War Against Youth?

The old have most of the money and power in our society, a trend that is accelerating.

Esquire features a bizarre article titled “The War Against Youth,” which the dark subhed “The recession didn’t gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care o f that.” The case is . . . thin.

The intro is powerful, indeed.

In 1984, American breadwinners who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under thirty-five. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation.

This bleeding up of the national wealth is no accounting glitch, no anomalous negative bounce from the recent unemployment and mortgage crises, but rather the predictable outcome of thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.

1984 is, coincidentally, the year I graduated high school and started college. So, this enormous change has taken place entirely during my adult life. What, precisely, are these rigged policies? Well . . . author Stephen Marche doesn’t really say. The bits and pieces of evidence given are mostly accusatory and nonsensical.

The gerontocracy begins at the top. The 111th Congress was the oldest since the end of the Second World War, and the average age of its members has been rising steadily since 1981. The graying of Congress has obvious political ramifications, although generalizations can be deceiving.

Indeed. Especially since life expectancy has been steadily increasing. While I’ve argued for term limits and expressed concern about the number of 80-something Representatives and Senators who seem to hang on for the sake of breaking records, I’m not sure we can read much into the fact that Congress is old.

Democrats may not be actively hostile to the interests of young voters, but they are too scared and weak to speak up for them. So when the Boomers and swing voters scream for fiscal discipline and the hard decisions have to be made, youth is collateral damage. Medicare and Social Security were mostly untouched in Obama’s 2012 budget. But to show he was really serious about belt tightening, relatively cheap programs that help young people like the Adolescent Family Life Program and the Career Pathways Innovation Fund were killed.

Now, we can argue about whether Social Security and Medicare are sustainable in their present form. And, sure, having guaranteed income and health coverage provides a nice floor on living standards. But our over-65s aren’t living high on the hog on either program; they’re sustainment measures, not a pathway to luxury.

His intentions may be good — he may want to increase support for AmeriCorps — but the program shrunk last year. Three quarters of the applicants were turned away. He resisted Republican efforts to slash Pell grants by $845 per student, but then made other changes to the program that will save the government — or cost students, depending on your perspective — a projected $100 billion over ten years.

The shrinking of AmeriCorps, which was initiated in 1993 and always very small, hardly explains a trend that began in 1984. Cutting government loans for college might indeed impact the earning power of the young–but, again, cuts in 2009 hardly explain a trend that began in 1984. People who are 35 either finished college before Obama took office or will likely never finish college.

The youth vote still supports Obama, but in a chastened, conditional way. In hindsight, Obama’s 2008 campaign looks like an indulgent fantasy in which the major conflicts in life simply don’t exist. There may be no white America and no black America, no blue-state America and no red-state America, but one thing is clear: There is a young America and there is an old America, and they don’t form a community of interest. One takes from the other. The federal government spends $480 billion on Medicare and $68 billion on education. Prescription drugs: $62 billion. Head Start: $8 billion. Across the board, the money flows not to helping the young grow up, but helping the old die comfortably. According to a 2009 Brookings Institution study, “The United States spends 2.4 times as much on the elderly as on children, measured on a per capita basis, with the ratio rising to 7 to 1 if looking just at the federal budget.”

Now, all of that sounds damning and it may indeed reflect skewed priorities and political power. But it’s also misleading. The vast bulk of our spending on education is at the state and local level; the federal government’s involvement is tertiary. Head Start is a program for disadvantaged preschoolers, not an across-the-board measure. And the prescription drug benefit is a development of the Bush 43 administration–and not one that impacts income but rather discretionary income.

More importantly, to the extent that any of this is a generational transfer of wealth, it’s one that hasn’t happened yet. All of that money being spent on Medicare, prescription drugs, and the like? It’s being borrowed. Now, that contributes of course to the crowding out of government programs for youth. But we’re not paying for it with higher federal taxes; quite to the contrary in fact.

The biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security. The management of entitlement programs, already weighted heavily in favor of the older population, has a very specific terminal point that coincides neatly with the Boomers’ deaths. The 2011 report by the Social Security trustees estimates that, under its current administration, the fund will run out in 2036, so there’s just enough to get the oldest Boomers to age ninety.

That’s almost entirely a mattering of accounting. A little jiggering of the eligibility age, payouts, and tax rates would make the program sustainable indefinitely. We can argue about whether that’s worthwhile, of course.

If you follow the money rather than the blather, it’s clear that the American system is a bipartisan fusion of economic models broken down along generational lines: unaffordable Greek-style socialism for the old, virulently purified capitalism for the young. Both political parties have agreed to this arrangement: The Boomers and older will be taken care of. Everybody younger will be on their own.

That’s . . . just not true. My grandparents’ generation decided in the midst of the Great Depression that we had to have a federal program to ensure that those too old to work had a little something to live on in their dotage. Over time, people came to rely on that as their sole means of paying for retirement and we got more generous with the benefits. Additionally, the number “65” became sacrosanct and we were too slow to adjust it to the reality of people living much longer and in much greater health. So, yes, people like myself–the earliest post-Boomers–will indeed have to keep working a wee bit longer. From the National Academy of Social Insurance:

The Social Security full-benefit retirement age is increasing gradually because of legislation passed by Congress in 1983. Traditionally, the full benefit age was 65, and early retirement benefits were first available at age 62, with a permanent reduction to 80 percent of the full benefit amount. In 2010, the full benefit age is 66 for people born in 1943-1954, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

Considering we’ve had since I was a junior in high school to plan for this, I don’t consider it particularly onerous. Even though my dad, born in 1943, died at 66.

