Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Millennial support for Bernie Sanders explained

"Hillary Clinton's millennial problem runs deep", is the breathless headline at The Hill. Their article runs at length to explain the angst among millennials about Hillary Clinton. Millennials have faced terrible economic prospects resulting from the bubble economy created by economic policies implemented over the last 4 decades. Those same economic policies were followed by Republicans and Democrats alike. The Hill also notes overwhelming millennial support for Bernie Sanders when he was running for president. Millennial support for Bernie Sanders corresponds well to their prospects.

The millennials are now the largest voting demographic and boast some 80 million voters strong. They are facing very difficult prospects as a result of the "I, me, mine" generation that voted in Ronald Reagan twice (I voted for him once as a young man). That same generation voted in Clinton twice, and three times for two Bushes. This is the age of Neoliberal Economics.

The news and opinion pages are replete with articles about how Hillary Clinton has been unable to to even get a spark, much less light a fire with the Millennials. Try the following search on Google, "the hill hillary millennials" and we see Clinton making almost weekly pitches to the millennials as documented by The Hill. A recent leak of audio of a speech given by Hillary only adds salt to the wounds sustained by the millennials. Here's a gem from that audio brought to you by The Intercept:
CLINTON: Some are new to politics completely. They’re children of the Great Recession. And they are living in their parents’ basement. They feel they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves. And they don’t see much of a future. I met with a group of young black millennials today and you know one of the young women said, “You know, none of us feel that we have the job that we should have gotten out of college. And we don’t believe the job market is going to give us much of a chance.” So that is a mindset that is really affecting their politics. And so if you’re feeling like you’re consigned to, you know, being a barista, or you know, some other job that doesn’t pay a lot, and doesn’t have some other ladder of opportunity attached to it, then the idea that maybe, just maybe, you could be part of a political revolution is pretty appealing. So I think we should all be really understanding of that and should try to do the best we can not to be, you know, a wet blanket on idealism. We want people to be idealistic. We want them to set big goals. But to take what we can achieve now and try to present them as bigger goals.
The implication of Clinton's remarks are clear. The millennials are unhappy with the cards dealt to them and they want something for free. So they want to join a political revolution that will pry all that free stuff out of the hands of the generations that came before them. Consider the words above and now consider her audience when she said them, according to The Intercept:
Clinton was speaking at a Virginia fundraiser hosted by Beatrice Welters, the former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and her husband Anthony Welters, the executive chairman of an investment consulting firm founded by former Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.
This looks like a nice, comfortable circle of friends who want to see Clinton as president someday. I'm not so sure it's a fundraiser as much as it is a job fair for positions in the cabinet should Clinton prevail (are all Clinton fundraisers "job fairs"?). That speech was hosted by an investment firm founded by Cheryl Mills, a former aide to Clinton and an Obama appointee, Beatrice Welter, a former US ambassador. That's cute. Is this what senior "liberal Democrats" really think of the millennials? Do they really have to be so condescending?

If Hillary truly wants the vote of the millennials, I think she might do well to denounce the "Third Way" espoused and promoted by her husband Bill, during his presidency. She needs to stop the practice of colluding with Republicans as this video of Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan show them to be doing. She needs to go all they way and embrace the platform of Bernie Sanders: expanding Social Security, free public college, rebuilding our infrastructure, and expanding medicare for all. But Hillary really wants the Republican votes and she doesn't want to betray her very wealthy benefactors, so she'll never go all the way. She may never express compassion for the millennials and here's why. She might not want to admit that the economic policies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were wrong.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has provided some insight into why there is so much angst among the millennials in her post, The Quiet Desperation of Millennials. She explains that for the generations before the Great Recession, working in low paying jobs was a transition period from school to an established middle class job or better. Unfortunately, for most people in millennial generation, working in low paying jobs has become a permanent way of life, even with a college degree:
By contrast, this study shows that quiet desperation is a state of life for most Millennials. While the shock of the financial crisis did enormous damage to many people in all age groups, as anyone who lost their home to foreclosure will attest, Millennials faced a job market that left even normally-always employable new college grads out of work or employed at well below their potential as baristas, temps, or in low-level retail jobs. This has a huge impact on their lifetime earnings, not only by depressing income in their early years, but even when they find better-paid work, even then putting them on a lower income track than those that landed higher-quality roles straight out of school.
What study is Yves talking about? This study, The Millennial EconomyFindings from a new Earnst and Young; EIG National Survey of Millennials. Check out some of the takeaways:
Millennials are often painted as lazy and entitled, but the stereotype doesn’t hold up upon closer scrutiny. Millennials value education and hard work, and they’re willing to make sacrifices to get ahead. The Great Recession shaped this generation—18% faced unemployment in 2010, two-­thirds have at least one source of long­-term debt, and their wages have fallen over the past five years—and these after effects still reverberate strongly throughout Millennial life. Millennials may perceive their lot as unfair not out of entitlement, but because they feel like they did their part but haven’t seen the expected benefits.
Our survey found:
  • Millennials invested in human capital and are willing to work hard to get ahead
    • 88 percent of Millennials recognize that hard work is an important factor to get ahead in life.
    • 64 percent would move to a different part of the country for a better job or access to better opportunities.
    • 63 percent would add an hour to their commute for a better job.
  • Coming of age during a historic economic downturn has severely impacted Millennial life.
    • 30 percent of respondents live with their parents, which rises to 40 percent for single respondents.
    • Nearly one­-third believe their local community is still in a recession.
  • Stress levels run high for Millennials
    • 78 percent of Millennials are worried about having good-­paying job opportunities.
    • 74 percent are worried they won’t be able to pay their healthcare bills if they get sick.
    • 79 percent are worried they will not have enough money to live on when they retire.
While this shows that millennials have good reason to feel so glum, there is something else, something missing from the entire discussion. I see this as kind of a generational struggle, but not in the way you might think.

