Monday, February 14, 2011

Generation Y: Next Stop, Washingtonia

The Bonus Army Encampment, Washington, DC - 1932
If Millennials don’t like the moniker of the Lost Generation, or the Slacker Culture because of their 30% unemployment rate, they should think about forming a settlement in Washington DC this spring.  Right now, Portland has the distinction of being the city where 18 to 29-year-olds go to retire, and it's even the site of a new miniseries about the Gen Y'ers called "Portlandia." The trouble is, the jobless rate in Oregon is over 10% now and the city is feeling the pinch from all the youthful refugees.
Washington is lovely in the spring - it's Cherry Blossom time. and the balmy breezes will be gently blowing. And it has the historical distinction of being home to the famous semi-permanent
Tent City of World War One veterans called the Bonus Army.  These men converged on Washington during the Great Depression, seeking their benefits for having served their country.  There was a wee bit of trouble when Herbert Hoover sent out Douglas MacArthur and the National Guard to disperse the campers from the Mall, but all was eventually brought right when FDR was elected and Eleanor Roosevelt paid the settlement a visit.  The campers didn't get their money, but they did eventually get jobs. It was the start of the Civilian Conservation Corps. 
What better place than our nation's capitol to see and be seen when you're unemployed?  But where to go first?  Well, President Obama just spoke to the United States Chamber of Commerce about big business doing its patriotic duty and hiring a lot more people.  These financiers and CEOs made record profits last quarter, and just don't know what to do with all their money.  So your first stop in the job search should be in front of their headquarters.  Security might not let you in without an appointment, especially if there are thousands of you milling about on the sidewalk. But if you’re patient, you might snag some of the bigwigs on their way out to lunch.  Just look for the Abercrombie and Fitch suits and the chauffeur driven Bentleys and Mercedes.
If it’s public service you’re craving, don’t worry about the hiring freeze and all that austerity talk.  Just congregate in the halls of Congress and ask the hundreds of representatives and their thousands of staffers if they need a shoe shine or a militant bike messenger to deliver documents. Learn to identify the lobbyists, and offer to make a deli run for a few bucks.  Once you build up your cred, they may even find you useful for delivering bags of cash.  If they think you’re being annoying or pushy, just remind them that President Obama has just started an entrepreneurship initiative.  Tell them you’re trying to Win the Future and to get with the presidential program already! Tell them we're in a race to the top and they need to invest .  Tell them Austen Goolsbee sent you.
If, despite your best efforts at finding meaningful work in D.C., you are rebuffed, you might have to resort to panhandling.  Set up shop at strategic points where the cable news crews do their spot reporting and near the entrances to tourist destinations, foreign embassies, five star restaurants, John Boehner’s watering holes….  use your creativity.  Remember -  the theme of the President’s State of the Union speech was“Innovation is Imagination”.
Above all, take care of yourself.  You'll need to take regular breaks from your entrepreneurshipping.  All opportunity-seeking and no play make Jack and Jackie dull Gen Y'ers.  The Halls of Congress are a perfect venue for adult hide-and-seek leagues, though you might want to confine the paintball tourneys to C Street.  And don't forget the music, loud as you can make it, and bring as many subwoofers as you can manage.  Besides being stubborn and obtuse, most of the senators are also selectively hard of hearing, especially the aging Republican ones.


Marie Burns said...

Great post! But it's uncomfortable to wear an interview-ready business suit while camping on the Mall. I'd suggest the protesters camp out in the halls of Congress instead, where many MoC's have set up living quarters (prompting a complaint from CREW). I'm sure these live-ins would be more than happy to share shower facilities, shaving mugs, etc. That will give a whole new meaning to the favorite political mantra "constituent service."

The Constant Weader

ralph in saugerties said...

Hey Karen, Just caught your blog via NY Times comment. I am currently in Oaxaca Mexico reading about all the wonderful revolutions by the masses being abused by their "leaders". You are on the right track! Keep Boner in your sights as well as the eventually to be brought to justice Bush team. Thanks for your blog. ralph childers de Saugerties y Oaxaca

Anne Lavoie said...

Right on! And write on, Karen.

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I caught your link on the NY Times/Bob Herbert piece. Nice blog you have here. One suggestion if I may: increase the size of the font. It's a tad tricky to read. Have a look at mine when you have a moment or two:

All the best,

Tom Degan

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Tom. I enlarged the font, and hope it helps. I am doing my bit to promote visual health.

DreamsAmelia said...

"Brother can you spare a dime?"--
"This song was directly inspired by the Bonus Marchers. And, it just captured the desperation which was the story of the bonus march."

The Bonus army was sent (by Roosevelt, who, like Hoover, refused to sign the Bonus bill) to the Florida Keys (via CCC)..several hundred were killed in a devastating hurricane.."the government attempted to supress the news. But one of the first rescue boats to get in carried the renowned writer Ernest Hemingway. In an angry piece he wrote, 'the veterans in those camps were practically murdered.'"

4 million veterans were finally paid in 1936 after the House and Senate had enough votes to over-ride Roosevelt's veto. They had marched for FOUR years on Washington, had camped in the shadow of the Capitol and in Anacostia, had their camps burned down, and dispersed by MacArthur's troops, before their demands were met.

A massive, popular encampment at the corridors of entrenched power: Bonus Marchers.
A powerful "blogger": Hemingway
Popular/Cultural support: Yip Harburg
Time: 4 years

Compare to 18 days in Egypt in 2011.

It wasn't easy back in the day even with a pres (FDR) who still maintains his legacy of populist savior, thanks to programs like Social Security and the GI Bill of Rights (which was also a direct outgrowth of the Bonus Marchers' agitating).

But the cherry blossoms beckon, and Egypt is just a Twitter away...

All above quotes from PBS 3-part series:

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for the comment and links, DreamsAmelia. The Florida Keys Hurricane was unexpected because of course, we didn't have the technology to forecast it. And now the Republicans want to slash the NOAA budget and ergo the wherewithal to predict bad weather. We are headed back to the 30s in more ways than one.