Purcell: An apology to my niece on her college graduation day
Dear Goddaughter, You nailed it!
You graduated from the University of Pittsburgh last week with an excellent academic record. You enjoyed experiences and friendships that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
But I must apologize for the world you’re going to inherit. The generations that preceded you have saddled you with unimaginable debt, both government and personal.
Our country is currently $21 trillion in the hole, the result of unfunded wars, reckless spending by both political parties and rapidly growing entitlement programs.
As baby boomers retire and Medicare and Social Security costs explode, our deficit is going to follow suit. The deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion every year as early as next year.
Guess who’s on the hook for that expense?
Then there is student-loan debt, which stands at nearly $1.5 trillion.
Despite lots of high-paying jobs in the trades, we convinced you and your peers that college was your only option — that borrowing thousands to get a diploma was a solid investment.
Well, the average college graduate owes nearly $40,000. Time magazine reports that 6 million Americans owe more than $50,000 — “nearly triple the percentage who owed that amount in 2000.”
Forbes reports that student-loan debt is now higher than credit-card and auto-loan debt, and is exceeded only by mortgage debt.
Don’t worry about mortgage debt, however. With the huge financial liabilities you face, you may be renting for a while.
There are lots of other challenges ahead. Our healthcare system is a mess. As each party has taken turns enacting one-sided “reforms,” insurance premiums and deductibles have continued to go up, and millions still cannot afford coverage.
You see, neither political party has been able to correct our many woes (maybe you and your peers will replace our two-party system with something that works better).
It’s been easier for politicians to keep kicking the can down the road. It’s been easier to pass our debts and problems onto you, hoping you will finally address them.
And you will address them, because we have left you no choice.
However, despite your incredible burdens, I’m hopeful the class of 2018 will summon the will to do great things for mankind.
Our country is on the cusp of technological innovations that we cannot even begin to imagine, and no generation understands technology better than yours.
Here’s one example: The interconnection of devices and objects — referred to as the internet of things — will lead to massive insights and gains in productivity, economic performance and wealth.
Driverless cars, trucks and airplanes, which are already in the works, will be perfected.
Massive efficiencies and improvements in health care are coming — which will free up money to reduce patient costs as they dramatically improve health outcomes.
Cities, organizations and individuals will get smarter and more efficient — our waste and costs will go down as our profits and wealth increase.
The class of 2018 will be a driving force behind these and other innovations, no doubt.
It’s a good thing, too.
Because while you’re transforming the world and cleaning up the mess we left you, we’ll be reclining at the beach in black socks and plaid swimming trunks.
We’ll be sipping fruity cocktails from glasses with little umbrellas, grateful that your ingenuity and hard work are generating enough dough to cover our Social Security and Medicare costs.
As you begin the next chapter of your life, we wish you the best of luck — because you’ll be needing it!
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.