Posts Tagged ‘Millennials’

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If you listened to or read the text of President Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, you might have been surprised by the explicit mention of socialism.

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.

Or maybe not—since just last year the Council of Economic Advisers apparently found it necessary to issue a report, on the cusp of the midterm elections, to push back against the fact that “socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse.” And Fox News is engaged in its own campaign against socialism, since “support for Karl Marx’s collectivist ideas is steadily increasing.”

The irony, of course, is that Trump and his principal media outlet are in part responsible for the growth of support for socialism and for policies that are often associated with socialism (such as raising taxes on the income and wealth of the rich).* Claiming that “our country is vibrant and our economy is thriving like never before” and then scapegoating immigrants in “organized caravans [that] are on the march to the United States,” while ignoring the effects of the largest tax break for large corporations in U.S. history—which, while boosting economic growth, executive salaries, and the stock market, leaves American workers further and further behind—makes the case for socialism even more compelling.

But interest in socialism was growing even before Trump took office, especially among millennials. The question is, why?

As I’ve noted before, the members of Generation Y are generation screwed, with lower earnings, fewer jobs, more part-time employment, and a higher unemployment rate than any other generation in the postwar period. As a result, they’re more likely than their elders to think of themselves as working-class and less likely to identify as middle-class.

For Malcolm Harris, the problem is exploitation:

This is a fundamentally capitalist story. Workers have always been exploited, but that rate of exploitation. . .is increasing exponentially for millennials.

What Harris is referring to is the growing gap between productivity and workers’ wages. And it really doesn’t matter how that gap is measured.

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Harris refers to the numbers produced by the Economic Policy Institute, according to which”net productivity” has grown 6.2 times “hourly compensation” since 1973.

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Alternatively, we can look at the gap between real output per person in the nonfarm business sector and real weekly earnings, which has increased by a factor of almost 10 since 1980.

Both measures point to increasing exploitation—to a growing gap between what workers produce and what they receive back as their pay. And it’s that exploitation—which neither Trump nor, for that matter, “conventional American economists” want to talk about—that is generating interest in socialism today.

Workers, especially young workers, are suffering the consequences of increased exploitation and beginning to look beyond capitalism, to different ways of organizing the U.S. economy and society. Socialism, since at least the end of the eighteenth century, has been the name for those alternatives.

Why is there growing interest in socialism in the United States today? The answer is clear. It’s capitalist exploitation, stupid!

 

*Such policies now include abolishing billionaires. However, Farhad Manjoo, who tried to sort out good from bad billionaires, never asks where those billions come from.  If he did, he’d discover the ways an increasingly unequal and unjust distribution of income is tied to—as both condition and consequence—a fundamentally unequal and unjust structure of production.

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retirement

Millennials may be the largest, best educated, and most diverse generation in U.S. history. But they’re also generation screwed. As a result, they’re more likely than their elders to think of themselves as working-class and less likely to identify as middle-class.

The large downshift in class identity among young adults is explained by the fact that they are being left behind—with lower earnings, fewer jobs, more part-time employment, and a higher unemployment rate than any other generation in the postwar period.

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And while it is true that recent college graduates make more than young workers with a high-school diploma, the annual real wages of both groups have declined since 2009.

So, it should come as no shock that most Millennials have nothing saved for retirement, and those who are saving can’t save nearly enough.

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, in research that was recently reported by CNN, two-thirds of working Millennials have not been able to save anything for their retirement. That’s true even though two-thirds of Millennials work for an employer that offers an employer-sponsored retirement plan. But they’re often not eligible, because they work part-time or have too little time in their current job—and, if they are eligible, their low pay and high indebtedness make it impossible to set aside anything for retirement savings.

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The fact that Millennials aren’t following the recommendations of financial and retirement experts has a lot of people worried. But Keith Spencer [ht: ja] presents a much more hopeful perspective: many millennials honestly don’t see a future for capitalism.

The idea that we millennials’ only hope for retirement is the end of capitalism or the end of the world is actually quite common sentiment among the millennial left. . .

Older generations, and even millennials who are better off and who have managed to achieve a sort of petit-bourgeois freedom, might find this sentiment unimaginable, even abhorrent. And yet, in studying the reaction to the CNN piece and reaching out to millennials who had responded to it, I was astounded not only at how many young people shared [Holly] Wood’s feelings, but how frequently our expectations for the future aligned. Many millennials expressed to me their interest in creating self-sustaining communities as their only hope for survival in old age; a lack of faith that capitalism as we know it would exist by retirement age; and that alternating climate crises, concentrations of wealth, and privatization of social welfare programs would doom their chance at survival.

Creating a world in which individual retirement savings are made irrelevant is a kind of real talk from Millennials that makes a helluva lot more sense than the constant barrage of so-called expert advice to educate “Millennials about the value of retirement savings and how employer-sponsored retirement plans and employer matches work.”

In fact, socialism may be the best way “to improve the retirement preparedness of America’s largest generation.”

