Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Where the young people aren't

Some of the old-time Pacific Crest Trail hands are getting baffled about a new mystery: Where have all the young people gone? They say that you get more than a couple of days from any trailhead and all you see is old grey-bearded farts like them. They especially remark on the almost total lack of twenty-somethings.

Well, it's simple enough. This economy has been brutal to young people, especially young people with the job history of "trail trash". These young people used to take casual jobs for long enough to get a nut to hit the trail for a few months, then go back to work in the restaurant or outdoors industry when their nut ran out and do it again six months later. But the layoffs in other industries mean that employers have a huge pool of potential employees, most of who have experience and a job history that does *not* have a lot of gaps in it. So the twenty-somethings are at home, looking for even menial restaurant jobs, they're not at work or on the trail. It's gotten to the point where a lot of them are complaining that the Boomers rolled up the economic carpet behind them, leaving younger people only with the carpet lint, because there just aren't any jobs to have if you're a twenty-something who isn't spawn of one of our elite feudal overlords.

And for the thirty and forty-somethings, they have jobs and they have kids and they'd prefer to keep their jobs thank you very much, which means they aren't taking their vacations because then their boss might realize that they are not, in fact, indispensable. Leaving fifty-somethings. Who if they lose their job are in the same position as twenty-somethings except that they'll likely *never* have another job because employers apparently believe that grey hairs force all the brains out of your head into your Depends. So you got a buyout at work, you have a too-big house that you can sell for $100K or so more than you owe on it, you got another hundred thou in your retirement account, you're healthy, you have ten years to wait for retirement and $20K/year to do it with, and you've always liked backpacking and wilderness camping but never had time to do much of it... why *not* sell everything you own and hit the trail?

Of course, this is no way to run an economy. If nobody can afford recreation yet there's a surplus of unemployed people, there's not going to be any demand, and it's demand that creates jobs, not rich people. Because businesses aren't charities. They hire the people they need to meet demand for their goods or services, no more, no less. No demand, no hiring. Give'em a tax break and they'll pocket it, so tax breaks aren't going to make them hire. People buying stuff is going to make them hire. Recreation is one of those areas where people buy stuff, but if nobody has any money for it other than a buncha grey-beards waiting out their time to Social Security... well. How is that going to create jobs?

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin


  1. Another observation: On the Sonoma Trail, there are hidden off trail, on the marsh islands, little villages of young homeless, who only appear at dusk or very early morning. They head south during the rainy winter, and the flood plains reveal their past presence by floating water bottles and Styrofoam coolers. One of them once told me: "We don't need another hero."

  2. I agree with this. The people I see out there are older. There were rafters on the Green River and the ones I saw were not young.

    My observation on the work force around here is that the guys calling the shots and doing the important shit are all grey/no hairs.

    If not working and recreating is what's important to you and you can swing it - do it! Things are not going to get better.

    I'm going to try and it is a gamble that very well may be a loser. I am nervous about this but I feel drawn to do so.

  3. Mandt, those young people you're talking about are fairly close to civilization because they can't afford to be off in the *real* wilderness back-country. They're Hooverville'ing (or shall we call it Bushville'ing?), not wilderness backpacking.

    One Fly, it's hard to say "f**k it" if you're still young. Young folks still think things have to get better. Sad to say, that's not going to be true for most of today's young people... their life is going to be small and mean and hard, thanks to the economic carpet being rolled up behind the boomers, leaving young people nothing but the carpet lint.

    -- Badtux the Backpacking Penguin

  4. And they deserve that. I do try to temper my smart ass cynical and negative views that not many share based on too many years of observation.

  5. And if the rethugians give any mote tax breaks to the "Job Creators" they will just invest it in the Wall Street Casino.

  6. You're right about us Boomers rolling up the economy behind us. A fitting eulogy for a generation born into prosperity that did not know how to pass its good fortune to its children.


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