Being a Millennial is a gorgeous morphine joy. We explore ourselves through vivifying and unpaid internships, usually beached in unapologetically expensive cities like London, New York, and San Francisco.
If we do get paid, half of our salary goes on renting some substandard box room in the “vibrant” or “up-and-coming” quarters of playgrounds reserved for the rich.
We get to pretend. Maybe one day we will join them. For now, we filter and tweet and like and lacquer.
Our parents, bequeathed the greatest civilization in history, flourished themselves mercilessly throughout their own youths. But what is ours is also theirs. We need to move out. We need to have children. Weirdly, they pry into our apparently fallow sex lives. Why can’t Millennials be more like the Boomers?
I can see the comments already. I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Pluck myself from my safe space. Plod on and stop prattling.
Perhaps, I do.
But we were shunted into different planes of reality. Our parents had it made.
That was before they sent the factories abroad. Before they ramped up debts and left us the bill. The Boomers broke capitalism. And Philip Larkin had a point.
Dear reader, forgive me. Not all Baby Boomers are bad. And Millennials, an unedifying portion at least, do need to grow up.
And that we did. We grew up during the Great Recession of 2008. A depression in all but name. And, like those who bore the Depression, it lived with us. And will forever. This is why Millennials save more. Millennials invest more. We live below our means.
Hence the limbless jibe of “socialist” offers only puzzlement to a great many of us. We are the umbilical children of Silicon Valley, the high-priests of which would blood the cheeks of Ayn Rand. Few industries are inoculated from the Valley’s “creative destruction.” Ask a cab driver.
Some do get this. A recent essay in City Journal offered an anthropological dig into the Millennial mind:
The generation that turned 21 in 2006 had a rough decade. In 2010, the jobless rate for 25 to 34-year-old men stood at 21.8 percent. Two years later, the rate had fallen only to 19.8 percent. Even by 2018, after almost a decade of recovery, joblessness among young men remained alarmingly high: 13.9 percent. This long period of high joblessness coincided with wage stagnation. Real median wages for men over age 16 were lower from 2010 to 2016 than they had been in 2009 or 2001—or 1982.
Millennials, like all generations, want a capitalism that works. A capitalism that rewards those who do indeed pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Doesn’t everyone?
Because what we have right now is the worst of both worlds—a hijacked economy fattened in the shadows of a morbidly obese government.
When Millennials say they prefer socialism to capitalism, they don’t mean Venezuela. They mean America before Me-Me-Me.
And, for once, it isn’t all about them. Working Americans haven’t seen a real wage increase in decades. The American Dream, I’m sad to say, is a mirage for all but vanishingly few.
Something is not right. Between 1948 and 1973, productivity spiked by 96 percent, while wages kept pace at 91 percent. Then this country, and Great Britain, lost their marbles.
Since 1973, and until just two years ago, productivity rose by 77 percent. The hourly pay of workers rose by a gruelish 12 percent. Productivity now outpaces wages by six times. Something is broken.
And someone had better fix it. Millennials are clotting into America’s largest voting bloc. Those mawkish paeans to Gordon Gekko aren’t really our thing. Even the fictitious Mr. Gekko would lament the anti-capitalism too many insist is the real thing.
All is not lost. As the City Journal essay portends: Millennials are capitalists. And true capitalists should be busy denouncing corporate captivity of the market. Anyone with sense knows a true capitalism is forever superior to the primitive socialism of the Democrats’ more combustible wing.
Yes, President Trump’s economy hums along. Wages recently jumped to average $27 an hour. But Trump is not forever.
After 2024, the GOP will have to become something a majority of Americans find appealing, and not just fawn the moneyed whims of special interests.
What that might be should center upon things about which Americans are actually concerned. Things that would inspire them to vote for Republican candidates.
Whether conservatives actually want to win (and, heavens, conserve something) is another matter. Perhaps they should have a glimpse at the modern Democratic Party. And at what America would look like if it ever depraved to the adolescent resentments of such hazardous rabble.
Or, they could just tell Millennials to suck it up. But they should know that we have stopped listening.
Photo Credit: Getty Images