Eventually, Marche gets to a real problem:

And yet, at the exact moment when an education has never been more necessary, education is increasingly out of reach. From 1980 on, the price of attending a four-year college has risen by 128 percent. [emphasis added]

We’ve discussed the reasons for this increase ad nauseum over the years but it’s real. I was able to attend my local state university on a pay-as-you-go basis through service in the Army Reserve and Army ROTC, because tuition was $400 a semester when I started for as many credits as one could take. Now, the in-state rate is $226/semester hour. To take 18 hours–six classes–would be $4068 a semester, or more than ten times what it cost in 1986. Inflation accounts for a relatively small part of that. $400 in 1986 is only $786 in 2010 money.

This is also interesting:

Once you’re out of college, you’ll have to intern. Again, no choice. The practice of not paying young people for their labor has become so ingrained in the everyday practice of American business that we’ve forgotten how bizarre and recent the development is. In the early 1980s, 3 percent of college grads had had an internship. By 2006, 84 percent had done at least one. Multiple internships are common. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 75 percent of employers prefer students who have interned or had a similar working experience.

I’ve written about the phenomenon many times in the past and decried it. But I was under the impression that unpaid internships were mostly a function of a few industries and a few major metropolitan areas; I didn’t realize that the practice was this widespread.

But maybe you’re an overachiever — instead of interning, you want to get a master’s or a professional degree. With entry to the professions comes another opportunity to be taken advantage of, and it’s not just the inherently ridiculous price of a creative-writing M.F.A. or journalism school, where on some level, everybody understands the students are being played for suckers. The cost of medical school has spiked over the past three decades. In 1981, average medical-school debt was less than $20,000. Today it is $158,000. Law-school tuition rose 317 percent between 1989 and 2009 while American laws schools wildly increased the number of lawyers they graduate. Naturally, a glut of lawyers decreases their value. So kids pay more for a worse education that leads to lesser prospects in order for the schools to prosper temporarily. Even for doctors and lawyers, an accrual of property or any rise in net worth happens much later in life than it did twenty years ago.

Actually, it’s worse than that: Internships are common, indeed, for those in graduate and professional school. I’ve had unpaid interns working for me fresh out of graduate programs much more prestigious than the one I attended.  Now, part of the increase in post-college and post-graduate/professional school debt is a function of people living beyond their means, taking out loans to live middle class lifestyles while in school. (I managed to finish my PhD debt-free by living in a crappy apartment across the street from the Section 8 housing.) But, yes, the skyrocketing cost of higher education means that it takes people a lot longer to climb out of the hole if they borrow to pay for it.

Compared with their parents, high school kids who graduated from college into the teeth of the recession are a Republican fantasy. They want a good job in order to raise a family, and it’s exactly that arrangement that is going to be denied them. The deal they were promised, that if you work hard and make smart choices you will have a good life, is not working out. A Great Disappointment will no doubt follow.

Everyone currently emerging into the workplace will be economically scarred for life by the misfortune of their timing. The initial wage loss for a worker emerging in a bad economy is 6 to 7 percent for every 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, which means a twenty-one-year-old starting a job today makes about 24 percent less than he or she would have five years ago. After fifteen years, even during the good times, the wage loss still hovers at around 2.5 percent.

A more profound shift is under way, though. Currently the average American parent spends 10 percent of his or her annual income on their adult children, regardless of income. Meanwhile, one in four young Americans recently moved back home with their parents after living apart. Calling them the Boomerang generation implies that it’s the irresponsible, feckless children who don’t have it together enough to leave the nest. But many children who live at home have jobs. So we have children living with their parents after they have income, just like they did in the early parts of the twentieth century and before. The idea of youth as a time of freedom and self-discovery will last exactly one generation, it seems.

This is largely the vagaries of a global recession, not evidence of a policy to shift wealth to the elderly at the expense of the young. Certainly, multi-generational living was much more common during the Great Depression, the period to which our current era is so often compared. It’s a really crappy thing to be coming to adulthood in the face of a lousy economy. But it’s not at all clear what it is that the Baby Boomers are supposed to do about it.

People who want to join society will do so through an increasingly lengthy period of humiliation and struggle, and only through the help of their parents. Even before the recession, that was more or less true. It’s the dirty little secret of every middle-class person in their mid-thirties: Everybody’s parents helped them out. Who do you think is paying for all those summer internships? How many new parents do you think actually have enough money for a Bugaboo stroller, let alone a down payment on a first home? And if you don’t have a mom or dad who can help with ballet lessons for the kids or family vacations, God help you. America is becoming what it was founded to reject, what it has resisted throughout its history, a patronage society.

I can’t much speak to this, having postponed marriage until I was almost 40 and kids until my mid-40s. But most of this sounds like a complaint that kids can’t afford an upper middle class lifestyle right out of the gate.

