What kind of society abandons its own young? What kind of society allows the generations in power to favor themselves over those who follow them, and then lets them claim they’re doing it out of selflessness?
Look around you.
This weekend we reviewed nine ways an extreme-right right social agenda has harmed the millennial generation. But there’s a cure for that, a formula that’s rational, sane, wise, and fair. It involves time-tested techniques for jobs, growth, and education – a New Deal for Millennials.
And a New Deal starts with new values.
Our weakening values can be found in the “above the fray” stance of presidents and pundits who treat Republicans’ ruthless Randianism as if it were a moderate and reasonable point of view, rather than a morally bankrupt corporate-funded bid for economic totalitarianism.
Those frayed values can be found in that hollow street corner strut where GOP politicians holler out to deep-pocketed strangers, Pick me. No, me! I’ll make your selfish agenda sing with the voters. Free market? “Yes!” Competition? “Oh, yes!” Contempt for the majority? “Yes, oh yes, God yes!“
But hollow values are also present in Wall Street Democrats who invert the GOP’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? formula by luring liberals with progressive stands on issues like gay marriage while eagerly pushing Wall Street’s economic agenda. The Clinton-Cuomo-Booker crowd is doing exactly what the right did – using social issues to draw people into voting against their own economic interests.
Social justice and economic justice aren’t “either/or.” They’re “and/and.”
Those empty values were present at last week’s Clinton Global Initiative, where corporate-sponsored pitches about “public/private partnerships” pushed the oligarchy-friendly premise that the federal government can’t and won’t help its citizens any longer. Conveniently, that would leave us at the mercy of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and former President Clinton’s other prominent corporate funders.
Those hollow values are present in the countless editorials at political organs like The Washington Post, which falsely argue that we can’t afford to preserve and expand Social Security and Medicare, or pose false choices between help at the dawn of life or fair play at its sunset.
They’re present in the argument that we can’t help millennials with student debt, even as we toss them into a jobless economy. Or help them find jobs, as their lifelong earnings erode with every passing year.
Run, Millennials, Run
The millennial generation doesn’t need us, but here’s a little unsolicited advice: Run! Run from the radical-right Republicans and demand sanity instead of madness. Run from anyone who tells you corporatist Democrats are the best you can hope for politically.
Run from Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and the other overpaid sales shills who claims that the way to “preserve entitlements for you” is to make sure they’re eviscerated before you need them.
Run for the education “reformers” who claim there’s no money to educate kids unless someone can make a profit.
Run from the people who tell you it’s your fault jobs are so hard to find.
Run for your lives.
This isn’t generous advice. It’s actually very selfish. Truth is, we need you. We need your intelligence. We need your strength. We need your numbers.
The corporatists and extremists don’t realize it, but our offer to help you is also a plea – one that’s is based on sound economic principle as well as sound moral reasoning.
Morally and economically, the answer is the same: When you win, we all win.
Who Owes Who?
A New Deal for millennials would relieve the inhumane and unconscionable burden of debt we’ve imposed on college graduates. Ellen Brown wrote an excellent review of Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to allow students to refinance through the Federal Reserve at the ultra-low rates offered to banks and other financial institutions.
There may be ways to modify the Warren proposal to make it even stronger. But one objection that doesn’t hold up is to say, “That’s not what the Federal Reserve does; it helps banks.” The Fed wasn’t supposed to help GE Capital or Goldman Sachs either. They weren’t banks. But Tim Geithner and others rewrote the rules to bail them out.
Then GE Capital’s CEO was named head of Obama’s “Jobs Council.” And Goldman’s COO just shared the stage with Bill Clinton at the Global Initiative.
Are you telling us you’ll bend the rules for them, but not for our young people? Well, yeah, come to think of it you are. That’s not acceptable.
As Brown points out, the government makes 36 cents on the dollar for student loans. It shouldn’t make a nickel. It won’t have to pay a nickel, either.
Brown offers New Deal programs that succeeded without costing the federal government a dime.
And some of these loans shouldn’t be paid back at all. They were issued for worthless or highly overpriced degrees at “paper mills” like the University of Phoenix. The government should have protected consumers from these scams, and it has a moral obligation to right that wrong now.
Student loan forgiveness would release a trillion dollars of debt obligation back into the general economy. Millennials would have more to spend on some of the first purchases of adult life. That’s a stimulus that’s built to last.
And if any tax revenue is needed, here’s a suggestion: Start with GE Capital and Goldman Sachs.
A Generation at Work
Jobs come next. Studies show that unemployment at the start of a career lowers lifetime earnings. We need to end our youth unemployment crisis now with a millennial WPA that jumpstarts their careers, and our economy, the way the Works Progress Administration did under Franklin D. Roosevelt.
We also need a major initiative in primary and secondary education. Millennials are having children now, and those children need schooling. What’s more, millennials represent a large part of the workforce that can provide teachers for them. That means committing to a renewed emphasis on public education.
Lastly, let’s end all this talk about cutting Social Security and expand it instead, which can be done through lifting the payroll tax cap and other strategies. The Millennial Generation has already had its Social Security benefits cut, above and beyond the gradual rise in the eligibility age already underway.
Benefits are calculated based on lifetime earnings, and those have already been eroded by youth unemployment. Further cuts in benefits, like President Obama’s proposed “chained CPI” that reduces the cost-of-living adjustment, will only add to the injustice created by youth unemployment, while the erosion of the other elements of American retirement – corporate pensions and other assets – will leave millennials in a painfully vulnerable position in their senior years.
Run For Your Lives
Economically, millennials should run from Randian Republicanism and its Selfishness Lite Democratic version. Culturally, they should run from their elders’ ideas about home ownership and consumerism – ideas which left them in thrall to corporations and banks.
What should they run to?
To politicians like Warren who speak for them and to them, rather than against them and down to them. To the people who tell them the truth. To the streets, parks, and public squares – anywhere demonstrations are being held against the corporate agenda and in favor of an economy for all.
And they should run for office. The oldest millennials will soon be qualified to run for president. They can already hold every other office. I’m not a big believer in identity politics – look where it got us last time – but millennials need candidates who speak to their needs and are equally invested in their future.
We need them too, because their New Deal will be everyone’s.
We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!
- Franklin D. Roosevelt