In recent weeks, I've taken note of some incredible work done by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D. According to Wikipedia, Greene is an American clinical child psychologist and the author of the books The Explosive Child and Lost at School, and the recently released books Lost and Found, and Raising Human Beings. Dr. Greene is the developer of the research-based method now called Collaborative and Proactive Solutions.

I'm reading Dr. Greene's book, The Explosive Child now. I know, you're wondering where this is going, right? The basic thrust of Dr. Greene's research and work is this: if kids could do better, they would. That is, if they have the skills to do better, they would. Now look at the takeaways from the study above. You'll find that the millennials are motivated to work. But they're also worried that their environment will not provide enough economic support for them. They are admitting that their forebears have not taught them the skills they need to cope with the changes in the economy.

I believe that if people could do better, they would. Not just kids, but everyone. Most Americans 40 or older enjoyed free or low cost education. Not so for millennials. Student debt now amounts to more than $1 trillion nationwide. Someone is earning interest on that money and they're getting a weekly or monthly check in the mail as payback for a student loan taken out by the millennials. That someone is likely to be a 1%'er or better and is not willing to see free college disrupt his business model. He is not willing to see Jill Stein wipe out his guaranteed income from student debt. That someone is probably a Clinton supporter.

The generations previous to the millennials got theirs, especially the baby boomers. Now they're against free college for everyone else. Older generations tend to be more conservative, and perhaps unaware of what has been left for the millennials. Wealthy people pay for college for their kids. Did anyone ever notice that? Wealthy people don't see the sense in putting their own kids in debt for a good education. But putting everyone else in debt for schooling is OK, right?

More to the point, millennials are suffering now because as a nation, we have refused to just give these young people the skills they need to cope with a very adverse economy, one that we have all helped in some way to create. Millennials have the motivation to endure these conditions, they just don't have the skills to cope with it. So they stay at home with their parents, and live in the basement. They don't get the jobs they need because they don't have the skills to get them. They don't get the jobs they need because older wealthy people have written rules that removed the demand that would create those jobs here. Where did that demand go? A good long look at the trade deficit will tell us what we need to know.

I supported Bernie Sanders (and still do) because I believed that his policy positions offered a better solution than all of the others. When the DNC rigged an election to take away Bernie Sanders as an option, I looked around and saw Jill Stein running for president. The more I investigated, the more I saw that there was a great deal of agreement between the Green Party platform and the policies proposed by Bernie Sanders.

I have seen the condescension being heaped upon the millennials. I see that they do not have the same opportunities that I or my parents had. The economy has changed and we have to admit that for the first time, the standard of living will not be better than previous generations for the millennials and later.

Our job as parents is not to inflict pain upon our kids for failing to meet our expectations. Our job is to give them the skills they need to meet our expectations and build the life they want to live. That's why I won't vote for Trump. That's also why I won't vote for Clinton. I'm going Green and voting for Jill Stein. I'm also voting for every Berniecrat that I see on my ballot come November. I'm voting for more compassion in American government and economics.
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