A Bugaboo stroller is an absurd luxury item and one without which one can certainly raise children. (My late wife really wanted one and, despite a very healthy combined income, we couldn’t justify the outlandish cost for a new one, so we found one on Craig’s list at a greatly reduced price. We hardly used it and wound up selling it a year or so later for about what we paid.) People in their late 20s and early 30s, in many cases barely out of school, probably can’t afford a down payment on a house. But that’s not some new phenomenon. Most could afford the sort of family vacations we took when I was a kid; they probably can’t afford to vacation in St. Kitts.

That’s the problem with so much of the piece: interspersed with real concerns about the problems of getting started in life faced by the younger generation is resentment that the young can’t afford the lifestyle it took their parents years and their grandparents decades to achieve.

via Pam Schultz

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    The article is a bit of a mess, taking every challenge young people face and crediting it toward a vast conspiracy by blue-haired greedsters. Some of the points are of legitimate concern though. At this point the best thing we can do governmentally is to take the student loans we award each year and turn them into student grants, and negotiate tuition rates at public institutions to control costs. There’s no need for any student to go into $100,000 debt to get a Ph.D.

  2. John Peabody says:

    Your last paragraph is the key. I didn’t grow up in the depression, but my parents surely did, and I was raised thinking that a trip to McDonald’s was a luxury. Deep down, I still feel that way. My good wife, born just ten years after me, had a different experience.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    I don’t know about the article.
    I do know there is a war being waged against anyone who isn’t old white well-off and suburban…and it’s been going on for 30 years.
    It’s pretty hard to look at the flat-lined wages of the bottom 80% and not see it.

  4. John D'Geek says:

    My parents didn’t grow up in the depression, but they did grow up in depressed areas (hint: one is from rural West Virginia). So, like the previous poster, I grew up thinking that going out was a luxury.

    The original article seems to be a mix of venting and research, with emphasis on the venting. No real … *guts*.

    BTW, JJ — I graduated high school in ’83, so I understand the concepts. The overwhelming majority of my student loan debt is for my second Masters degree — after the turn of the millennium — not my first.

  5. In California at least, it’s house prices, and rent.

    We have quite a few policies in place that push up or maintain house prices for oldsters, many of whom see that as their only nest egg.

    You can’t have that and easy entry to the middle class for the young. For them, house prices and rent have to be low.

    I know a guy who has struggled for years, but all through it has managed to keep up rent on a $2000/mo apartment. It’s like Matthew Yglesias observes … rent is the way money is (re)extracted from the lower classes.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    The article doesn’t appear to mention the huge increases in K12 spending that have gone on at the state level since 1980. At this point the states in aggregate are spending around $1 trillion per year on education.

    I think there are legitimate concerns here but the concerns should be about why costs have risen so fast in healthcare and education rather than about a “gerontocracy”

  7. (Some charts here show real estate prices “flat” in Los Angeles from about 1953 to about 1973, and then the take-off.)

  8. superdestroyer says:

    One also forget what percentage of the population worked in agriculture in 1930 versus today. Even after the graduate school, unpaid internship, and study abroad; the entry levels jobs have congregated themselves into NYC, DC, Boston, and Silicon valley. All of those are very expensive places to live and do not lend themselves to creating personal savings.

    Also, the cost of avoiding poor people has increased much faster than just inflation. It is expensive to live in DC or Chicago and live in a neighborhood where a recent college graduate will not be near poor people.

    Also, the savings are affected by the decrease in marriage. The average graduate school educated male is marrying later than ever. That means more money spend on maintaining a household and less put into savings.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    Obamacare exacerbates the situation by raising healthcare premiums “for those ages 18–24 by 45 percent and those ages 25–29 by 35 percent while decreasing premiums for those ages 55–59 by 12 percent and those ages 60–64 by 13 percent.” Link One of the purposes of the mandate is to force young people to pay part of the premiums of the older, typically wealthier Americans.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    I wonder why I bother to still take Esquire. It’s full of inane pieces like this, and guys with designer stubble, ill fitting expensive suits, and $20,000 wristwatches. I have however found it’s guides to watering holes useful occasionally. I should concentrate on this important stuff JJ, I’m sure most of their readers do.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Yes…. after all Heritage is well known for accuracy of their pronouncements.

  12. @PD Shaw:

    You, and Heritage, understand that in this situation “young people” and “old people” are the same, only time-shifted?

    It is actually the SS argument. Young people effectively pay in, covering oldsters, and then receive later as oldsters.

    As a math-science guy it’s frustrating to see these arguments break on what things are called, rather than the numeric net-net.

  13. Hey Norm says:

    Shaw links to the Foundry…the website of the uber-right-wing Heritage foundation…the inventer of the PPACA, and now denier of that fact. (James, of course, also believes their denials) BTW – Heritage is also the organization that found Ryan’s Tea Party Manifesto would lower unemployment to 2.8%…hardly believable in any conceivable scenario. Heritage also predicted the Bush Tax Cuts would lead to massive economic growth. A decade later we’re still waiting…maybe if we cut historically low tax rates even lower…yeah, that’s the ticket…
    If one side of the discussion is always going to rely on total f’ing bullshit for their argument…we will never, ever, get anywhere.
    Now…go buy your government mandated broccoli.

  14. @Hey Norm:

    I think it’s fair to say that if many young are uninsured, and the bill makes them get insurance, then that demographic has net-net paid more. Of course, now they are insured for skateboard crashes and etc.

