You were only 16 when the market crashed just before 2021. Everyone saw it coming, but the only people with the power to do anything about it had just made massive bets on it. A few banks went under, but their assets were just bought and consolidated into larger banks.
This time Citigroup, who had employed the only banker to be jailed for their role in earlier crises, didn’t make it, and were absorbed into JP Morgan Chase. Antitrusts were considered, but the new JP Morgan Chase Group insisted they needed to be this large to compete with the larger, international banks to face the post-crash economy.
By the end of 2021, revenue of 148 billion, they were collecting more in subsidiaries and bailouts than paying in tax. But the anxiety on lending remained.
This left a problem for you. The student loan debt pyramid had collapsed, and traditional student loans became too risky to make. Unlike the housing crisis of 2008, there were rarely assets to seize. President Biden refused to allow bankruptcy proceedings for student debt. To do so would collapse the economy built on that debt.
Wages would be heavily garnished, up to 25%. Even on minimum wage, if your state’s minimum wage was higher than the federal $7.25.
Traditional student loans stopped being issued at nearly the rate required for an educated workforce. Even your friends with better grades couldn’t get one after graduation. Students were too risky to gamble on, especially in an economy veering towards negative inflation.
The retail and entry level jobs were held by millenials. The first port of call of the gig economy, Lyft and Uber, had been subsidized and kept afloat entirely by investor money. The severe drop in investment meant that the ridesharing apps tanked driver rates. The services carried on for Zoomers getting pocket money in their parents car, ferrying millenials who couldn’t afford their own ride, in the vast majority of the US that didn’t provide adequate public transportation.
The gig economy exploded to take advantage of these distressed workers as stable jobs shrank. You were one of the lucky ones to have parents that let you live at home, and sheltered you from having to take the most exploitative jobs. That kept you out of the labour force.
It was this year that the first fully automated McDonalds were opened in trial locations in California and Seattle, where minimum wage was highest.
The Biden administration showed that, during the recession, unemployment stayed relatively low. What’s kept quiet is that labour participation rates are dropping, as the available work stops being worth the pay.
This presents a problem to the overall economy. You can’t afford higher education, and you need at least a bachelors to even take unpaid internships in the saturated and desperate workforce.
Workforce participation rates drop drastically as the amount of work needed to make even small quality of life improvements is so great as to be unjustifiable.
It reminds you of what your friend told you about holding a job as a McDonald’s shift manager, before the whole place was automated.
She told you: If you wanted to get more than pennies above minimum wage, you had to become a shift manager. For only a dollar fifty an hour more, you had to do about the same amount of shitty physical labour and all the paperwork, count all the money, have anything that goes wrong with the tills on your head until you find someone to blame for it… \
Because turnover was high and restaurants couldn’t close, you would never be able to take a day off sick and you were basically expected to work 55 hours a week.
How many people could say the dollar fifty and the fifteen hours more out of their life would improve their lives more than just… not doing those things?
And as more workers became more desperate they lost their ability to negotiate for better.
At this point, the difference between those who can own capital and those who can’t becomes so great, that the idea of what is private property has to be extended to squeeze more rent out of the workforce and drive investment.
Of your friends who moved out, none of them own anything in their apartments outside their toothbrushes and clothing. Now, when you rent an apartment, you pay rent on all the furniture in it. The landlord has a deal with a leasing company.
The furniture is nicer than your friends could afford anyway, all connected to the Internet of Things. Even their juicers are wi-fi enabled. This functionality means that repossession doesn’t require bailiffs or repo men; When one of your friends falls short on rent, it means the landlord can disable anything electronic in their apartment by phone app.
For most people, the concept of owning something like a TV or a desktop computer becomes nostalgic. One of your mates has been waiting weeks for their landlord to get around to fixing their TV, because they can’t risk messing with the warranty.
Even in your parent’s basement, you don’t own your coffee machine. You’re operating your Keurig on a monthly subscription model, but at least the subscription comes with cool new flavours every month.
The Biden administration leaps to market-tested solutions. Major companies and conglomerates take up the slack. In exchange for guaranteed future jobs, companies will offer candidacy positions and in-house loans on higher education.
ExxonMobil lobbyists makes the boilerplate standard for the new generation. It rapidly becomes the new normal.
A company will grant a student loan for the required qualifications, and then subsidize an internship position for up to three years. After which your wages will be garnished 40% of your pretax income for the first 15 years after you first earn more than $25,000/year, or $810,000 in 2019 dollars after around 22 years, whichever sum is larger.
After all. Your employer would be taking a risk on you to about $32,000 per year for four years of college. The three years of training - that’s work they’re giving you as a favour. The whole time you’re bleeding your prospective employer dry in living expenses… How could you do better than 5% interest per year?
And what do you, a child with nothing but a highschool diploma, have to offer in return? Your sweat and tears certainly - your blood is only worth $100 a week, you know as you’ve had to look into that by now.
Discounts and perks apply for each year working under the benefactor company, mostly as discounts on their products and services. The ‘employee village’ concept is expanded from Silicon Valley as companies seek to get the most out of their investments, and employees are incentivized with further perks, discounts and benefits, ranging from accessing employee housing, to company cars, to healthcare.
So long as you can pay back the debt you’re accruing. The low wages might be made up for by the discounts at the company store, but paying you more is a conflict of interest when the company profits from your debt directly. But they offset this with the ‘perks’ offered in lieue of higher wages.
Luxuries are only afforded within the confines of the company. The company compound becomes the new feudal guild system, in a sense - and offers shelter to its employee-citizens from the gig-economy.
You held out in your parents basement as long as you could, until your Mum got cancer in 2023. That was the year you sold your life to Unilever.
\ 50% US workforce freelancing in 10 years \ https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/10/17/are-we-ready-for-a-workforce-that-is-50-freelance/#12487a393f82
On fast food automation: https://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/innovation/fast-food-robot/index.html