Millennials voted decisively for President Barack Obama back in 2008, but we can't say we're better off financially than we were four years ago. Will our generation come out to support Obama in his re-election bid this November? What can the President do to re-inspire us?
These are some of the important questions that Heather McGee discussed with Bill Moyers on Friday in a wide-ranging conversation about the millennial generation. McGhee is a 30-year old millennial who directs the Washington office of the research and advocacy group Demos.
McGhee begins by discussing the economic challenges that millennials face, noting that unemployment for young people is twice the national average (hovering near 15%). She says we are the "first generation not likely to do better than our parents." But, she notes that 80% of our generatino still believe in the American Dream.
She argues that what is different about our generation is that most young people don't think about the fact that the biggest problems we face today are common problems that all could have public solutions. She says that "globalization, technological change, and the information age happened at a time when we lost our social contract." America decided that the economy would work better if we were all on our own. She says this is "one of the most pernicious affects of the Reagan revolution; [it has taken] the horizon of public policy solutions off the public conscious. We don't know there could be public solutions to our problems."
McGhee then says that in addition to experiencing record inequality in our economy, our generation is experiencing inequality in our democracy. "Since I was born, an entirely new industry was born that didn't used to exist, corporate lobbyists." She said that our generation has become the "guinea pigs" of the experiement of neoliberalism and trickle-down economics, a system that has benefited only the wealthy. As a result, millennials distrust Washington, a place where "so much of their energy goes to rewarding the corporate elite."
On the question of Obama, McGhee says that while millennials still show preferences for Democratic policies, values, and ideals, young people will vote on the economy in 2012. Given high levels of unemployment, she says that young people can't say they are better off financially than they were four years ago. To recapture young people's attention, she says Obama must call for a WPA-style generational jobs program, an action which would signal to millennials that "yes, your American government in on your side, young people."
Share your reactions to McGhee's characterizations of millennials. Do agree with her policy idea for how President Obama could once again appeal to our generation?
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