When you listen to older generations discuss Millennials the adjective you often hear is entitled. It’s a caricature that’s proven hard to shake. To hear older folks tell it, young adults fit one mold – that of a bushy-bearded, tight-jean-wearing, hipster who wilts under a hint of disagreement and confuses the word “entrepreneurial” with a refusal to conform with business norms.
Of course, it’s all a little ironic. After all, Baby Boomers–the ones typically the most vitriolic in their critique of Millennials–are literally the most entitled generation, as in, they have created an unsustainable government entitlement system designed to enrich them at the expense of everyone else.
Entitlement spending has tripled since the 1980s, pushing the systems ever-closer to bankruptcy. According to the programs’ respective trustees, the Social Security trust funds that help pay old age and disability benefits are likely to run out by 2034, after which only 79 percent of scheduled benefits can be paid, and the Medicare trust fund is scheduled to run out in 2030, after which the program could only cover 86 percent of costs. Of course, young adults will continue to have to fund the programs via their paycheck all the same.
As Ross Pomeroy and William Handke write for RealClearPolitics:
These grave consequences were entirely foreseeable – but they happened. Young Americans have been fleeced in order to fund the transient excesses of the old – and yet Milliennials are labeled “entitled” because we were given “participation trophies” and “personal tutors” before we were old enough to vote…?
Give us a break. Millennials are not entitled. But we are frustrated.
We’re frustrated because the same Baby Boomer bloc that created or tacitly perpetuated the policies that have hamstrung Millennials now makes up almost a third of the American voting-aged population and holds nearly two-thirds of the seats of the United States House of Representatives and Senate.
In fact, last year was the year that the Census Bureau projected that our generation–defined as Americans between the ages of 18 and 30, overtook Baby Boomers to become the nation’s largest living generation. We’re 75 million strong and projected to be more than one-third of all eligible voters by the presidential election next year. One would think that numbers like that come with some perks, right?
Surely, we’re viewed as an unstoppable voting bloc that has the power to define the terms of the presidential race. No? Okay, well then we’re definitely thought of as powerful enough to convince candidates to throw a couple youth-centric planks on the platform. No? Hmm. Well then we’re certainly on the candidates radar so that maybe, up, they’ll like listen to some things we have to say, and then, perhaps…think about them a little bit?
It feels odd to be fighting for a seat at the political table given the weight we could throw around if we so choose. After all, did candidates not learn anything from 2012, when Mitt Romney lost the national popular vote by 4.9 million votes, but lost 18-29 year olds by 5.6 million votes? Put in starker terms: If the voting age started at age 30, Mitt Romney would be president today.
In short, young adults have the power to choose the next president, which means that we also hold the keys to our nation’s political and policy future.
So why then do half of Millennials believe that the American Dream is dead? Because this generation’s utter mismanagement of the government has left us skeptical of its power to effect positive change in our lives and cynical about its status as a force for good. So how are we going to reclaim our destiny? Pomeroy and Handke write:
To put it simply: We want a government as efficient as Uber, as connected as Facebook, and as simple as Venmo.
We know that many of our baby boomer politicians will laugh at such a statement, calling us naïve or – our favorite slight – “entitled.” This time, however, we’ll shrug it off. All our parents and grandparents need to know is that when we’re in control we’ll take care of our country, we’ll take care of our planet, and we’ll take care of them.
Will that be vastly more difficult than our generation can currently imagine? Absolutely. But efficient, connected and easy is, at the very least, a very good target to aim for.