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Millenials

We all know that the Millennials, notwithstanding their constant battering in the media, are generation screwed.

The members of Generation Y know it, too, which is why they see themselves not as middle-class, but as working-class [ht: ja].

The number of millennials – who are also known as Generation Y and number about 80 million in the US – describing themselves as middle class has fallen in almost every survey conducted every other year, dropping from 45.6% in 2002 to a record low of 34.8% in 2014. In that year, 8% of millennials considered themselves to be lower class and less than 1% considered themselves to be upper class.

The large downshift in class identity among young adults may have helped explain the surprisingly strong performance in Democratic primaries of the insurgent presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has promised to scrap college tuition fees and raise minimum wages.

And, as members of the working-class, they’re beginning to challenge their employers over exploitation [ht: ja]. That’s especially true when Millennials are forced to have the freedom to take unpaid internships.

The usual excuse is that, whether on political campaigns or in media outlets, interns are gaining experience, contacts, and references. However,

not everyone believes “experience” or connections are enough of a payout for weeks and months of labour. Over the past five years, former interns at Condé Nast, Harper’s Bazaar, Gawker Media, NBC Universal and Fox Searchlight have filed lawsuits against their employers, accusing them of exploitation.

Clearly, within contemporary capitalism, Millennials are getting screwed—and, as workers, they’re beginning to fight back.

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Millennials—those born between 1980 and the end of 1994—regularly take a beating in the media. They’re accused of being lazy, self-absorbed, politically apathetic narcissists, who aren’t able to function without a smartphone and who live in a state of perpetual adolescence, incapable of commitment.

The members of Generation Y also hold a much more favorable view of socialism than any other generation (according to this YouGov [pdf] poll).*

What’s going on?

According to a new study by the Guardian, it’s clear that economically Millennials are falling further and further behind previous generations.

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For example, in the United States, a person age 20 to 24 is much poorer than the national average (by over 30 percent) compared to people of that age in the past (10 percent in 1979). So, are those 25-29 (7 percent less than the average, compared to the same as the average in 1979), while the difference for those 30-34 are basically the same as in the past (more or less equal to the average).

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There’s also a growing gap between their incomes and those of older generations. For example, the incomes of the 60-64 age group are now almost 30 percent higher than the national average (compared to only 15 percent higher in 1979), while those of Millennials are 32 percent lower than the national average.

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As you can see, Millennials are worse off than all other age groups, except for those over 70—and even their incomes have improved in recent years compared to those of Generation Y.

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And this is not just a problem in the United States. Generation Y is falling further and further behind in lots of other countries—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Canada—except Australia.

To be clear, this is not some matter of generational warfare. Generation Y is not being left behind and preyed upon by other generations. Those who are currently retiring deserve their Social Security and Medicare programs. No, Millennials are being left behind by the current economic system that has saddled it with high debt and low-paying jobs and is cancelling their dreams.

As pseudonym76 recent explained,**

Generation Screwed has been getting screwed over by the American plutocracy all of our lives. We have not had a five year stretch in adulthood without an economic catastrophe, at least not if we lived outside of certain boom cities, and Generation Screwed is completely fucking feed up. Generation Screwed is going to vote for Bernie because what he is proposing is the only thing that might, just might put this country back on track to give the next generation a chance at a life better than the one we have all had. Of course what he is proposing is just a starting point to setting things right. We all know that. We know it in our marrow.  What Bernie is proposing doesn’t go nearly far enough! Yeah, that’s right, I said it, what he is proposing doesn’t go nearly far enough. Bernie is our half-measure, our opening salvo at fixing the fucking mess that the Boomer’s post-Watergate apathy, post-Kennedy and King assassination apathy gave us. That’s right, I get it, I know why you folks didn’t continue the struggle, your leaders were slaughtered. Guess what, it happens, you pick up where they left off and you keep pushing. You have to pick up where they left off and keep pushing. Bernie did that, and its why we respect him. The man kept up the fight. While you fuckers gave up and went home, he kept up the fight.

 

*The survey, taken at the end of January, found that 43 percent of Americans under 30 had a favorable view of socialism. Less than a third of millennials had a favorable view of capitalism. No other age or ethnic demographic preferred socialism over capitalism.

It’s also interesting that even younger people seem to be following the Millennials’ lead. First-year college students are more politically engaged than they’ve been in decades. And, at the University of Kentucky, no hot bed of radical thinking or activity, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic support in a landslide (85.2 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 14.8 percent).

**Technically, pseudonym76 is not a Millennial: “I am part of Generation Screwed, its the much larger generation of Americans whose future was stolen away from them by Boomers who didn’t get involved and didn’t prevent the dismantling of the American middle class. Generation Screwed includes Generation Kevin Arnold. It includes Generation X. To a degree it includes President Obama’s micro generation of Jonesers. It definitely includes the Millennials, and it even includes Generation 9/11, some of whom are going to be eligible to vote this year—you know those kids born at the tail end of the Clinton Administration and the beginning of the second Bush Administration.”