Food for Thought

My friend Bill and I love to rant over fast food. Subjects run the gamut: ballistics and badminton, pork chops and politics, desert cars and dessert toppings—you name it. Today's subject: my doomsday prognostication for America's future in the wake of what I perceive to be a precipitous drop in teen employment since my own days as a minimum-wage laborer in the late 1970's. It's my completely un-researched and mostly hot-headed opinion that 21st century teenagers don't work like their forebears, and that this situation doesn't bode well for society in the long run. Bill listened while I ranted, then posited some very sound reasons why my musings may by true:

• America is no longer a nation of manufacturing industries
• The low-paying job market that was once a prime dominion of teenagers is now filled by working moms, immigrants and old people

These notions make sense no matter what the facts of my position might be. Nevertheless, I felt the need to add some depth to my perspective. When I Googled "Teen Employment" this evening, here's what I found:

Here are some juicier tidbits from both these reports:

• In 1978, 72% of children aged 16 to 19 participated in the US workforce. In 2007, that number was 41%

• Whenever Congress has voted to raise the minimum wage, teen employment drops

• In 2007 the teen employment rate in Oregon was 34%—the lowest since WW II

• Between May 2006–September 2008, the number of employed teens shrunk by 697,000. In the same period, the number of employed persons aged 20+ increased by 1.84 million

Tomorrow night Barack Obama will be sworn in as our nation's new President. After toasting his party, kissing his wife and dancing with Byonce, Forty-four and company will attempt to guide our nation out of its thickest economic fog since The Great Depression. The audacity of hope may have gotten Mr. Obama into this mess, but it won't get him—or us—out. 

Grab your shovels, kids—there's a pile of work to be done…


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