. A pregnant cat, it turned out, so now also seven kittens. I assume the newcomers are settled in the living room, since the bedroom is occupied and the kitchen is tiny. He sounds good about all this, though. There's more help with expenses and always somebody to hang out with, and they all love animals.
This is a typical living situation for their generation. Kids born in the 90s just missed the booming economy of the 80s and the affordable college of last century. We lost our nest egg in 2001, when Bill was 11. Overcrowded schools, an ADD diagnosis, a propensity toward anxiety, and a gentle spirit don't provide much support for a young teen. Three college attempts resulted in quite a few non-transferable units and a good chunk of student loan debt. Jobs? Yeah, good luck with that. Even those with master's degrees are working in call centers and driving buses.
It's not just this particular decade. Baby boomers who were patriotic enough to serve in the military are now experiencing poverty and over-extended veteran's programs. We take leftover donuts to them and just that small kindness makes their day. Veterans commit suicide at nearly 40 times the rate that soldiers die in combat. It's estimated that at least half of the homeless people in America are veterans, mostly over 60 years old.
Happy birthday, Bill. Here's the bright future we promised you. We hope you enjoy the used clothes, hand-me-down car, and cheap food. In a country that was built on cooperation, community, opportunity, and vision, we haven't done much to protect and maintain those values. Watch your backs, retirees. There's a spirit of revolution brewing.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.