by Jason Frerichs
I was born in 1977, which puts me right at the tail end of Generation X. This is the cohort that follows the baby boomers. My generation is considered to have been born between 1961 and 1981. According to various sources, Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000. Some sources say that the generation started in 1976, thus some would consider me a Millennial. I definitely have more in common with Millennials that I do with older members of Generation X. The under 40 crowd tends to be very digitally connected. Millennials are the most educated and least likely to be employed compared to previous generations.
It’s easy for older folks, in particular, baby boomers, to castigate Millennials as entitled and lazy. The truth of the matter is that baby boomers were born into the world’s best economy and the best educational system. Anyone with a high school diploma could walk into a good paying job, afford a house, new car, and to go on vacation. It was possible to pay your way through school washing dishes. Those days are gone and they’re never coming back. A large number of jobs that one could attain with only a high school diploma now require a college degree. A major reason for that is due to improved technology. Many jobs now require complex skills and critical thinking. People without the ability to earn a degree are being left behind in the job market. In fact, the economic recovery has only happened for college degree holders.
Both Millennials and members of Generation X have put off buying a home due to staggering student loan debt. I personally have about $40K in student loan debt and I’m one of the few who is lucky enough to have a good paying job in the field I earned my degree in. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27.3% of college graduates are working in the field for which they earned their degree. Odds of finding a job in your chosen field improve if you are willing to move to a big city. This contributes to the problem of the rural brain drain. Millennials have the potential to be the most powerful voting bloc in the U.S. if their passion can be harnessed.
Working on the Bernie campaign has given me an immense amount of respect for Millennials. I met so many passionate and engaged people who truly care about our country and are ready for a political revolution to take place. Not only are they ready, they are rolling up their sleeves and doing the work. Issues like Medicare For All are very important to Millennials. They’ve seen friends and relatives go bankrupt from medical bills. A friend of mine in Des Moines lost his house because his daughter had cancer and they racked up $50,000 in medical bills that their insurance wouldn’t cover. According to CNBC, medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. High deductible and out of pocket costs make it very hard for those between the ages of 18 to 64 to use their benefits.
Student loan debt is another issue that affects a lot of people, in particular, Millennials. According to Forbes, there are 44 million borrowers with $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. The delinquency rate is 11.2%. This is becoming a national crisis. The cost of tuition has skyrocketed as states reduce their expenditures, causing students to take on increasingly more debt just to earn a degree. Millennials are leading the charge for tuition-free colleges and universities. Education will be the currency of the 21st century. The countries with the most educated workforces will do the best economically.
Millennials and Generation X have inherited a mess that we did not create. Instead of going on about how lazy we are, help us to fix these problems before it’s too late. We are willing to take the lead but we need our boomer allies to help show us the way. Boomers ended a war, started the sexual revolution, and helped end government-sanctioned segregation. We must be bold and we must be brave. Now is the time for a political revolution in this country. Once we all stand up, the establishment will crumble.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus