Has The Big Government Generation Screwed the Millennials?

A new survey by Ernst & Young and Economic Innovation Group found that “millennials” — those born in the 1980s or later — are a deeply pessimistic generation that is willing to work hard, but is “convinced the economy is failing them,” and is “very uncertain” about the future.

What does it mean to assume that “the economy” is failing you? The economy refers to thousands of interactions and transactions among human beings every single day. If the economy is failing people, then this means there’s a lack of innovation, enterprise, initiative and profit-seeking growth. If those attributes are dying, as many of us — not only millennials — can sense, then what caused their decline and what will bring them back?

In America, unlike most places, there’s a multi-generational history of economic growth. Despite starting out as a colonized wilderness, and having to survive a civil war, two world wars, a massive depression and various other challenges over the generations, America has — on the whole, until now — been a place where growth always happens, in the end.

For young people to feel that the economy has failed them means that something more deeply significant than the economy has started to vanish.

The study shows that most millennials are living in quiet desperation. They face a job market that has left even normally employable new college graduates out of work, or employed at well below their potential as baristas, temps, or in low-level retail jobs.

Millennials understand that this situation will have a substantial impact on their lifetime earnings, due to depressed early years and due to finding themselves on a lower income track than those few that landed higher-quality roles straight out of college.

Because government policies of the last decade or two have veered more toward socialism and government spending than ever before, we’re supposed to believe that things are better than ever before. For example, food stamps, welfare benefits and free health insurance have all expanded. That’s a good thing, according to the modern leftist Democratic socialism most of us have been convinced to swallow. Yet according to this study — which confirms what a lot of us observe — many young people are suffering. They may be the first generation in American history whose lives will not be better, economically or otherwise, than their parents and grandparents.

If government programs are the means to economic hope and prosperity, as virtually all of our politicians, media and professors keep telling us, then where’s the hope? And where’s the prosperity? Because man does not live on food stamps, free college tuition and free health care alone.

The next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or John D. Rockefeller, if there is one, will come out of this generation. With the general trends what they are, what’s the likelihood of another Industrial or Information Revolution? Has America peaked?

Remember that on our current course, unlikely to be reversed regardless of who wins the presidency next month, government will only spend and borrow more and more. Plans are afoot to expand government health insurance, government spending on college education and government spending on just about everything. Social Security and Medicare will mushroom in growth, not just for the aging population, but for the expansion of the groups eligible for those programs, such as the “disabled.” More spending, more borrowing, more taxation and debt. These will suck what’s left of the private economy dry and even if every single student loan debt-laden young person had that debt forgiven tomorrow, what good does it do them in an economy barely growing at all? If decades of government spending, taxing and borrowing only generated a lack of prosperity and a sense of hopelessness we now see, then what gives us reason to think anything will change by doing more of the same?

America was the only society in human history to advance from one generation to the next, for such a sustained period of time that each up-and-coming generation came to see such expansion as the norm. “I want my children to have a better life than I did.” Such a sentiment was not relevant in any society before America, because America was the first more or less free market, individualist and limited government society in all of human history.

Most members of the current generation do not appear to feel this way. Something has held them back. Their teachers have taught them that it’s the lack of government intervention and the presence of things like racism causing all our problems. But America has far less racism and far more government spending and intervention now than ever before. Something else has to be causing the sense of stagnation and gradually evolving despair afflicting young people who find it harder and harder to gain economic independence and self-reliance.

Could it be that we’re going in exactly the opposite direction? Might it be that virtually everything we have been doing, and assuming, is wrong? Corrections are possible. That’s the good news. The bad news is that almost nobody seems willing to face it, at least not yet.

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