Read the comment section of any story about millennials, and prepare for a cloudburst of insults. They’ll be references to “whiners,” “snowflakes,” “Tumblrinas,” and our personal favorite, the “beta-cuck,” which apparently is a cuck not quite ready for commercial release.
As Business Insider notes, “Everyone loves to hate millennials.”
But if those of us doing the hating spent our time more productively by, say, reading economic data, we’d know millennials have good reason to whine. And we, the haters, provided the ammo.
Back when “traditional family values” were a set of sacrosanct ethics, rather than a simpleton’s sloganeering, the goal of any self-respecting elder was to sacrifice so the young might have greater opportunity with each generation.
Then we – the baby boomers and Gen Xers – decided that all that selflessness was way too much work. It also involves sharing, which is fine for teaching children, but totally out of line when expected of adults.
So through self-absorption and a bodice-ripping romance with our own righteousness, we chose to leave millennials with a much steeper hill to climb than our parents and grandparents gave us.
Start with the most obvious: the cost of a college.
Believe it or not, dearest millennial, but there was a day when you could cover tuition by humping a wheelbarrow on a construction site all summer. Then we, your elders, decided to make paying for college the equivalent of buying a new Lexus. Every. Single. Year.
Since 1970, tuition at the University of Minnesota has risen by 343 percent. You may have guessed the same multiplication tables do not apply to wages. Think of it as our way of smartening you up, buttercup, through the transformative lesson of crushing debt.
We’re not especially concerned with your little tuition crisis. Since 2008, the state legislature has cut higher education funding by 26 percent. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as the saying goes.
So we send you into the job world. Consider it Step 2 of this character-building exercise, a little game we like to call The Gauntlet of Despair.
You may remember the Great Saint Ronald Reagan from your history books. He popularized the notion that what’s best for our largest corporations is best for all, a principle that still thrives today.
Though his plan looked good on paper – okay, it didn’t even look good there – it inadvertently led to a massive concentration of wealth. Who would’ve guessed? And the guys doing the concentrating aren’t about to share it with the beard-farming likes of you.
According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, people ages 25-34 today make 20 percent less than the same age group did back in 1989 (when adjusted for inflation). This combo meal of better-money-sans-Olympian-debt allowed your elders to afford kids, buy homes, and begin our march to the middle class.
The average net worth of a boomer with college debt back in 1989: $86,500.
Yours today: $6,600.
At the same time – just to make it sporting -- we unleashed a 40-year reign of parasitic capitalism. We rarely enforced anti-trust laws. We offered de facto criminal immunity in large-scale fraud cases (see Wells Fargo, or the 96 cases involving JP Morgan, America’s largest bank). We also allowed the concentrators to purchase congressmen like flea market cat figurines. They returned the favor by granting gouging rights to huge swaths of the economy.
It’s how Jared Kushner can accumulate $324 million in real estate holdings, yet pay almost no federal taxes. It’s why it takes UnitedHealth but a single year to sponge $10.5 billion in profits from our health care system – just for shuffling the paperwork.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think we built the entire economy on the advice of loan sharks.
There was a day when we might have listened to someone like Gandhi, who said that “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Fortunately, we now listen to Mitch McConnell, who’s like a really mean turtle in human form.
And if you think resilience and hard work can deliver you from this mess, think again, dear millennial. We’ve thoughtfully inserted some spectacular time-bombs into your future.
Begin with the last round of Republican tax cuts, 80 percent of which went to the Concentrators. We’ve been running variations of this scam for four decades. It’s our way of saying, “We’re gonna help you by giving all the money to that guy over there.”
In the last year, spending is up, but corporate tax receipts are lower than they were in 2000. Result: The deficit rose by $116 billion.
You know how we’re always lecturing you about “fiscal responsibility”? It’s more of a “do as we say, not as we do” kind of thing.
Interest payments alone now amount to $325 billion a year. Some day in the not-to-distant future, China, our arch nemesis/major creditor, will start looking at us the same way a bookie looks at your brother-in-law, who spent the summer in hiding after betting heavy on the Twins. China will want its money back.
Is there anything to suggest your elders will be reaching for the tab, dear millennial? To reiterate: It’s called “fiscal responsibility.” And since we did all the work thinking up the slogan, it’s only fair that you do the work of adhering to it.
Then there’s our other time-bomb. We’re rather proud of its diabolical magnitude. It’s called climate denial.
Recall how Mother Nature beat the shit out of Florida last week. You may have noticed that five of the most costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the last decade. (Tab: Somewhere way north of $400 billion.)
Scientists say this is because we’ve spent decades abusing the Good Mother. Now she wants revenge. But we, your elders, have chosen to ignore these warnings because A) scientists are borrrring and B) actually doing something would require sacrifice.
Surely you’re aware of our generations’ unofficial motto: “Sacrifice is a dish best served at someone else’s table.”
That’s why North Carolina passed a law banning the use of climate science in state planning. In Florida, we bar state agencies from even using the phrase. And just to ensure the entire problem is shoved unto you, dear millennial, we elected as president an amateur golfer who believes science is a Canadian manufacturer of mid-priced women’s apparel.
As our weather grows more reckless and menacing, think of all the grand bills we’ll be leaving in your mailbox. You’ll pay for water diversion projects in the Southwest. Drought bailouts for Great Plains farmers. Giant walls not to keep Guatemalans from infiltrating the U.S lawn-mowing industry, but to prevent rising sea levels from befouling the Ferragamo loafers of Manhattan hedge fund managers.
The South will face Biblical storms and the floods of Noah. They will cite God’s wrath for homosexual intercourse. You will assume the monthly payments.
This isn’t to say you don’t share a bit of the blame, dear millennial. You’re the most educated generation in U.S. history. You’re also the country’s largest age group, with the numbers to assume power anytime you see fit.
But you’ve graciously abdicated your strength at the ballot box so your elders may continue to rule, since we’re so obviously kicking ass. You’re only about half as likely to vote as your grandparents. You think “midterm election” is the clinical description for a mosquito-borne illness.
That’s why we’ve prepared this one-minute video as a show of gratitude. Yes, one minute is a very long time. It may entail missing that riveting tweet about how “Princess Eugenie shows off her back surgery scars in royal wedding gown.”
But after all we’ve done for you, don’t be an ingrate. You owe us.