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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Hey bro, can you spare a dime?”

    Homes are being foreclosed, the dollar is scarcely worth the paper it’s printed on, 232,000 jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year – but chances are, you’re still having cereal for dinner and watching a TV propped up on milk crates.

    What has a recession got to do with you?

    For young people who are variously unemployed, already poor, living off scholarships or supported by their parents, the effects of a recession might seem remote from daily life. But while middle-agers with houses, investments and careers have those to worry about, college students are in for an entirely different set of challenges as this economic downturn sets in.

    As many seniors are learning in their job searches right now, the “”real world”” can be a harsh mistress, and a recession won’t make it any easier. MonsterTrak reported last month that only 59 percent of employers surveyed by them expected to hire 2008 college graduates – a decrease of 17 percent since last year. Depending upon how the economy fares over the course of the year, the class of 2009 may have an even tougher time kicking their lives into gear. There were 80,000 jobs lost just in the past month – if layoffs keep up at that clip, upcoming grads might want to plan on spending some time pouring lattes for minimum wage before they get “”real”” jobs.

    If you’re in a position to do so, save up now so you can take care of yourself if the economy goes down the drain. Planning ahead is wise for any graduate, of course, but it becomes crucial in a time of economic uncertainty.

    At the UA, home of widespread budget cuts and perpetually imperiled state funding, a recession could be especially debilitating. Even if tuition keeps going up at the usual pace, credit crunches, stagnating wages and rising unemployment rates could make it much more difficult for the average UA student to pay up. And between the plummeting value of the dollar and ever steeper oil prices, study abroad will become an option for fewer and fewer students.

    But it’s more than just students who would suffer. As reported in the Daily Wildcat, the state is already undergoing a hiring freeze from which the UA narrowly escaped, while the university digs itself into ever deeper debt just to build new student housing. This is in addition to budget cuts, which have thinned course offerings and left many departments understaffed and many faculty and staff underpaid. When effects of a flagging Arizona economy are compounded by a pinch at the national level, the entire university could be in real trouble.

    On the other hand, college students are in a luckier position than established folks who actually have something to lose – with no house to lose money on, no full-time job to be pink-slipped from and no extra mouths to feed at home, most college students face, at worst, a protracted period of unemployment after graduation. We also have a wealth of time to plan and prepare for the future, whether by starting that job search earlier or investing what money we have now.

    The extent and duration of this slump will ultimately depend upon how the federal government reacts to it. As it stands, the outlook isn’t terribly optimistic: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed another stimulus package, which is like putting a bucket under a leaky ceiling – it’ll keep your floor dry for now, but it won’t get to the root of the problem. What we’ll need are jobs, which the government can provide through public works programs – they worked for the Roman emperor Vespasian, they worked for FDR and they’ll work for us.

    Unfortunately, none of our presidential candidates has proposed such a thing; Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both support Pelosi-style handouts, including expansions of unemployment benefits, while John McCain advocates tax cuts, which are just handouts at the other end of the taxpaying process. Hopefully, whoever ends up in office will take a cue from the past and move beyond these ineffective quick fixes to implement programs which will revitalize the economy at its core.

    Some are suggesting we may be in for the worst economic slump since the 1930s. If that’s the way it’s gonna be, I at least hope the Charleston comes back too.

    Alyson Hill is a senior majoring in classics, German studies and history. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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