Is the American Dream dead? If it’s not, it’s certainly on life support…
Millennials, a group with whom this author identifies, are split on the idea of whether the American dream is dead. According to a report from Generation Opportunity, 48% of millennials believe that the American Dream is dead.
What is the “American Dream?” While there can be various interpretations of the concept, it largely centers on a belief that through hard work, one can achieve a comfortable level of success. Cars, reasonable luxuries and, of course, home ownership.
However, achieving a level of modest success in America has become harder and harder for millennials as the jobs once enjoyed by our parents have been outsourced to other nations, industries upon which whole communities once relied (timber, steel, manufacturing, auto, etc.) have been decimated by punishing taxation of industry, trade deals that offer America little in return for fostering competition for foreign-made product, over-unionization, and burdensome government regulations that meddle with the free-market system.
The report considers several economic indicators and found that many millennials enjoy lower levels of income and wealth and significantly higher levels of student loan debt than the two generations who came before us.
The Washington Free Beacon summarizes the report’s stark findings:
One of those metrics is the unemployment rate, which is 8 percent for millennials ages 18 to 29, which is much higher than the rate for those 30 years and older at 3.7 percent. The labor force participation rate, which accounts for those who either have a job or pursued one, is 71 percent, the lowest it has ever been. Many young adults have been unable to find work, and more than 1.8 million have given up looking for a job.
The percentage of millennials living in poverty has doubled since 1979 and many have incurred thousands of dollars in student loan debt. According to the report, nearly 70 percent of the graduating class of 2014 had student loan debt at an average of $30,000 per person.
Median earnings for college graduates have only increased 6 percent from 2007 to 2014. There are more young people today making less than $25,000 than there were in the 1990s.
Many millennials have also altered significant life events due to these economic hardships including delaying marriage and purchasing a home.
“Only 36 percent of Americans under 35 years old own a home, the lowest level on record since home ownership by age was first tabulated,” states the report. “Instead, Millennials are choosing to live with their parents at levels higher than observed before the Great Recession. In 2015, 26 percent reported they still live with mom and dad.”
“Washington’s policies have saddled us with overwhelming debt, unemployment, and soaring higher education costs,” said David Barnes, policy director of Generation Opportunity.
“Young people are losing faith in the American Dream,” Barnes said. “It’s time for real reforms that allow us to unleash our potential and create a better society for ourselves and future generations. In order for that to happen, we need to stand up and let policy makers know that this is unacceptable.”
It’s hardly surprising to see the facts and figures. Though President Obama, during his “rainbow and sunshine”- oriented State of the Union address claimed that those speaking negatively about the state of the economy are “peddling fiction,” the Obama Administration actually enjoys the worst economic numbers seen since 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression.
Though our economy may be artificially propped-up with scams and shams, like a man living off of credit cards alone, it’s a house of cards that cannot be sustained and the economic realities facing millennials are all-too-real.
Democrat-backed credit legislation, like the infamous Dodd-Frank Act, place more-stringent burdens upon lenders who, in turn, pass these costs onto borrowers causing increased interest rates and more-stringent lending practices for things that were once achievable goals like home or business ownership.
Further, the U.S. government has failed to negotiate trade negotiations with the rest of the world from a position of power. While we bear the costs of keeping international trade safe and accessible for the world, we serve as a marketplace for foreign-produced goods that used to be made in America while other nations become rich off these goods without accept U.S.-manufactured goods.
Coupling that fact with crippling government regulations and a tax system geared towards punishing success and inhibiting growth, industries are prudently moving overseas while young adults, emerging into the job market, are left waiting tables while saddled with sky-high student loan debts that hobble them.
In this view, it is easy to see why the millennials are pessimistic about the future of the American Dream; the baby-boomers enjoyed the stability of the American Dream and having secured their own comfort have left the country a decidedly worst place for their children.