In their February 7th issue, Bloomberg Businessweek ran an extensive article on youth unemployment, detailing its impact and problems and how it is driving political change throughout the world.
As I read the article, what occurred to me is that the paradigm created by our modern world is one that takes from the young and gives to the old.
Here is my evidence.
The taxes that retirees once paid to the federal government to fund their Social Security and Medicare benefits have been spent. Their benefits are now paid with taxes levied on current, younger workers.
My mother complained often and loudly about the small size of her social security check. Just as often, I reminded her that about eighteen months after she started to collect Social Security, she had already received everything she paid into the system, and that deductions from my paycheck were now paying her social security. In my mind, her check was quite sufficient.
In 1945 the ratio of worker to retiree was 42 to 1. By 2020 it is projected to be 2.5 to 1. This is not new data. Every Congressman is well aware of this predicament, yet they continue to stick their heads in the sand, hoping the young will oblige and pay.
Keep in mind also that we have created a national debt. Just as we expect the young to fund our retirement and health benefits, we expect them to pay off the national debt we have created by lowering taxes and increasing spending.
Additionally, college loans have become a fact of life. In my generation, you either saved everything you had ever earned and went to college, worked your way through, had the pleasure of your parents funding your education, or some combination of these factors. Now, with easy access to student loans, the average person graduates from college after four years with $24,000 in debt.
So we have laden our youth with 3 major burdens: our retirement, our national debt and the cost of their own education.
And what about the earth? We have converted farm after farm into housing subdivisions. We have put off dealing with combined water/ sewer overflow systems, pushing that economic burden to our youth. We have guzzled oil, a once vast and cheap energy source, while delaying the development of alternative energy solutions. We continue to take carbon from the Earth and spew it in the sky, creating global climate change and making our oceans toxic. And who do we leave this problem to? The young. While we have enjoyed the consumption of limited resources, we leave the cleanup and the consequences to our children and grandchildren.
So if you, like me, are saying,”Enough already!, what actions do you take?
In my life I have two primary ways I can make an impact, in my business and in my everyday life.
Being a business owner is one of the most creative outlets available. Every day, I have the option to create internal and external marketplaces by my decisions and choices. If we managed our business as if it belonged to the young, how might we do it different?
There is a concept called triple bottom line. People, planets and profits. Businesses that subscribe to this principle are interested in profits, as well as the health and well being of their employees and their impact on the planet. Many people look at this idea and believe it is too far out there. How can caring for others, especially those responsible for creating the future be far out there? Instead, I see triple bottom line very simply as the only reasonable way to run a business.
My second opportunity is to make a difference on the small piece of Earth I call home, Northern Kentucky. I do this publicly, in the form of community service, in two ways: by chairing The Kenton Conservancy, and by serving as an elected Conservation District Supervisor. And I do it privately, by stewarding a rich and diverse piece of land we call Red Sunflower Farm, growing much of my own food, and purchasing the balance of my food from local farmers.
In addition, I drive a hybrid car, combine trips when possible, carpool, recycle, reuse, keep my thermostat at a reasonable level, etc. Over the years I have changed so many fundamental daily practices in my life to be more sustainable, that I have lost track of them all. They have just become how I live.
Gandhi said, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.” What change do you seek? How are you being the change? Please share your stories with us.