New Census data released demonstrate the chilling impact the recession has had on the current crop of young Americans, to whom the American Dream is increasingly becoming a historical curiosity.
Certainly the tradition of striking out on one’s own is fast waning.
The Census says that 5.9 million Americans ages 25 to 34 are living with their parents, an increase of 25 percent over from before the recession. Men are now twice as likely as young women to live with their parents. As an expression, “empty nesters” is almost quiz-show material.
They are delaying the traditional middle-class aspirations of marriage, buying a home and starting a family. Well, they do start families, but typically do so out of wedlock, meaning the mother likely faces a life of poverty. One in four families is headed by a single parent, a record high, according to the Census.
Homeownership, which would include the traditional “starter home” of young couples, is down for the fourth straight year.
Only 55.3 percent of young adults 16 to 29 were employed, according to the Census, down from 67.3 percent in 2000 and again a post-World War II low.
Until a better name for this hard-luck cohort comes along, the Shortchanged Generation will do as well as any.
The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio (Sept. 28)
Social Security headaches
For several years, we’ve seen stories about people declared dead by the Social Security Administration. Many went through a lot of hoops to officially resurrect themselves. In the interim, they didn’t get the proper payments due. And for some people, this created a real hardship.
But now we hear about $600 million in benefit payments that, over the past five years, were mailed to the deceased. The payments were meant for retired or disabled federal workers. But because former employers were not informed of the deaths (or maybe nobody reads the obituaries in Washington), the checks just kept going out.
In one case, according to The Associated Press, the decedent’s son received and negotiated his father’s checks for 37 years after the retiree’s death. The mistaken payments were only discovered by authorities when the son died in 2008.
It’s not a new problem, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general, Patrick McFarland, who said that the government has been aware of the problem since 2005.
Here’s an idea: Take the millions of Americans who need jobs and put them to work simply calling all these folks and verifying that they’re still alive and kicking.
At least for a while (probably years, frankly, with all the red tape that is likely involved in the task), our unemployment rate will take a turn for the better.
Anderson Independent-Mail (Sept. 28)
No more last meals
Faster than you can recite condemned killer Lawrence Brewer’s last meal — and it was a mouthful — a state senator pushed the head of Texas prisons to put an end to the long-standing ritual. The practice might have imparted a measure of civility, if not humanity, to the deadly process, but it has become increasingly anachronistic.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who also happens to be the chair of the senate criminal justice committee, took issue with Brewer’s final order, which consisted of six entrees, two desserts and a bowl of okra — basically one wing of a chain buffet — with three root beers to wash it down. Unsurprisingly, Brewer ate none of it.
We agree with Whitmire that the special last meal is an inappropriate gesture. It sends the wrong signal to a lot of people. No one ever asked a victim if he or she would like a special last meal.
Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise (Sept. 28)
Japan starts over again
Japan’s diplomacy is back at the starting line — again.
During his visit to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with U.S. President Barack Obama.
They agreed to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Good. Obama has been in office for less than three years, but he already has met four Japanese prime ministers — Taro Aso, Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan and now Noda.
In this age when summits figure prominently in world affairs, such frequent changes of leadership cannot be conducive to the development of strategic diplomacy.
In his foreign policy debut, Noda confirmed the Japan-U.S. alliance as the basis of Japanese diplomacy. Noda is now required to confirm Japan’s position in the multipolar world of international politics and pursue sincere but tough diplomacy.
For that, he must help create a stable order in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region based on a strong Japan-U.S. relationship. In particular, he must attempt to mend relations with China, which derailed after a row over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea last year.
Noda is scheduled to visit China in October, and then he will participate in multilateral diplomacy through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the United States and the East Asia Summit in Indonesia, both in November. We hope he will use these occasions to produce a rounded picture of Japanese diplomacy.
The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo (Sept. 28)
Saudi moves far too little
Even if the latest promise of granting marginal political rights to Saudi women could be believed, it would be too little, too late. King Abdullah has good intentions regarding their position, but any step forward on rights tends to be matched by two steps back — and not just for women.
The king consulted with clerics before announcing women could vote in the next municipal election — though not the one due this week — and join the royally-appointed Majlis ash-Shura, a consultative body with no real power. The clerics’ consent suggests they see the promise as sufficiently meaningless not to pose any threat to the Wahhabi establishment.
They are right. This promise has been made before — when municipal elections were first held in 2005, women were also told that next time they would be allowed to cast their ballots. Not only did it take six years for “next time” to arrive; women have now been sold that particular horse twice. No one knows how long it will take before the new promise is tested. In the meantime, the rules that make women the wards of male relatives in even the tiniest legal matter — and the no less offensive ban on driving — remain in place, threading women’s lives through endless humiliations and impracticalities.
Saudi policy is racked by rivalries within the House of Saud and the inherent uncertainties of gerontocracy. But the rulers seem united in defying the march of history by holding on to their form of government: absolute monarchy balanced only by fundamentalist theocracy. In particular, they show no sign of permitting any political participation that would permit minority Shia to press their claims. Not only women, but all disenfranchised Saudis will have to bide their time a while longer.
London Evening Standard (Sept. 28)