A sleazy outfit called The Penny Hoarder has been plastering my Facebook feed with exceptionally offensive promoted content ads under the teaser, “No more excuses. It’s time to start adulting.” The headline for the linked article says, “41 Hustlers Show Us How To Make Extra Money in 2017.” Oddly, I can’t locate the original article at The Penny Hoarder or find the original ads on Facebook. Maybe the originals were memory-holed. Or maybe they were just recycled. The Penny Hoarder is absolutely shameless about plagiarizing itself; it constantly copies and pastes paragraphs from old articles into new articles under barely modified headlines.
The Penny Hoarder is a very sleazy, almost creepy organization. To my surprise, but not really to my surprise, it’s based in Florida. The advice I’ve seen it give includes making an extra hundred dollars by participating in these medical studies (pimp your Crohn’s Disease) and selling surplus breast milk on the open market. Get stoked, America! You have a bright future as wet nurses and prophylactic blood donors for the Thiel family! It’s also, inevitably, an affiliate marketing scam for Uber. Every fucking article that claims to have even a tangential relationship to jobs tells readers to drive for Uber. Woot woot! Most of these jobs don’t even require you to get up off your couch! 8: Drive for Uber. Its tips on saving money on food, including ways not to be “hangry,” imply that a significant portion of its readership, or at least its target readership, is food-insecure, i.e., actually hungry, not like OMG Burger King is venting its fryers and that’s making me so frickin’ hungry.
Is this how a once-stable middle class stumbles into generational penury? Am I really watching this happen in real time? Observers warn that the United States is turning into twentieth-century Argentina (Fabius Maximus), late Renaissance Spain and Holland (Kevin Phillips), and Late Imperial Rome (all of them). I don’t see why you can’t get you an overextended military empire and carceral state that can be all four at once. Middle-class thrift stops being middle-class when coupon-clipping turns into selling breast milk over the internet to pay for diapers. There’s something very, very wrong here.
Of course the kids are afraid of “adulting” these days. They’re afraid that they won’t be able to make ends meet without selling their own bodily fluids. Whack off at a sperm bank every few weeks to stop your roommates from pestering you for rent and accidentally initiate your own legion spawn into the Inferior Order of the Most Consanguineous High Priesthood of Muhjizzidik. God. An accident with a woman one actually knows, in both senses, wouldn’t be that kind of trouble.
What the hell world are we inheriting here? This is the setup for a civil war. Young people are graduating with six-figure debt, not dischargeable in bankruptcy thanks to Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., and shit for job prospects. Simultaneously, other young people are coming back from our endless wars in the Middle East with festering grievances and the military training to demand their redress in manners of which Clausewitz would not particularly approve. We just had that Alaska National Guardsman shoot up the Fort Lauderdale Airport after telling G-Men in Anchorage that he was being brainwashed by ISIS and getting himself an official shrinking at the local nut shop. We’ll be lucky if we don’t end up with our own FARC. Rugged individualism may sound like an improvement, but remember, Andrew Kehoe was a good rugged individualist, too.
This live Dickens production, featuring Major Dr. Nidal Hasan on light percussion, could turn into a Robespierrian romance with awfully little warning. Does anyone seriously want to argue that taking refuge with socioeconomically secure parents is anything but utterly prudent under the circumstances? Believe me, the alternatives can be scary. Hiring authority has increasingly been relinquished to imperious, meddlesome blowhards who make candidates jump through hoops and humiliate themselves just because they can. The job market in many areas remains saturated with immigrants, legal and illegal alike, who cultivate exactly the ties to kin and community that the native stock has been propagandized to forsake for its own individual betterment. If there’s ethnic discrimination in hiring (and there absolutely is), people with strong community and family referral networks will have an easier time working around it than those with weak networks. This is especially true when the discrimination is against the native stock, not in its favor, as is the case in much of the menial job market. The housing stock has been stolen by the worst sorts of institutional landlords, who have their own suite of ugly prejudices that they assert over fair housing laws because hardly anyone tries to stop them. This is why the poor end up living out of hotels run by managers who act like prison wardens towards their own tenants.