    It’s probably also fair to say that if oldsters are reduced in representation in the insurance pool, then the things they now cover, like services for uninsured emergency room walk-ins, are spread wider. As a demographic their cost should decrease.

    And so, the young paying a little more, and the old a little less, would actually move things toward “each paying his own.”

    The devil is in the details, and given this system of mandated private insurance, each company will make their own policy premium decision for each age group.

  15. A review of Matt Yglesias’ new Kindle single, The Rent Is Too Damn High is here:

    My favorite part of the book was Yglesias’ discussion of unbundling the supply and demand for land from the supply and demand for buildings. He provides a very clear explanation of the differences between the two, explaining that rising land values benefit land owners, but rising housing prices serve only to decrease everyone’s real income. Under a system where land use is regulated to constrain the supply of buildings, landowners earn long term rents (higher than they would otherwise earn) that cannot be eroded by other landowners building more densely.

    The observation that “housing prices serve only to decrease everyone’s real income” is one missed in the bubble, and still missing as policies are discussed to protect home prices.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @john personna: No, SS is different. First its funded by a tax on income, so its funding mechanism takes into acount ability to pay. Second, they are different products. The young person who buys insurance has only obtained a one year policy from a private insurance company. The young person’s annual FICA payments are insurance against retirement expenses. He is paying for delayed benefits with what is supposed to appear to be an investment.

  17. Rick DeMent says:

    @PD Shaw:

    How can cost increase when a huge segment of 18–24 will be eligible to be covered under their parents insurance plans? I mean people are taking advantage of that in droves right now meaning young people get coverage they never had before? i think your numbers are bogus.

  18. @PD Shaw:

    I’m not talking about naming, I’m talking about net-net.

    When you say “He is paying for delayed benefits with what is supposed to appear to be an investment.”

    You are pretending that SS has not income redistribution, not transfers, right?

    You are relying on naming, and appearing.

  19. (Really, it is demonstrably false that SS people get back is just the SS they put in. This is especially true for the working poor. But tragically GOP politics is built on the myth that it all works that way, and that SS is nothing more than a savings program.)

  20. Hey Norm says:

    @ JP…
    Yes…if someone is uninsured…ie a free-rider…and the buy insurance their cost increase is exactly that much.
    But the idea that the premiums for that age group are going up 45% is only almost as ridiculous as the claim that Ryan’s plan is going to lower UE to 2.8%.

    I do not like the mandate…primarily because I think the entire insurance industry is just a scam. I pay way more in insurance premiums than I do in taxes…and my health insurance is heavily subsidized by the government because I get it through my employer.
    I’d just as soon have single-payer.
    My biggest hope is that once the activist Koch Brother Justices strike down the PPACA Democrats will wake up and realize they have to actively fight the abject idiocy of Republicans…not just expect the President to do it by himself…and we can start to get there.
    But I’m probably dreaming.

  21. PD:

    Over 85 percent of individuals in the lowest quintile receive positive net transfers from Social Security when the narrowest definition of income is used (individual actual earnings).

    From this.

  22. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    A few points are worth mentioning:

    1. Any discussion of the train wreck that is Gen. Y which doesn’t mention the extent to which leftists over the past 20-odd years have destroyed K-12 education and college and university education is walking past the elephant in the room. You can’t explain away the rampant unemployment and underemployment of the 18-25 year-old demographic on the recession alone. We’ve had nasty recessions before. The recession in 1982-1983 was very bad. The recession in 1991-1992 was not a picnic. The relative rates of unemployment and underemployment, however, are not even in the same ballparks.

    It’s in large part because Gen. Y is a airheaded generation that its plight is so dire. Have you ever interviewed any of these kids for a job? It’s unbelievable. The level of cluelessness is staggering. The etiology should not be so difficult to discern. It’s because to an overwhelming extent their educations have been corrupted by unionized, partisan leftists pushing agendas.

    2. The Gen. Y problem will have ripple effects that directly will affect the entitlement time bomb. The Boomers are in raw numbers a gigantic demographic. Gen. Y by comparison is a tiny generation. Over the next 5-15 years the Boomers will retire en masse. Gen. Y is and shall remain largely unemployable. The labor market for Gen. X will remain tight. What will the Social Security “trust funds” look like in 15 years? What if we have another severe recession in the interim? How will all that effect interest rates throughout the economy? It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

  23. @Tsar Nicholas II:

    Any discussion of the train wreck that is Gen. Y which doesn’t mention the extent to which leftists over the past 20-odd years have destroyed K-12 education and college and university education is walking past the elephant in the room.

    So the “red states” should all be our economic powerhouses by now?

    lolz

  24. Hey Norm says:

    TN2….
    What is it about WORST RECESSION SINCE THE DEPRESSION that you have a hard time understanding? In the last quarter of Bushes Presidency output contracted at 9%. I’m sorry…but are you daft?
    http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/studies/recession_perspective/index.cfm

  25. @Tsar Nicholas II:

    BTW, on “liberals” messing up education:

    “New York educators banned references to ‘dinosaurs,’ ‘birthdays,’ ‘Halloween’ and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests. That is because they fear such topics ‘could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.’ Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists

    … it’s so good for the kids to pretend there are no dinosaurs!

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Hey Norm:

    I’m sorry…but are you daft?

