History, Future. Now. frequently posts articles about the increasing generational divide between the Baby Boomer generation who are now hitting retirement age and the Millennial generation who have recently graduated from university.
The Daily Beast has a hard hitting article this week that focuses on some of the issues:
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.
“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.
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.
From a History, Future. Now. perspective the question is whether this imbalance is sustainable? If it is sustainable, and younger people will continue to vote for policies that hurt them today in the hope that they will benefit from them in the future, we can expect more of the same.
If it is not sustainable, then how will the imbalance end? In democratic societies there is an expectation that voters can vote out politicians who consistently agree to policies that are undesired by the electorate. In non democratic countries more violent means are necessary- the recent revolutions across the Arab world were led by Millennials.
But one of the issues that Millennials face in democratic countries is that their percentage of the electorate is smaller than those who are about to enter retirement (and who will want to ensure they benefit from the same package that Baby Boomers have), the Baby Boomers and the parents of the Baby Boomers. Even if all Millennials voted the same way, which is unlikely, they don’t have the numbers or the financial clout to get the policies that they want and need enacted.
So if Millennials are practically disenfranchised by the democratic process and do want change there is only one logical course of action.
To read the whole article click here.