. . . it might be the place where 20 somethings go to retire, but increasingly they must do that living in the parents basement!
I spoke briefly with Abigail, a young woman who works at the local Starbucks as an assistant manager. She is a smart cookie, doing all the right things, but trapped in the hell that is the blue model. Wages in Portlandia are low, rents high, and the cost of living is fairly high when compared to the wage.
You may remember a few days ago when I discussed the fact that Portlandia is the worst city in the country for Millennial housing affordability.
Boomer versus Millennial Wrestling World Smackdown, Portland is out ahead, but Seattle is running a close second!
Abigail is the poster child for this problem. She is educated, employed, and still not able to find work at a wage which allows her to live on her own. This even though she is an assistant manager. This is not a slight on the employer, but an indictment of the current blue model, and our unwillingness to make necessary change.
Our conversation started with a comment on the high cost of rents in Portlandia. It roved from rent to wages, to college, and on to how difficult it is to make it on ones own today, especially for the young. We hit other areas like equal pay, saving, and opportunity.
Walter Russell Mead has an article addressing this problem.
Small Business Should Be Priority Number One
I agree with the thrust of this post. The blue model was in part the attempt to counter balance big business with big government, big labor, big banking, big law, etc. The idea was to create huge institutions to help create space for the little guy to keep from being crushed by the bigs.
The Internet, and the tech revolution has essentially altered the landscape, allowing the individual access to information which used to be the sole providence of the bigs. This was because information prior to the Internet was expensive to obtain, and expensive to store, collate, analyze, and make usable. This is no longer true. In the Internet age information wants to be free, and it is very difficult, probably impossible to keep information sequestered. The result is that in many situations the individual has the same access to information as the big, but is without the internal bureaucracy the big is saddled with. And so the individual is able to act on information more quickly, and frequently more profitably.
Where it used to be difficult for a small business to compete directly against a huge corporation, today it is not. The small can fine tune and focus on the specific needs of a client or a small group of clients. These often forgotten clients are much happier with the individualized attention, and the extensive knowledge the small business usually has. This is one of the reasons for the massive, and ongoing crack up of the large mega law firms.
The Boomers are doing a great disservice to our young people by continuing to focus them on attempting to find a niche in the old blue model world. Big business as mega employer is likely a thing of the past. The Mead idea here for a transition to the new socio-economic model is a very good start. The sooner the young people begin to think independently of the antiquated blue model, the sooner they will be able to find a niche and begin prospering from the collapse of the blue model.
Perhaps we will need to reform welfare to create a better more usable safety net to allow these young people to take more risks in the entrepreneurial world?
Please reread one of my earlier blog posts linked below. It offers a much more comprehensive analysis of some of these issues, and opportunities.
The Stockman, The Donald, The Noonan all in one place!
The guaranteed income could be an option which allows these young people to take necessary risks.
Best of luck to Abigail. I have been toying with meeting with she and her boyfriend for a an hour or so sit-down session where I pick their brains to help me understand the Millennial better. I would be willing to part with $50 apiece. I will ask her next time I see her.