    No just economically illiterate, committed to a particular political viewpoint, and given to high sounding pronouncements that reveal the extent of the aforesaid illiteracy.

  27. legion says:

    James,
    It’s not specifically a War Against Youth (though it’s easy to see it as such). It’s more basic (and dangerous) than that – it’s a War Against Class Mobility. As you note, higher education is becoming more necessary, but more expensive. Only people supported by outside sources can afford to work for free for any length of time, regardless of the eventual benefits. Ergo, only people who are already coming from an above-average economic background will be able to afford to qualify for what, a few years ago, we would consider even modest, middle-income positions.

    The end result of this trend of further stratification and decreased opportunities is nothing more or less than a modern-day caste system – if your parents were lower/middle-class workers, that’s all you can ever afford to be. If your parents could afford to support you while you intern at a Fortune 500 company, you’ll get on that track from your early teenage years.

    Why? It’s simple. If you make it impossible for poor people to become rich, you also make it impossible for rich people to ever become poor. They don’t have to “work” in any sense you or I would understand it. They don’t have to be productive, or make good decisions. You make money by being born with money. You buy politicians who pass laws that cut your taxes & increase the burden on the lower classes – more money for doing less. Today’s upper classes aren’t “job creators” because they don’t have to create jobs to make money. They’re building a modern-day aristocracy. Period.

  28. Hey Norm says:

    “…Any discussion of the train wreck that is Gen. Y which doesn’t mention the extent to which leftists over the past 20-odd years have destroyed K-12 education and college and university education is walking past the elephant in the room…”

    Based on the total friggin’ nonsense that TN2 spews on an almost daily basis…I can only assume he is a Gen. Y’er.

  29. MBunge says:

    “the young can’t afford the lifestyle it took their parents years and their grandparents decades to achieve.”

    Uh, isn’t that the point? Their grandparents achieved that lifestyle in decades, their parents did it in years and now it sure as hell looks like the young are never going to be able to do it. Isn’t it unfair to blame the young for being lazy and entitled when they’ve grown up seeing the previous generation get fat and happy based on what now appears to be smoke and mirrors, all the while pushing every real problem off into the future for the young to deal with?

    Mike

  30. James Joyner says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Esquire, and increasingly GQ, have veered off into a lot of these odd half-baked polemics. Esquire, especially, has gotten tiresome on this score. If I wanted to read The New Yorker, I’d renew my subscription.

    @legion: I agree that class mobility has gotten worse and it’s my main complaint against the internship model. I don’t so much mind that young folks are being exploited–although they are–so much as that only those who have external means of support can realistically spend a year or two working for free to build up a resume.

    I would disagree that it somehow constitutes a “war,” on youth, mobility, or whatever. I think it’s simply a matter of decision-makers surveying the landscape and taking advantage of it. The purpose is to gain free labor, not to keep the masses down. Similarly, higher ed costs aren’t going up in some conspiracy to screw over the poor; it’s simply that the demand for services is high, the willingness of the middle class to subsidize it through tax dollars is low, and there are all manner of systemic pressures to guild services.

  31. Hey Norm says:

    @ MBunge…
    Exactly. For 30 years we’ve sacrificed everything in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest amongst us…which was supposed to create massive economic gains that would benefit everyone…lift all boats as Reagan prosthelytized. Now that we see this hokum for what it actually is…the total failure of an economic theory on every level…the answer is:

    “… It’s a really crappy thing to be coming to adulthood in the face of a lousy economy. But it’s not at all clear what it is that the Baby Boomers are supposed to do about it…”

    Of course these are the same ideologues who claimed that a revenue increase of a couple percent would destroy the economy…when in fact it unleashed the longest period of growth without a recession in our history.
    These f’ing idiots are wrong about everything. That’s not hyperbole…it’s fact. The question is why we listen to them at all anymore?

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    Esquire, and increasingly GQ, have veered off into a lot of these odd half-baked polemics. Esquire, especially, has gotten tiresome on this score. If I wanted to read The New Yorker, I’d renew my subscription.

    I’m something of a clothes horse and in this respect Esquire has completely lost the plot. Probably because it’s aimed at the penniless young who purchase the expensive clothing, tech gadgets and wristwatches. The New Yorker, however, remains the most interesting and well written US source of background on a host of topics from the arts to medicine. This week’s edition has a profile of a NYC mayoral candidate; an examination of French dentistry; a description of LBJ’s assumption of office in 1963; a profile of Britain’s leading tabloid newspaper; and a short story: and then the usual film, book and theater reviews. And of course the cartoons. Failure to appreciate this eclectic mix is not exactly a mark of intellectual curiosity.

  33. @James Joyner:

    I would disagree that it somehow constitutes a “war,” on youth, mobility, or whatever.

    Well, that was always a strawman.

    It would be simpler to say politics favors those with power of one sort or another. Youth do not have much power.

    Some sci-fi authors are looking ahead to a youth rebellion against government supported boomers … but there is no sign of that yet.

  34. Hey Norm says:

    @ JP…
    Politics favors the 1%.
    You just described the OWS movement.

