By Paul Buchheit
My own generation faced the Vietnam War. We were at risk of getting drafted, and then maimed or killed in an unwinnable battle against imagined evils.
Today’s young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don’t understand. It’s a slowly waged, diabolical war that substitutes debt and underemployment for missing limbs and psychological disorders. The soldiers are college-age men and women who can’t find jobs or pay tuition, and who are seduced into submission by the promise of eventual rewards. The Vietnamese jungle has turned into Wall Street.
For those of us who weren’t particularly good activists in the 60s, age has widened our perspective, and the lack of opportunities for our children has given us a second chance to protest, to help make it clear how the leaders of my generation have abandoned the people they no longer need.
Young America, here’s why you should be angry:
1. The Great WEALTH Transfer
18- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It’s now less than $4,000.
The Richest 1%: They tripled their share of income between 1980 and 2006, then took 93% of all the new income in the first year after the 2008 recession. Their median net worth is now over $5,000,000.
2. The Lack of JOBS: No one’s hiring, so you have to “create your own job.”
This from Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner: “The good news is that information technology provides the iPod/Facebook generation with the means to find work and create careers that build on their own personal talents and interests…creating your own career will produce a stronger sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just grab your iPhone, open up Facebook, and create your own job. Become an entrepreneur, just like the richest Americans. Except that the richest Americans aren’t entrepreneurs. Based on US tax return data, only 3% of the wealthiest 130,000 Americans are entrepreneurs. Most are in management or finance.
As your parents and mentors, we told you to stay in school and work hard and everything would be fine. But you don’t have jobs. Over half of college graduates were jobless or underemployed in 2011. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees were receiving food stamps or some other form of public assistance.
If you do have a job, it’s probably not paying much. Salaries for new graduates dropped 10% just in the last year. Worse yet, most of you are dealing with college loan debt, which averages $24,000, and with the reality of zero net worth for over a third of you.
As wages are hitting an all-time low, corporate profits are hitting an all-time high. But the corporations that have built their profits on American innovation and labor are telling you they don’t need you anymore. Apple – much admired for its slick products – shows little respect for anyone below upper management. With 47,000 employees, about 1/10 the number employed by IBM, Apple makes a profit of $420,000 per employee. Yet most Apple store workers make about $12 per hour.
And your representatives in Washington are no help. In October, 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Nearly two-thirds of the American public had supported the bill.
3. The Portrayal of EDUCATION as a “lifetime investment”
Yes, it’s a lifetime investment, for the holder of your student loans.
As corporate profits and CEO salaries and incomes of the 1% have surged over the past ten years, education financing declined by 24 percent, and tuition at state schools increased 72 percent. Since 1985, while consumer prices have approximately doubled, tuition has risen almost 600%.
Total state education cuts for fiscal 2012 were $12.7 billion. A study by Citizens for Tax Justice noted that 265 of our nation’s largest companies avoided about the same amount in state taxes each year from 2008 to 2010.
So your massive tuition bills are paid for with mounting student debt, which has more than tripled in the past ten years. Here again my own generation has deceived you.
Our once-idealistic anti-war activists now excel at flashy marketing and sloganeering, with admissions pitches of “affordability” and “lifetime investment,” and carefully avoided references to costs and debts and contracts.
To make up for lost revenue, cutbacks continue and educational opportunities disappear. State colleges are eliminating expensive-to-run engineering and computer science departments. Arizona doubled college tuition in four years. California K-12 schools have one counselor for every 800 students. Ohio’s Governor Kasich suggested rationing college majors among state schools. Illinois cut 2012 educational funding by a greater percentage than any other state; not to be outdone, Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett tried to cut higher education funding by half, and New Hampshire DID cut university funding by half. Florida’s college tuition is up 15% in a year, Nevada’s is up 13%, Tennessee’s about 10%, Washington’s 24% over two years.
Hell No, We Won’t Go Into Servitude
College graduates, you shouldn’t be working for $12 an hour. The computer and networking technologies that gave life to companies like Apple and Google grew out of 50 years of public research. It was an accomplishment of society, not of a few well-positioned individuals. You, the descendants of industry pioneers, and the potential creators of even greater technologies, deserve at the very least a decent-paying job.
Your anti-war protest, if a time-weathered opinion matters, would include a flood of job demands at the offices of US and state senators and representatives. In person and online. You are part of the fastest and most sophisticated means of communication ever devised. You have the power to make demands. But first you have to get mad.
Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
Vanity Fair, May 2011
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone.
All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society.
It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.
Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.
Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.
Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs. Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12 percent.
But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent.
Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest.
When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied.
The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.
When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.
Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them. It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.
In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.
As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.
Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.
The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
Are Millennials the Screwed Generation?
by Joel Kotkin
Newsweek, Jul 16, 2012
Today’s youth, both here and abroad, have been screwed by their parents’ fiscal profligacy and economic mismanagement. Neil Howe, a leading generational theorist, cites the “greed, shortsightedness, and blind partisanship” of the boomers, of whom he is one, for having “brought the global economy to its knees.”
