Old Economy Steve: A meme for frustrated Millennials

A new meme features the economic frustrations of Millennials.

Have you encountered Old Economy Steve? He came of age around 1970-something, wears a blue-collared shirt, sports a feathered haircut and has an awkward smirk-like grin. Oh, and he's the main character in a meme for frustrated Millennials -- a generation facing a mountain of student loan debt and dire job prospects that TIME magazine recently called "lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow."

It seems Millennials have a few things to say to condescending Baby Boomers and elders who have some out-of-touch ideas about what it's like growing up in the 21st century's economic climate. The Old Economy Steve meme is encircled by choice little phrases, like "Drives up federal deficit for 30 years... Hands the bill to his kids" and "Has it better than his parents... and his kids."

So what are the meme's origins?

According to the website Know Your Meme, the picture of the young man was first featured in acne-related articles. On May 10, 2012, a user of Reddit, NewNormal, submitted the image (titled "Introducing Old Economy Steven… you know, your dad") to the the website, which featured the same photograph paired with the caption "Fails out of high school...Gets job, buys house, retires happy."

See more examples below. And tell us what you think -- are Millennials bitter or do they have a point?


About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.
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GenX knew all of this in the mid 80's.

But go ahead, ignore us. We're used to that.

It's all about Baby Boomers and their spoiled kids, the Millenials. We get that.

One inaccuracy is the idea of security in union jobs. By 1979 those days were over. Some union jobs went as factories moved to right to work states in the south. Others ended as strikes were broken by management. By 1979 tags in clothes began to list foreign countries instead of the familiar ILGWU label. Star Wars ended on a cliff hanger in the Empire Strikes Back and it would be 3 more years before Luke killed Darth Vader. It was a time of uncertainty. A wonderful song by Billy Joel written in the 1970s about manufacturing is "Allentown" where all these blue collar boomers realize they will never have the life their parents did and that they must leave Allentown. As it turned out, women going to work staved off trouble for another 30 years, but the burdens are too great today.

As for the American dream, it has always been a dream, as in a myth. It's a destination always on the horizon. So don't keep track of it and move forward, instead.

Thanks for bringing up "Allentown". To your hard-times playlist, may I suggest you add Bruce Hornsby's "The Way it is".

Being 20-something and trying to start an independant life has never been easy. Each Generation will face the challenge in their own way. My father had to stop Communist Chinese from overrunning Korea before going to work for Boeing, building B-52s to nuke Russia, and KC-135s to refuel the bombers in-flight. In turn I took my own path to independent life, and ended up flying C-135s, built by my father at Boeing. Today my children will have to figure out how to establish their own lives by addressing today's challenges. One of them is maintaining the same 135s that my father built and that I flew around the world. My grandchildren will face a different world, and they, too, will have to adapt to the future economy. I wish them all prosperity.

Look, life isn't a piece of cake and this momboomer hates to hear whining. Especially whining kids. It is like fingernails on the blackboard. As a mid-cohort boomer, we didn't have everything. That is a mirage. Yes, we did have public polio vaccine campaigns because only a few years before, when the early boomers were kids, there was a polio epidemic. I am very grateful for polio vaccine and other kinds of modern medicine that have improved our lives. But those changes came about because of people our grandparents' age, who in late middle age, were making this possible for us. In other words, people the same age as we are now had the political will to get the vaccines going.

Millennials--and I have four of them, including one boomerang--have a tough job. I hope you kept your Legos and Cabbage Patch kids, because the petroleum they were made of is not going to get cheaper. But they were being bought by your parents when we were your age, and no more in charge of the cost of oil than you are now. Just save them for your kids. They were great toys--led to much imaginative play.

So now it's your turn to make your mark. You will not make it while whining. Nothing good happens to whiners. This is your mother talking, here. So quit whining and put your minds together and come up with some good ideas. You can do it! You guys are smart. For instance, your parents rehabbed homes and painted apartments using how-to manuals. You can download the same info and do that yourself. Put your own sweat into doing something, and you will be proud that you had to do this. You will stop whining. Fix an old car or bike. Clean up those Legos and Duplos for your kids. Go to yard sales. Make ends meet, as you are trying to do now. Just don't stop trying. You will succeed in the end.

Robert Bruce, a medieval Scottish leader was losing a battle with the English when he hid out in a cave. All night long he watched a spider spin a web and fail and over and over try again. Finally the spider was able to get enough threads attached to spin the web. The next day Robert Bruce came out and led the Scots to victory. And all because of a spider! So if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. This is your mom talking again!

You are a wonderful generation and we are proud of you. You have done a lot already. You taught us how to use our computers. You were lucky to have calculators that made math more fun. You have spell checks. So what's the problem?
You convince yourself that your problems are because of your parents, and that therefore, you cannot fix them because they aren't yours. Well, they are yours now by inheritance. So you need to solve them. You have all the tools to do that, and you will, I am sure of it!