  35. James Joyner says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I liked the New Yorker, even though I’ve never lived in New York and thus a full third of the magazine was completely useless to me. I just found that I never got around to reading it and thus stopped. I keep GQ and Esquire as light bedtime reading, mostly for fashion trends. I seldom see anything in there that I’d actually buy but it does help inform my shopping. I can’t fathom why anyone would pay $4000 for an off-the-peg suit, for example, when one can find made-to-measure at a fraction of that.

  36. JKB says:

    @john personna: Some sci-fi authors are looking ahead to a youth rebellion against government supported boomers … but there is no sign of that yet.

    Well, from the sound of things, it truly would be science fiction or fantasy to think the youth might embrace free market capitalism, entrepreneurship and limited regulation. So I assume most writers are looking ahead to a fight over who gets the larger piece of the ever diminishing welfare state funding.

    I hold the faint hope there are those youth out there working to improve their opportunities and tear down the walls that hem then in rather than just lament the money distribution from big brother.

  37. @Hey Norm:

    Well Social Security and Medicare have strong political support outside the 1%, but in the older demographics.

  38. Hey Norm says:

    @ JKB…
    It looks like the Koch Brothers Court is about to strike down “…free market capitalism…”.
    I can only assume Republicans prefer the far more socialistic single-payer system.
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/29/wall-street-journal-single-payer.html

  39. Hey Norm says:

    Key takeaway from the link I posted above:

    “…The way to pass constitutional muster is for the federal government to claim more power—to tax rather than to mandate, to spend itself rather than regulate how private insurers spend. Such a policy truly would have frightening consequences for American liberty. And today’s over-confident, all-or-nothing pseudo-conservatives are—like characters in some Greek tragedy—working blindly to face the outcome they should most abhor…”

  40. legion says:

    @James Joyner:

    I would disagree that it somehow constitutes a “war,” on youth, mobility, or whatever. I think it’s simply a matter of decision-makers surveying the landscape and taking advantage of it.

    Even though I’m something of an online loudmouth, I don’t normally like to make my generalizations _too_ sweeping, but considering that there_is_ an organized effort (through ALEC and its related think tanks, etc) to:
    – reduce or eliminate the ability of workers to organize and push back against employer demands,
    – reduce/discourage voter turnout through unnecessary Voter ID laws, and
    – reduce the presence of women in the workplace by cutting access to, not only abortion, but also health counseling and contraceptives, putting women back in the position of having to choose between raising a family or having a career

    It’s hard not to see it as anything else _but_ a “war”.

    The purpose is to gain free labor, not to keep the masses down.

    James, there is no difference between those things.

  41. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    I can’t fathom why anyone would pay $4000 for an off-the-peg suit, for example, when one can find made-to-measure at a fraction of that.

    It is quite amazing. You can get a bespoke suit from Paul Stuart for $4000 or a Savile Row bespoke for not much more so why anyone would want to pay this sort of money for OTP is a mystery. Given the nature of the ads and ed that appear in Esquire which are clearly aimed at the 19-35 demographic, it’s quite clear they are not the disadvantaged youth portrayed in this piece.

  42. Kit says:

    My grandfather emigrated here with his young family, little schooling and less English. He eventually worked his way up to skilled labor, which more than met his modest needs. Towards the end of his life (90+), he started to worry that the combination of his pension and social security were only just managing to meet his expenses, hardly allowing him to put away anything at the end of the month. He voted Democrat.

    My father went off to the state college where he got a good, inexpensive education that led to a job with excellent pay and benefits, and very good job security. He bought a cheap house in a decent suburb and eventually traded up. Towards the end of his career, he got offered early retirement on more than generous terms. Of course he votes Republican.

    The educational opportunities he enjoyed are no longer there, but then again neither are the jobs, benefits, retirements, housing and whatnot. His generation fully profited from the system set up by the previous generation, and once they got theirs they started to raise the drawbridge. I don’t think this was an explicit war on youth, simply people who took more from the system than they put in, grew selfish in middle age, grew fearful and resentful in their later years, and who will leave no monument apart from the mountain of debt and gallery of broken institutions. The golden generation, but far from the greatest.

  43. PJ Schultz says:

    I have to say that I do agree with James’ assessment. The article strings together a bunch of facts and does a great job at proving … he’s strung together a bunch of random facts. The Boomers aren’t exactly the cause, per se, as the sub-hed implies. But there is a truth to the fact that our country is growing older and that naturally brings consequences. I get the impression that OTB readers are generally an older bunch; the comments above definitely have a bit of an anti-youth slant. So allow me to offer some (my) perspective.

    I’m 30yo (tail end of Gen X) and I’ve been unemployed for the last 2 years since completion of grad school. This is mostly due to global recession, but also is indicative of our aging population. In my industry, there are simply no entry level jobs for new grads. Every job that used to be for college grads now requires a masters degree. Every job that required grad school, now requires grad school plus 5 years experience. People are not retiring from the top fast enough to support growth at the bottom. The only reason I can afford to live on my “own” is because my spouse has a well-paying work-from-anywhere job, and we now live in a very cheap small town (away from nearly all family & friends) that is a distant suburb of a cheap southern city. We’re not exactly looking to live in luxury.

