Generation Debt

<i>Why Now Is the Worst Time to Be Young.</i> By Anya Kamenetz. <i>Riverhead Books. $23.95.</i>

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I worked my way through college in five years with scholarships, grants, loans, and three jobs. That makes me a member of “Generation Debt”—one of the twenty- and thirtysomethings born into an era of unsurpassed opportunities and unprecedented arrears. On average, we graduate from college more than $20,000 in hock, facing a job market with declining earnings and nonexistent job security. “With so many of us heading into our 30s with five figures of debt,” writes Anya Kamenetz in this sometimes brilliant, sometimes banal book, “saving for a far-off retirement sounds like a joke—even breaking even seems like a remote possibility.”

Through dozens of interviews and a barrage of statistics, Kamenetz, a 25-year-old Yale graduate and Village Voice columnist, documents higher education’s historic transformation into an $85-billion-a-year loan industry. But she often substitutes pop-culture clichés and rhetoric about wealth redistribution for tough questions about policy and personal responsibility. How much debt is due to an unfair system, and how much is due to bad decisions by young people or their parents?

Either way, debt sidetracks careers and suffocates dreams. Faced with lingering loans and credit card bills, too many young people feel they must, as one young grad tells Kamenetz, “go through your life doing something you don’t want to do…. If your only option is taking out loans, it sucks you right back into the system.” For me, the American Dream is still alive—it’s just under the table, hiding out from Sallie Mae and Citigroup.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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