Conservatives hating on young people for being young

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 14:01 EDT
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If you want closed case evidence on how conservatism is mostly about sadism and mean-spiritedness, look no further than how general wingnuttery views young people. Student debt and high unemployment are major problems for the Millennials. You would think that conservatives could muster sympathy in this case, because a) the people suffering could be their own kids and grandkids and b) these are people who are working hard, studying hard, and still getting screwed. But no. Instead you get folks like the evil monster Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, saying this about the student debt crisis:

“I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that,” Foxx continued. “We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.”

I decided to figure out how doable her “just work your way through school, and you won’t have debt” solution is. If you’re lucky enough to get in-state tuitiion at UT Austin, which is one of the better and more affordable options for a quality education, tuition and housing for two semesters will run you about $18,800. That’s not counting books, food, or general cost-of-living expenses. You have to do school full-time to maximize the cost-effectiveness, since the amount of money you pay per credit hour if you don’t goes up susbstantially in direct and indirect ways. If you can somehow manage to do that and are lucky enough to get a full-time minimum wage job in this economy, then you’ll make about $15,000 a year. So even if you work 80 hours a week (remember, there’s only 168 hours in a week, 49 of which must be spent sleeping), you won’t make enough to pay for two semesters worth of school. And that doesn’t even take into account cost of living expenses over the summer. It’s literally impossible for someone to pull off the Virginia Foxx Plan For College, even if you’re superhuman in your energy levels. 

Needless to say, Foxx considers herself “pro-life”. I point this out, because “pro-life” people want you to believe that they’re in it not to punish women for being sexual, but that they just really are The Protectors of the Young. Well, that’s clearly bullshit. Anyone who really cared a whit about the young would take this student debt and employment crisis seriously. I’d argue that instead of actually being protectors of the young, conservatives are haters of the young. Anti-choice is actually a piece of this, because the idealized victim of their policies is a young woman, being punished for her youth and sexuality. It really comes across in the comments of this article about the employment/debt crisis that Atrios linked:

They want to go to a boutique college, borrow money or receive grants to cover the $50K tuition, major in an arcane subject like gender studies or urban anthropology, and then have someone hand them a well paying job, so they can maintain a hipster lifestyle in a trendy neighborhood.

Here are the most popular majors, in order, according to the Princeton Review: business, psychology, nursing, biology, education, English, economics, communications, political science, and computer science. It seems that kids are mostly picking majors that will lead to the kind of professional careers that they’re told they should want. This commenter betrays himself with his ignorance, sure, but also with the phrase “hipster lifestyle”. This is all about hating the young for being young, wanting them to suffer because they still have hard bodies and high libidos while your aging body makes it increasingly hard to ignore that death is coming for all of us. It’s basically asshole behavior, believing that you had a right to be young, but no one else does now that you aren’t anymore. The next comment was more of the same:

Parents need to do a far better job in helping young adults understand that the money spent on education needs to be able to be recouped in the form of a real job on the other side. Parents would also do well to explain the importance of hard work, personal responsibility, vision, personal sacrifice and minimizing the sense of entitlement.

Please review that list of the most popular majors to understand what an asshole this guy is. One in every four degrees handed out is a business degree. The notion that kids aren’t viewing their education as job training is a farce. On the contrary, the complaint now is that students are too focused on how to get from school to work, and find any class that doesn’t have immediately obvious relevance for future employment to be a waste of time.  Once again, the underlying sentiment here is that now that the commenter is no longer young, no one else has a right to be, and that young people should have grim, colorless lives so that he feels better about not being young anymore. 

These people aren’t the protectors of the young. Remember these attitudes every time a conservative waxes on about how they love babies. If they really did, they would want those babies to have meaningful lives with joy and color in them, not the grim existences of all work and no play that these wingnuts feel is the only acceptable youth now that theirs is gone. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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