    I also volunteer in recruitment for my undergraduate alma mater, so I have ready access to today’s millennials. I’m not exactly their biggest fan, either, but their reputation is largely inaccurate. Above comments reflect a general feeling that today’s youth don’t work very hard for what they have or want (but why should they, when as James mentioned, their parents attained great spoils in nearly no time as well). For starters, getting into college is more difficult than it has ever been. I (as an admissions representative) am telling these kids they need this, that, the other thing, and $60k a year, to get into our university, all while maintaining a 3.8+ unweighted GPA. Yet, even as the words are coming out of my mouth (and I’m thankful I got into college when I did) and I’m thinking how insane some of these requirements are, these 17-year-olds reply, “Oh yeah, I have all that, but what else do I need?”

    Once they get to college it’s no cakewalk, either. Students in every academic field are expected to do multiple internships (as the article states). Then they are expected to create websites, build “personal brands,” and practically take out ads in the local newspaper announcing themselves to the world. The kind of networking skills and prowess that are expected of today’s 20-year-olds in college are equivalent to those you used to see in only the 30-something group looking for upward mobility. These kids are doing it for entry-level jobs.

    JKB says:
    Well, from the sound of things, it truly would be science fiction or fantasy to think the youth might embrace free market capitalism, entrepreneurship and limited regulation. So I assume most writers are looking ahead to a fight over who gets the larger piece of the ever diminishing welfare state funding.

    I hold the faint hope there are those youth out there working to improve their opportunities and tear down the walls that hem then in rather than just lament the money distribution from big brother.

    But that is just not true. It is not science fiction to think that youth would embrace entrepreneurship. And hope reassured, the youth are working to tear down the traditional walls of big brother. Entrepreneurship rates in 20-somethings are higher than they’ve ever been. My alma mater has recently begun adding academic programs as well as supportive services and a grant-funded ‘startup incubator’ to encourage and cultivate entrepreneurism in undergraduates. The need was certainly there, with unemployment and underemployment what it is, but also because of the interest from students. Yes, today’s students grew up seeing their parents get everything they wanted with considerably less work than the previous generation – and they may even expect the same now – but they’ve also seen the ugly consequences of that — not just the recessed national economy, but also the personal toll it has taken on their parents and families. Kids today don’t want to see a repeat of the mass home-foreclosure, job layoffs, lost pensions, etc., that we/they just went through. Millenials are thinking outside the box, looking for non-traditional avenues to career and livelihood. Because they have to. The Esquire article may be garbage. There may be no malice on the part of Boomers to undercut the youth. But please don’t say today’s youth employment and prosperity problems are because youth are lazy and don’t understand hard work. Quite frankly, that excuse is itself a lazy one. And I’m tired of it.

  44. george says:

    I’m not so sure putting off having kids is a bad thing – my experience (and that of many I know) is that its probably better to do that later on in life rather than right out of school; in your 30’s you tend to have seen enough of life to be a better parent. Other than that, like others I think its just a sign that things are getting back to normal – being poor when young has always been the status quo (I couldn’t afford a house until my 30’s).

    The internetships I’m not so crazy about – I haven’t heard of them in my field (engineering), but I gather that might be an exception.

  45. PJ Schultz says:

    @Kit:

    The educational opportunities he enjoyed are no longer there, but then again neither are the jobs, benefits, retirements, housing and whatnot. His generation fully profited from the system set up by the previous generation, and once they got theirs they started to raise the drawbridge. I don’t think this was an explicit war on youth, simply people who took more from the system than they put in, grew selfish in middle age, grew fearful and resentful in their later years, and who will leave no monument apart from the mountain of debt and gallery of broken institutions. The golden generation, but far from the greatest.

    Well said. Put into words better than I could have. I don’t see malice, just an unfortunate situation, brought on by a bevy of societal factors.

  46. @george:

    The internetships I’m not so crazy about – I haven’t heard of them in my field (engineering), but I gather that might be an exception.

    Unpaid internships tend to occur in industries where labor is demand limited, like entertainment and politics. In industries where labor is supply limited, like engineering, the idea of an unpaid internship is still pretty unheard of.

  47. Gromitt Gunn says:

    The student loan thing is the real killer. Even on an income-sensitive repayment plan, it feels like indentured servitude (says the 40 year old with another 9 years to go).

    @Stormy Dragon: Same in public accounting. Actually, given that interns are considered hourly employees, they tend to make more during their internship than any of the associates or senior associates, since they get paid for each one of those 60 hours per week.

  48. @Gromitt Gunn:

    When I was an intern (software engineer), I got paid like $20/hour, plus a free apartment with another intern for the summer. I couldn’t believe it.

  49. @PJ Schultz:

    Lots of interesting info, but to put too much on the global downturn is to ignore a couple decades of middle class stagnation.

  50. WR says:

    @James Joyner: “The purpose is to gain free labor, not to keep the masses down”

    This is true about slavery, too, along with indentured servitude and other kinds of forced labor. Theft of labor is theft of labor, and the only reason conservatives don’t see this as the criminal activity that it should be is that it is an act committed by the rich against the poorer… something that conservatives never see as criminal.

    We can call it the William Zanzingeration of the American right…

  51. WR says:

    @JKB: “Well, from the sound of things, it truly would be science fiction or fantasy to think the youth might embrace free market capitalism, entrepreneurship and limited regulation”

    Gosh, it couldn’t be because that sociopathic ideology just ruined their futures, could it? Or should youths today simply ignore the facts around them and swear blind allegiance to an ideology that has no relationship to reality, simply for the privelege of making the super-rich even richer?