How has this generation been screwed? Let’s count the ways, starting with the economy. No generation has suffered more from the Great Recession than the young. Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent hit.
The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
The older generation, notes Pew, were “the beneficiaries of good timing” in everything from a strong economy to a long rise in housing prices. In contrast, quick prospects for improvement are dismal for the younger generation.
One key reason: their indebted parents are not leaving their jobs, forcing younger people to put careers on hold. Since 2008 the percentage of the workforce under 25 has dropped 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while that of people over 55 has risen by 7.6 percent.
“Employers are often replacing entry-level positions meant for graduates with people who have more experience because the pool of applicants is so much larger. Basically when unemployment goes up, it disenfranchises the younger generation because they are the least qualified,” observes Kyle Storms, a recent graduate from Chapman University in California.
Overall the young suffer stubbornly high unemployment rates—and an even higher incidence of underemployment. The unemployment rate for people between 18 and 29 is 12 percent in the U.S., nearly 50 percent above the national average. That’s a far cry from the fearsome 50 percent rate seen in Spain or Greece, or the 35 percent in Italy and 22 percent in France and the U.K., but well above the 8 percent rate in Germany.
The screwed generation also enters adulthood loaded down by a mountain of boomer- and senior-incurred debt—debt that spirals ever more out of control. The public debt constitutes a toxic legacy handed over to offspring who will have to pay it off in at least three ways: through higher taxes, less infrastructure and social spending, and, fatefully, the prospect of painfully slow growth for the foreseeable future.
In the United States, the boomers’ bill has risen to about $50,000 a person. In Japan, the red ink for the next generation comes in at more than $95,000 a person. One nasty solution to pay for this growing debt is to tax workers and consumers. Both Germany and Japan, which appears about to double its VAT rate, have been exploring new taxes to pay for the pensions of the boomers.
The huge public-employee pensions now driving many states and cities—most recently Stockton, Calif.—toward the netherworld of bankruptcy represent an extreme case of intergenerational transfer from young to old. It’s a thoroughly rigged boomer game, providing guaranteed generous benefits to older public workers while handing the financial upper echelon a “Wall Street boondoggle” (to quote analyst Walter Russell Mead).
Then there is the debt that the millennials have incurred themselves. The average student, according to Forbes, already carries $12,700 in credit-card and other kinds of debt. Student loans have grown consistently over the last few decades to an average of $27,000 each. Nationwide in the U.S., tuition debt is close to $1 trillion.
This debt often results from the advice of teachers, largely boomers, that only more education—for which costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 2000—could solve the long-term issues of the young. “Our generation decided to go to school and continue into even higher forms of education like master’s and Ph.D. programs, thinking this will give us an edge,” notes Lizzie Guerra, a recent graduate from San Francisco State. “However, we found ourselves incredibly educated but drowning in piles of student loans with a job market that still isn’t hiring.”
More maddening still, the payback for this expensive education appears to be a chimera. Over 43 percent of recent graduates now working, according to a recent report by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, are at jobs that don’t require a college education. Some 16 percent of bartenders and almost the same percentage of parking attendants, notes Ohio State economics professor Richard Vedder, earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“I work at the Gap and Pacific Pak Ice, two jobs that I don’t see myself working long term nor jobs that are specific to my major,” notes recent University of Washington graduate Marshel L. Renz. “I’ve been applying to five jobs a week and have gotten nothing but rejections.”
Particularly hard hit are those from less prestigious schools or with majors in the humanities, notes a recent Pew study. Among 2011 law-school graduates, half could not find a job in the legal field nine months after finishing school. But it’s not just the lawyers and artists who are suffering. Overall the incomes earned by graduates have dropped over the last decade by 11 percent for men and 7.6 percent for women. No big surprise, then, that last year’s class suffered the highest level of stress on record, according to an annual survey of college freshmen taken over the past quarter century.
The proliferation of graduate degrees also impacts those many Americans who don’t go (or haven’t yet gone) to college. High-school graduates now find themselves competing with college graduates for basic jobs in service businesses. Unemployment among 16- to 19-year-olds this summer is nearly 25 percent, while for high-school graduates between 2009 and 2011, only 16 percent have found full-time work, and 22 percent work part time.
Once known for their optimism, many millennials are turning sour about the future. According to a Rutgers study, 56 percent of recent high-school graduates feel they would not be financially more successful than their parents; only 14 percent thought they’d do better. College education doesn’t seem to make a difference: 58 percent of recent graduates feel they won’t do as well as the previous generation. Only 16 percent thought they’d do better.
This perception builds on the growing notion among economists that the new generation must lower its expectations. Since the financial panic of 2008, “the new normal” has become conventional wisdom. Coined by Mohamed El-Erian at Pimco, it’s been used to describe our world as one “of muted Western growth, high unemployment and relatively orderly delevering.”