Your mom's and dad's generation isn't done yet, though. Believe it or not, we still love you and know better than you think we do that you face some tough situations now. We pushed you out of the nest, but we expected you to flap your wings--so flap! Flap hard and get strong enough so that someday, you will laugh at all the whining. Until then, we are on your side. We are pretty fit from walking and jogging and quitting smoking and all. We will burn the rubber on our sneakers marching if necessary to get a better deal for you. We did a lot of marching once. We are good at it. But you must march along with us and write your politicians and VOTE. YOU need to do all this in huge numbers and not give up. Just like polio was pushed by old baldheaded men back then, maybe old, greying men and women will push for a better deal on student loans, or on better wages. Give us a chance and we will have your back. Just stop whining!!!!

For once, look at the beautiful stormy sky and be glad you are alive. When you stop whining you will find a way to solve some important problems. You are in this together. So remember what momboomer says: No more whining! Keep looking up, and keep trying.

You say "whining," we say "agitating for change." I do not, actually, believe that your generation loves us (all right, I'm an Xer by one year. Sue me). Y'all gave Ronald Reagan two consecutive terms, remember? I realize "The Love Generation Sold Out" is an old song, but it's not any less true than it was in the 1980's. You guys want to push for change, by all means do so, but it's looking a lot like you all hit 55 and suddenly you have to consider your wallets above your principles. It doesn't help much that boomers keep telling Xers and Millenials that they're lazy and unambitious all the time. You're the most affluent generation in history. Maybe do something with it. You want the kids to shape up, it wouldn't hurt to lead by example, and that means not voting for crazy old white guys who want to build fences to keep out the Mexicans and getting your policy positions from talk radio.

Xers and Millenials have quite a few accomplishments to their names thus far, not least of which is having fought two of your least useful wars.

You didn't have to worry about getting a degree back then, women were still pushed out of the workforce and hey, you could just work for uncle Bob's shop and make a lot of money. The reality of today's workforce means you don't have a life. Forget having fun or ever going on vacation. If you get vacation time you'll just spend your days off at another job to make more money. Those loans won't pay themselves but you're somehow expected to buy a house. Ha!

Today you have to:
1. Get a degree.
2. Upon graduation get a job where you are paid NOTHING from 6 months to a year. Can't swing it? Then you won't get the job that eventually pays you a living wage.
3. Pay for welfare parasites with taxes when you can barely feed yourself.
4. Compete with foreign workers who had access to learning more than just "Spanish" in high school. Seriously why couldn't I take a Mandarin course?
5. Deal with the Good Ol' Boy system as a woman or a minority.
6. Be constantly chastised by an older generation who doesn't take into account that up to 80% of your paycheck is going to pay student loans. They don't understand inflation or the rising cost of living hasn't been met with a rise in wages in the past two decades.
7. Demands respect from the generation they blame for all their problems - but turns a blind eye to all the old people from their generation in Washington screwing us all over.
8. Hates unions, socialist programs (Social Security anyone?), but demands to live high off the hog with supplemental welfare programs and disability. Complains about no COLA constantly.
9. They were able to buy stocks - graduates can only dream of it.
10. They tell graduates to just borrow 20K from their parents to start a business since their rich parents handed everything to them.

I just love all the hypocritical old people complaining about how my generation isn't being charitable. Many work seven days a week and are run ragged by a country that refuses to represent them but instead wants to kiss the butt of big business, give illegal immigrant scum amnesty (Way to SCREW over the poor OBAMA!), and hey, give more tax breaks to companies that hide their wealth over seas.

I think the issue is that the jobs market here in the States appears to be drying up, much like the water supplies in the West & Mid-West. There are also a lot more folks living in the States now than in the 70's. I don't think it's practical to compare decades against one another, all things being equal.

Having been born in 1946 and growing up when moving up was still possible for the average person I got my first 'reality check' when I went to Europe (summer of 1964). My next came during 2 tours of Viet Nam. My two daughters are 'Millineals' and grew up wanting nothing ( promise I made when they were born).

Now they understand why I warned them that what seemed so good was actually very very bad for the country and for them. The bad change came after 1980...Supply Side economics, deregualtion, deUnionization, outsourcing, and War.

Luckily, they both got degrees. Unluckily, they both have student loans (them and their husbands). Now they both have good careers, but the Student Loans will keep them out of home ownership for another few years. At least they listened to me about not overextending their credit and did not lose everything in the crash.

This 'reality' will last until they force it to change. Demanding even more deregulation and austerity is exactly the wrong thing to do, but it seems the popular thing to campaign on. They have seen first hand what happens when "Business" is freed from regulations that protect the People and the Environment. They are handing their children a polluted world that is even worse than the pollution of the 50's and 60's which we forced to be regulated. They are handing their kids a huge divide in income that we forced to be more equal. They are handing their kids a dysfunctional government that we started cleaning up (and never finished). They took a generation off to enjoy what we made for them and are now realizing that it takes constant pressure to keep government honest and in the best interests of the People.

Millineals are not slackers, they just did not understand that it takes constant oversight to keep what they got from their parents, and the courage to put boots on the street to keep America on track. They were so busy enjoying what they had that they forgot that you have to keep wary eye and a firm hand on Business or it will turn into a vampire and suck all the blood out of you.

Let's hope their kids learn the lessons and fix this once again.

Doing away with Steve's unrealistic pension would help also!!!


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