  52. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner:

    I can’t fathom why anyone would pay $4000 for an off-the-peg suit, for example, when one can find made-to-measure at a fraction of that.

    It depends on whether the made-to-measure is of quality italian wool.

  53. JKB says:

    @WR: ‘…because that sociopathic ideology just ruined their futures…”

    Yes, they definitely shouldn’t embrace the systems that created all wealth in the world that hasn’t been dug out of the ground or taken from others through force, taxation or confiscation. Oh, and a lot of that dug out of the ground came from entrepreneurs who embraced free market capitalism while enjoying limited regulation.

  54. legion says:

    @JKB: It’s quite clear you don’t know what any word in that post means, including “and”, “in”, and “of”.

  55. Related:

    I’m not a huge fan of Pell Grants, but Jared Bernsein (who I respect) is, and cites the jarring juxtaposition of cutting Pell Grants to pay for a millionaire’s tax cut:

    So the last thing you’d want to do is to cut rungs from that ladder. Yet that’s exactly what the House Republican budget, authored by Rep Paul Ryan, does. According to the White House, the budget changes “eligibility and funding under the Pell Grant formula so as to eliminate grants for 400,000 students and cut grants for more than 9 million others in 2013 alone.”

    And for what? So millionaires can get a tax cut of almost $400,000, if you include both the new Ryan and the extended Bush tax cuts.

    The rest of the article is here.

  56. (forgot the ‘t’ in “Jared Bernstein”)

  57. matt says:

    @john personna: I’m currently relying on pell grants to help me achieve my degree in Electrical Engineering. Without the help of Pell grants I very likely wouldn’t be attending school at this point..

  58. @matt:

    I wouldn’t yank Pells. That’s what Bernstein faults Ryan for suggesting.

    My discomfort has more to do with how we got here, with high tuition costs and high spending. You know, it’s just economics that when you make more money available to buy a thing, the price of the thing is freer to rise.

    Steven and Laurence don’t like “gold-plating: athletics budgets, capital expenditures for fancy dorms and student facilities” but as much as Pells are needed with those costs, they also allow those costs.

    Maybe some state should launch “Spartan University,” though as I’ve mentioned, many are betting on tech. With:

    A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups

  59. al-Ameda says:

    by just mentioning this stuff you’re guilty of Class Warfare

  60. @john personna:

    One thing that consistently bothers me is that in many government fields, from education to law enforcement, to defense, to infrastructure, we seem to keep paying more and more and getting less and less actual product for it. Entirely asside from issues of whether the government should be doing X or not, I would like to see some discussion of where all the money is going.

  61. DangerZone says:

    I don’t know if anyone has experienced this, but I would like to submit degree creep as another silent screwing my generation is experiencing.

  62. JKB says:

    Degree creep isn’t the half of it. They are planning on taking it out of your hide. So not only must you go deeper in debt, you can’t take advantage of your good health. You must under penatly, or is it a tax, of law far more than your actuarial risk for health care your are unlikely to use. Oh, and no just insuring against unexpected medical expenses, you have to buy the gold plated comprehensive plan.

    Ann Althouse highlights the Obamacare arguments:

    9. Justice Alito corners the SG in this exchange:

    JUSTICE ALITO: Are you denying this? If you took the group of people who are subject to the mandate and you calculated the amount of health care services this whole group would consume and figured out the cost of an insurance policy to cover the services that group would consume, the cost of that policy would be much, much less than the kind of policy that these people are now going to be required to purchase under the Affordable Care Act?

    GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, while they are young and healthy, that would be true. But they are not going to be young and healthy forever. They are going to be on the other side of that actuarial equation at some point. And of course, you don’t know which among that group is the person who’s going to be hit by the bus or get the definitive diagnosis. And that –

    JUSTICE ALITO: The point is — no, you take into account that some people in that group are going to be hit by a bus, some people in that group are going to unexpectedly contract or be diagnosed with a disease that — that is very expensive to treat. But if you take their costs and you calculate that, that’s a lot less than the amount that they are going to be required to pay. So that you can’t just justify this on the basis of their trying to shift their costs off to other people, can you?

    GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, no, the people in that class get benefits, too, Justice Alito. They get the guaranteed-issue benefit that they would not otherwise have, which is an enormously valuable benefit. And in terms of the — the subsidy rationale, I don’t think — I think it’s — it would be unusual to say that it’s an illegitimate exercise of the commerce power for some people to subsidize others.

    There you have it. You can see whom the government has chosen to exploit. The young, the healthy must pay for far more than the costs they are accused of shifting to others.

  63. DangerZone says:

    Honestly, as a young person who was diagnosed while in grad school with one of those chronic, expensive diseases that everyone thinks only seniors get, and hospitalized (also while in grad school) to the tune of $26,000, and nearly lost a vital organ, I kinda have a different perspective on health, health insurance, and the whole mandate thing, but that’s a different story.

    My point was that before people my age can even get to the point where they can afford to buy insurance, of any kind, they have spent so many more years and so much more money on an inflated education that they’re starting out ten steps behind the curve. If we are going to be the generation that financially carries the country on once the Boomers have all retired, isn’t it rather short-sighted to rob us blind before we’ve even entered the work force?