The problem here isn’t with adjustment to adulthood; it’s with adjustment to a lawless dystopia of atomized poverty. There was much less of this in the midcentury. It existed, but it was much more marginal, and it was easier for someone who wasn’t totally profligate to save up enough money from menial jobs to break the cycle and get into something more prosperous and stable. The rent-seeking had been toned the hell down. There was strong social pressure across the board against kicking a man when he was down, either for fun or for profit.
Things have gone to hell even since I graduated from college a bit over a decade ago. I graduated in 2006, two years before the full onset of the fourth-turning secular depression of 2008. In retrospect, I don’t know whether I was lucky or unlucky in this regard. It might have been better to start out from rock bottom and not get my initial hopes dashed. I don’t believe the news stories of the economic recovery. We’ve made economic progress as a nation, but the severe disruption of ca. 2008 has not been entirely resolved. I believe, for one thing, that I’m still personally suffering from unresolved ramifications of the crash. We still have stagflation in housing costs, and now in costs for not only medical care but for mandatory health insurance as well.
People who can’t get jobs, especially young and youngish people, can easily blame themselves for their own inability to find work. They have no way to control for all the external variables. I got my first job in 2001, when many people first entering the job market today were infants or prepubescent children. I’ve watched the stated minimum qualifications get more and more absurd. My experiences wasting my time and money on fruitless open calls for minimum wage food service positions in Southern California suggest that the popular culture and popular lore about showing up in LA and getting a job in the eighties are closer to the actual job market in LA in the eighties than the job market today is. Things have genuinely gone to hell. A whole lot of people are arbitrarily getting shut out of the labor and housing markets. It’s impossible to say what the hell is really happening in many of these situations. If hiring managers were honest about their motivations, their companies would get sued into bankruptcy. What I’ve been able to piece together indicates systemic discrimination on the bases of sex, race, and national origin, but I’ve never found a smoking gun that would have been admissible in court. Most of it is either hearsay or freelance Kremlinology. Still, “I kicked her out because she couldn’t keep her legs shut” says more about the actual housing market than Scott Pelley’s gravitas smirk about the latest numbers on housing starts.
The way the successful have been acting about these circumstances is disgraceful, of course. The rest of us are antediluvian bigots for agreeing with Donald Trump that it’s time to bring back the factory jobs. We aren’t actually looking to restore an industrial economy that works for the working class; we really just want to put our wives in Leave It to Beaver tract-house purdah and crack skulls on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Fuck. I have black relatives by marriage now. Do I sound like I want to immiserate them and their friends for the heartwarming feels? I don’t even want to immiserate Joe Dirtbag, just stop him from abusing landlord authority over Tobacco Road and baiting me into feuds with random cops, and that motherfucker ran me into homelessness.
There’s a long history, almost entirely hidden, of integrated labor unions in the United States, even in Jim Crow Alabama, but for some reason, we’re always hearing about how Southie micks, Milwaukee mill Pollacks, Bull Connor cracker cronies, and the like hate the hell out of colored folk, unlike the fancy-pants WASP’s, who never had a problem with the ethnics or the Negroes and certainly never barred Jews from their hotels or universities. These deeply pedigreed Anglo-Dutch fusspots never looked down their monocled noses at anyone or set up any sort of divide-and-conquer ethnic strife among the orders inferior to their own. The officer class never had anything to do with the Klan. It was always just the salty crackers who were into that shit.
It’s so funny how I keep saying that I support a more equitable and robust industrial policy benefiting the working classes of all races, allowing their desperate members to stop hustling all the time, like hustling is unambiguously good thing and not also the name of a very dirty magazine, when what I mean to say is that I just want to march around Washtenaw County in a sheet, carrying a cross and a can of gasoline. Maybe I should let my betters speak for me again. Maybe we all should. Why should we keep confusing people who hear us saying one thing on our own behalf and another, totally different thing being said on our behalf by sleazy third-party marketeers?
#TeshTips: All kinds of backsass comes to those who speak on behalf of the voiceful. Avoid this by speaking on behalf of the voiceless instead.