Millennials like pretty much the same thing: A job. Over the course of our existence we've been told we're special, have been enrolled in numerous activities from piano lessons and soccer to football and debate team. We've logged numerous volunteer hours, studied for the ACT and SAT, praying to get into a good college. After our four years of learning and growing intellectually, we were promised a good job -- and those jobs were ripped away from us.
So we adapted. We worked at Starbucks, who could offer us insurance; worked as interns (which has now become the standard for employers to test us out to see if we're "hirable") with no pay for 20 or more hours a week; refocused our dreams; and we have hoped to be able to pay off our exorbitant college debt, which the Institute for College Access & Success estimates is an average of $29,400, up 63 percent in less than a decade. We have done all of this while living in our parents' basements.
Some of us were told to go to graduate school, taking on more debt, being advised that this would set us ahead of the competition. And after graduation we found -- and continue to find -- that the economy is still lagging.
You, dear baby boomers, as CNN reports, love to work past retirement. Only eleven percent of you plan to stop working entirely and, as AARP reports, boomers plan to work "until they drop." As Brian Sozzi, the chief equity strategist of Belus Capital Advisor reports, 76 million baby boomers control 70 percent of household wealth.
But as for us, the millennials, it seems that we will not have the option to retire, with formerly assured promises of Medicare and Social Security flying away like snowbirds in winter. We have inherited a sluggish economy, been faced with either paying off student debt or saving for an imagined retirement and we've worked at coffee shops with master's degrees and PhDs.
In his article in The Atlantic, Jim Tankersley reports:
They [baby boomers] needed less education to snag a decent-salaried job than their children do, and a college education cost them a small fraction of what it did for their children or will for their grandkids. One income was sufficient to get a family ahead economically. Marginal federal income-tax rates have fallen steadily, with rare exception, since boomers entered the labor force; government retirement benefits have proliferated. At nearly every point in their lives, these Americans chose to slough the costs of those tax cuts and spending hikes onto future generations.
An interesting trait of your generation is your swing from liberal to radical conservatives. You grew up during the "Summer of Love," the Women's Liberation, the Social Rights Movement. You helped protest the Vietnam War and witnessed Roe v. Wade.
And now, you've helped create the Tea Party, elected George W. Bush to two terms, allowed the banking industry, which shot your retirement account in the foot, to regain its death grip on the economy, all, as Frank Bruni recently wrote, while criticizing millennials:
We millennial bashers of course have our stock responses to that. We quibble with the college majors that millennials choose. We question their willingness to hunt for work outside their comfort zones. We conveniently overlook how much more they've had to pay for college than we did, the loans they've racked up and the fact that nothing explains their employment difficulties better than a generally crummy economy, which certainly isn't their fault.
Perhaps the most angering item in this laundry list of grievances is a warming planet and your failure to put forth adequate and timely legislation to help ensure millennials, and those who come after us, a safe and beautiful planet. You've denied global warming -- and continue to deny it -- despite your generation's great nature writer, Bill McKibben, who first brought it to attention in his book The End of Nature in 1989.
The Pew Research Center reports:
In 2009, households headed by adults ages 65 and older possessed 42 percent more median net worth (assets minus debt) than households headed by their same-aged counterparts had in 1984. During this same period, the wealth of households headed by younger adults moved in the opposite direction. In 2009, households headed by adults younger than 35 had 68 percent less wealth than households of their same-aged counterparts had in 1984.
As a result of these divergent trends, in 2009 the typical household headed by someone in the older age group had 47 times as much net wealth as the typical household headed by someone in the younger age group -- $170,494 versus $3,662 (all figures expressed in 2010 dollars). Back in 1984, this had been a less lopsided ten-to-one ratio. In absolute terms, the oldest households in 1984 had median net wealth $108,936 higher than that of the youngest households. In 2009, the gap had widened to $166,832.
The Pew Research Center's report is alarming. As you, baby boomers, get ready to exit the oncoming global apocalypse, you'll continue to deny that global warming is happening. It's simply not on your radar, and your spending reflects it. Because gas was cheap when you entered the job market, you bought vehicles with paltry gas mile averages, sending record amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. You have known that coal and oil warm and weird the planet, but you've praised oil production in North Dakota and Texas and have been slow to get the country away from fossil fuels. You have reaped the benefits of an increased GNP and left future generations with the bill.
Dear baby boomers, you have done quite enough to screw the planet. Please step aside.