Newsweek magazine shook people up with their July 2012 feature by Joel Kotkin called “Are Millennials the Screwed Generation? ‘Boomer America’ Never Had It So Good. As A Result, Today’s Young Americans Have Never Had It So Bad.”
(Even better, after reading the article, listen to the NPR interview with author Joel Kotkin which I actually found more thoughtful and insightful than the Newsweek piece.)
His premise? Baby boomers, due to greed, mismanagement and general self-centeredness, have been bad stewards of the economy, the environment, and the country, and will leave the world to their young in worse shape than they found it.
Some of the facts Kotkin uses to support his case:
- High unemployment among younger job seekers, as the boomers ahead of them won’t step aside to make opportunities for others;
- A widening wealth gap between the old — wealthier than in the past — and the young — more impoverished than ever before.
- Kids who are unlikely to be more successful or better educated than their parents, with one-quarter moving back home just to make ends meet;
- An inheritance of national debt, generated by the boomers’ profligacy, coupled with onerous school debt, that misguided millennials took on to secure a better life.
In the NPR interview, Kotkin dishes on a much more personal level, speaking as the boomer father of two children. While he recognizes the problems facing the millennials, he is often not as sympathetic as one might first assume from reading the Newsweek article.
Surprising, he offers some “tough love” solutions to the under-35 crowd.
- We need to rethink higher eduction and education debt. Don’t borrow stupidly. Consider first the job market and salary levels. Also consider technical training in highly sought after manufacturing trades. We are turning out too many graduates with “bogus majors” and no marketable skills.
- There is a growing “entitlement” mind-set among young Americans and a fair degree of “whining” about their problems.
- We need to focus on economic growth, which is needed to generate jobs, and to make our country more globally competitive especially in manufacturing. For too long we’ve ignored manufacturing and other sectors that add value to our competitive position in favor of turning out art history majors.
- Finally, his advice to the millennials is to not take things for granted and “toughen up” — he says, “no one owes you a living.”
Special thanks to one of our clients for bringing this article to our attention!