The libertarian Tyler Cowen, in his landmark work The Great Stagnation, makes many of the same points, claiming that the U.S. “frontier” has closed both technologically and in terms of human capital and resources. He maintains that we’ve already harvested “the low-hanging fruit” and that we now rest on a “technological plateau,” making any future economic progress difficult to achieve. Stagnation is not such a bad thing for people already established in college-campus jobs, think tanks, or powerful financial institutions. But it wipes out the hope for the new generation that they can achieve anything resembling the American Dream of their parents or even grandparents.
Inevitably, young people are delaying their leap into adulthood. Nearly a third of people between 18 and 34 have put off marriage or having a baby due to the recession, and a quarter have moved back to their parents’ homes, according to a Pew study. These decisions have helped cut the birthrate by 11 percent by 2011, while the marriage rate slumped 6.8 percent. The baby-boom echo generation could propel historically fecund America toward the kind of demographic disaster already evident in parts of Europe and Japan.
The worst effects of the “new normal” can be seen among noncollege graduates. Conservative analysts such as Charles Murray point out the deterioration of family life—as measured by illegitimacy and low marriage rates—among working-class whites; among white American women with only a high-school education, 44 percent of births are out of wedlock, up from 6 percent in 1970. With incomes dropping and higher unemployment, Murray predicts the emergence of a growing “white underclass” in the coming decade.
The prospect of downward mobility is most evident in recent discussions about the future of the housing market. Since World War II the expectation of each generation was to own property, preferably a single-family house. The large majority of boomers became homeowners during the Reagan-Clinton era. Yet it is increasingly fashionable to insist this “dream” must be expunged. If millennials ever move out of their parents’ house, they will live in apartments they don’t own. There’s a lot of talk about a “generation rent” replacing a primarily suburban ownership society with a new caste of city-dwelling renters. “I’m hoping that the millennial generation doesn’t set its sights on homeownership as a benchmark of economic stability,” sociologist Katherine Newman suggests, “because it’s going to be out of reach for so many of them.”
No doubt the prospects for homeownership will be tough in the years ahead. But it’s delusional to believe millennials don’t desire the same things as previous generations, note generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais. Survey research finds that 84 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds who are currently renting say that they intend to buy a home even if they can’t currently afford to do so; 64 percent said it was “very important” to have an opportunity to own their own home.
And where do millennials see their dream house? According to research at Frank Magid Associates, 43 percent describe suburbs as their “ideal place to live,” compared with just 31 percent of older generations. Even though big cities are often preferred among college graduates in their 20s, only 17 percent of millennials say they want to settle permanently in one. This was the same percentage of members of this generation who expressed a preference for living in rural or small-town America.
So far, the Great Recession has driven young people around the high-income world to the left. Generations growing up in recessions appear more amenable to arguments for government-mandated income redistribution. And since so few young people pay much in the way of taxes, they are less affronted by the prospect of forking over than older voters, who do. This left-leaning tendency has been on display in recent European elections. In France, 57 percent voters 18 to 24 supported the Socialist François Hollande, one of the reasons why the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy lost. Similarly, 37 percent of those in that age category voted for Syrizia, the far-left party in Greece.
But Winograd and Hais—and Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira—say it’s not just economics working for the Democrats. Social issues such as gay marriage, women’s rights, and immigration—a large proportion of millennials are children of newcomers—tend to drive younger voters toward the Democrats. Half of millennials, for example, favor gay marriage, compared with a third of boomers, and some predict the Republican embrace of draconian social conservatism will serve to harden the Democratic tilt of millennials for the foreseeable future.
Yet Republicans may take heart from some of the more conservative values embraced by the young. As a group, millennials appear to be very family-oriented—being good parents is often their highest priority—and roughly two thirds claim to believe in God. And since their long-term aspirations are not so different from those of earlier generations—they still want to own a home in a nice, secure neighborhood—Republicans could make a case that their economic model will work better with their personal goals.
Right now, politics is just another place where American millennials are getting screwed. Republicans want to deport young Latinos while cutting investments, such as roads and skills education, that would benefit younger voters. Democrats, meanwhile, seem determined to mortgage the future with high spending on pensions, predominantly for aging boomers; cascading indebtedness; and economic policies unfriendly to the rapid growth necessary to assure upward mobility for the new generation.
This suggests millennials need to force the parties to cater to them and play hard to get. Being taken for granted, as African-Americans have been, does not always produce the best results for any demographic grouping. Politicians target “soccer moms,” “independents,” and suburban voters precisely because they are not predictable. Millennials should not want to be in anyone’s hip pocket.
Wanting the next generation to succeed is in everyone’s long-term interest. Eventually they will constitute the majority of parents, potential homeowners, and workers. This year they will comprise 24 percent of voting-age adults, up from 18 percent in 2008; by 2020 they will amount to a third of all eligible voters. And if, by then, they are still a screwed generation, they won’t be the only ones suffering. America will be screwed, too.
Research assistance by Gary Girod. Portrait interviews by Eliza Shapiro.
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