Morley Safer is old, real old. I understand 60 Minutes speaks to an older audience. However, there comes a time to retire. Safer wholly demonstrates his ripeness in a piece called “The Millennials Are Coming.” Instead of examining the socio-economic factors that lead to many of the conditions he obviously bemoans, he focuses on the changing cultural landscape as if that were the important issue.
It is typical for old people to see the younger generation as stupid and lazy. As with any assessment, there is some basis to it. However, this is the country that re-elected George W. Bush. It is going to take some work for the Millennials to match that blunder from the baby-boomers.
The over-arching fact of the millennials is that they live in an information economy, not a manufacturing economy. Ignore for the moment that this information economy is largely built on debt. What we still have is a service sector. This service sector used to take a lot of internal infrastructure. With the advent of information technology, much of that internal infrastructure has been eliminated. This has in turn polarized the working landscape. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that someone who hasn’t looked for a job in over 35 years is completely ignorant of this fact. Nevertheless, there are two, very distinctive sides of this economy: the perspective of the winners and the losers.
The winners have it relatively good. They get the good paying jobs at Google, Microsoft, etc.. These companies understand getting the right people and keeping them is paramount. There are well documented order of magnitude productivity differences between high-end and low-end performers. Little perks like free soda or free lunch hardly make a difference in the big scheme of things. The important thing is to keep the good people at the company and cull the bad.
On the other hand, the losers have it bad. There are few manufacturing jobs left. Wal-mart is the largest employer in the United States. The jobs that are left are menial. This is why there is a great push for people to go to college, and get educated. Market pressures encourage universities to pass this influx of job seeker (if they don’t then students will go to a university that will). However, a degree ceases to mean anything if everyone has one. Again, the productivity differences will exist. Combined with the fact that unions have been severely weakened over the past few decades, middle class prosperity is something that many will no longer be able to achieve.
This doesn’t stop employers from advertising “fun”. However, this remains mostly veneer to cover for the fact that benefits and opportunities are largely non-existent. This aspect does more to explain why corporations are embracing “fun” than anything proffered by Safer’s reporting.
Safer also ignore the biggest losers by far, the millennials getting butchered in Iraq as we speak. We don’t see Safer talking to the millennials getting killed, injured, stop-lossed, or suffering from post traumatic stress and other mental health issues. The core of the morale problems can be measured in the grizzliest of statistics: suicides.
However, if there is anything that demonstrates Safer’s impeccable credentials as a corporate journalist it is his ability to ignore all this. Thereby cementing his status as an upstanding denizen of the United States of Amnesia; everything is new on Monday morning. In this respect, the obvious aspects of his senile dementia might actually be an asset.