One of my favorite episodes of South Park deals with the town’s attempt to restrict the driving privileges of the elderly after old drivers slaughter dozens of people each week during trips to Country Kitchen Buffet. The town’s ban on elderly drivers leads to an AARP military occupation. The younger residents cannot fight back because the old people wake up too early.
On a couple of occasions, Prof. Campos wrote articles in Salon about boomer cluelessness and their disproportionate power over the political machine. Now, I do not want to get on the boomer-bashing-bandwagon without recognizing that many lawyers from this generation have turned to our way of thinking, albeit in a passive manner, and vaguely support the law school transparency movement. However, the main offenders of the law school scam industry are boomer administrators, professors, judges, and bar association leaders (not to mention the bankers that promote the predatory lending scheme).
For many new lawyers on the job market, trying to survive, it sometimes looks like the only way to ever practice law is to wait for this stubborn generation to die off. The most influential boomers often speak with frustrating cluelessness about The New Normal, failing to understand that they have captured most legal markets through restrictive advertising rules, exclusive court-assignment systems, and the sheer financial advantage of I-was-here-first.
A New York Times article this weekend, about the NYU faculty’s vote of no confidence against university president John Sexton, provided an excellent example of the boomer attitude toward business, education, and society. Sexton has expanded the university into a profitable multinational product, and he has planned huge campus expansions in the most expensive real estate market in the country (Manhattan).
Sexton’s reign represents the typical boomer business mindset of nothing-matters-except-the-short-term-bottom-line. He represents the typical fixation on eternal expansion. Specifically, he represents academia’s fixation on revenue and rankings regardless of the long-term consequences and the hikes in tuition that will result from building new skyscrapers, expanding entering class sizes, and bribing more “superstar” faculty to obscure liberal arts departments. It is the typical American obsession with treating everything—hospitals, schools, government—like a corporation trying to sell the most toothpaste (although toothpaste consumers have far more regulatory protections in place than education consumers).
Unfortunately, the boomer-generation (and their mindset) has a stranglehold on the legal profession and national policy for many reasons other than their long-term tenure in law firms, government agencies, law school faculties, and the political system. Yet, they have in part earned this power by consolidating themselves into a strong, consistent voting block. Yes, the so-called youth vote came out in droves for Obama in the last two presidential elections, but they have done little else (not since the storm troopers broke up Occupy).
Let me provide an example of what happens when the boomer-voting-block holds disproportionate financial, philosophical, and voting power over the rest of a community. In some Florida counties, the boomer voters have helped to accelerate the transformation of struggling post-housing-bubble suburbs into ghost towns, voting for a series of self-serving measures that defund the schools and perpetuate the downward financial spiral. Meanwhile, the old people enjoy lower taxes as they slowly retire into properties that they purchased during the olden days (1960s-1970s), when a house in that county cost $15,000.
Now, let me make clear, many suburbs in Florida and other parts of the country were decimated by the housing scam. However, the boomer-voting-block adds to the misery through self-serving austerity votes. By lowering taxes as far as possible, the public schools continue to disintegrate, the local governments hire less people on less desirable terms – sure, you can work as a cop for $30,000 and pay 50% of your own medical costs – and the universities become almost equally expensive for instate and out-of-state students. Consequently, many parts of the state have seen a mass exodus of young people and young families.
This is great for boomers retiring into paid-off homes or moving into golf-cart communities. Social security, savings, and pensions provide a monthly income that exceeds the current paychecks of most of us treading water after law school. Plus, their voting power keeps them in control of how the government taxes property, the last major tax paid by older folks but the prime source of revenue for local education and government services.
As I paint this picture in very broad strokes, I will note that the financial and political powers continue to distribute resources to the older generation at the expense of everyone else. Even the new healthcare law, forcing young people into the market to offset the care of old people, fits this model.
And don’t wait for boomers to thank anyone, as they complain about young entitled brats. You’ve heard/read the clichés a million times over the last few years: “In my day, we worked our way from the bottom to the top,” a 58-year-old lawyer might say, not realizing that he graduated into an immediate job with only $2,000 of debt. “The problem today is that everyone feels entitled to everything right now,” he might say, as he chooses a cruise line for one of his biannual vacations or complains about the taxes on his six-figure income.
Granted, I am portraying a melodramatic stereotype, but I think it represents a greater reality. When was the last time you heard the government raising a shit storm over a very modest restructuring or trimming of Medicare and Social Security? Every day? Every hour?
Now, when was the last time you heard the government discuss a serious student loan revamp to slow the massive feeding-frenzy of colleges with expanding class sizes, higher tuition, and new campuses? Never? Ever?
Me neither. In fact, we see mainstream politicians, including high profile figures like Chris Christie and Mitt Romney, give students the middle-finger, advising them to borrow from rich parents, attend schools within their “price range,” and suck it up. You would never see any politician give that sort of response to a boomer asking about Medicare/Social Security – not even a fringe wacko like Paul Ryan!
We can learn a lot from the last two decades of boomer rule about mobilizing into a consolidated lobbying block. Fine, we do not have their finances or established place in society. However, we have ever-increasing numbers and the internet.
We have seen in the last year that we have the power to attack law school bank accounts. The best way to erode their cash flow is to further drive down applications with impossible-to-ignore information. Whether it is Surgeon General stickers, catchy fliers with information about ITLSS, OTLSS, and Nando’s brutally honest law school profiles, it only takes a few of us to canvass the parking lots outside of major testing sites at the upcoming June, October, and December LSAT. I am in New York, others live in CA, and scam survivors live everywhere in between.
If our in-your-face information, provided right after the emotionally draining LSAT experience, causes 10% of those people to reconsider law school, we have dealt a crippling financial blow. The dissemination of information, finally pushed into the mainstream media, already played a major role in the decline of new applications. And the scambloggers started this momentum, even before Prof. Campos jumped in (and out) and helped to amplify the message.
The boomers have the power to yank the political chain to get what they want. If we choose, we can wield a similar power by perpetuating the law school death spiral.