I don’t recall anything like the promises so cruelly unkept in Salon’s list. I do remember my father warning me that an engineering degree would be much more useful in the workplace than English, to which I uttered a phrase available to 18-year-olds everywhere: Thanks, Dad; not your call. Ditto for the legions of well-meaning adults urging me to finish my undergraduate degree, to sign up for the Selective Service, and even (when I finally attained a decent living in the second half of my 30s) to pay a mortgage instead of paying rent. One of the best perks about being a grown-up is that you get to make your own choices, and to own the results, good and ill.
Which is why phrases like “wage slaves,” “inescapable debt,” and “force” “force” “force” leave me feeling like a brother from another planet. Adult human beings have agency, the ability (even responsibility!) to run their own cost/benefit analyses and choose accordingly. You could go to a state school (or community college) instead of an over-inflated prestige mill. You could pay for a 10-year-old car in cash, instead of a new one on installments. You could try to make it in Minneapolis before living the dream in Williamsburg. You could stare into the face of a no-money-down, adjustable rate 30-year mortgage at the tail end of a housing-price run-up and conclude “Maybe that one’s not for me.” You could even choose to turn down a bad if high-paying job when you’re living below the poverty line. If we indeed live in a “candid world,” let us state bluntly that offloading 100% of the blame for your own mountain of debt on a group of Greedy McBanksters who “forced” you to “play by the rules” is more than a little pathetic.