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Capitalism is cheating young Americans. (Photo:  Alex Cameron)

How Capitalism Is Cheating Young Americans

Paul Buchheit

Our country's wealthy white once-idealistic baby boomer generation has cheated those of you entering the working world. A small percentage of us have taken almost all the new wealth since the recession. Our Silicon Valley CEOs have placated you with overpriced technological toys that are the result of decades of American productivity, but which have mainly profited the elite members of their industries.

Although none of us in the older generations can speak for you, we can help you research the facts. And the facts are painfully clear.

1. You Have Very Little Savings to Pay Your Massive Debts

A recent report claims that median net worth for the millennial generation (18 to 35 years old) has risen from $9,000 to $32,000 since 2007, and that their median income is $47,000.

Most other sources disagree. A report from the Russell Sage Foundation concludes that all American households have lost wealth since 2007. Other evidence shows that about 90% of us lost wealth in the past five years, while the richest - and generally older - 5% made millions. Median income, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is only about $35,000 for 25- to 34-year-olds, and just $25,000 for 20- to 24-year-olds.

Debt is apparently the difference, and the unrelenting burden, for college-educated young people. Based on Pew research, college-educated student debtors have twice as much debt as income. And they have only one-seventh the net worth of college-educated adults who have no student debt obligations.

2. You're Being Cheated out of the Opportunity to Begin Your Own Households

As you were entering the working world after the recession, almost 60 percent of the new jobs were low-income ($7.69 to $13.83 per hour). The number of college grads working for minimum wage doubled in just five years.

As a result, many of you are forced to live with your parents. In just one generation, the percentage of stay-at-home young adults has risen from 11 percent to almost 24 percent. And more disturbingly, student homelessness increased by 10 percent in just one year.

3. Corporations are Hoarding Money that Could Pay for Your Jobs

Corporations more than doubled their profits and halved their taxes from 2000 to 2012.

What have they been doing with all that money? Hoarding it, mostly. David Cay Johnston estimated that in 2013 American businesses held almost $7.9 trillion of liquid assets worldwide. And here's a bigger insult: According to the Wall Street Journal, for some of our largest corporations over 75 percent of the cash owned by foreign subsidiaries is kept "at U.S. banks, held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities."

So they're using taxpayer money to protect the assets that they're avoiding taxes on.

Corporations are also spending trillions of dollars on stock buybacks, which use potential research and development money to pump up the prices of executive stock options. Apple, one of the buyback leaders, and the nation's biggest tax avoider, defended its outsourcing, saying "We shouldn't be criticized for using Chinese workers. The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need."

Meanwhile, corporations continue to cut jobs, with the computer industry among the worst offenders at the start of 2014. Microsoft just announced the deepest cuts in the firm's 39-year history. AT&T has reduced its workforce by 22 percent in the last seven years. Verizon is shutting down customer service centers. Apple has a more efficient way of undermining workers, earning $400,000 profit per employee while paying most of their store workers $12 to $14 per hour.

4. The Business Media Mocks You

With supreme condescension, the media looks down at a struggling class of young Americans and proclaims:

---The good news is that information technology provides the iPod/Facebook generation with the means to find work and create careers.. --Michael Barone, the Washington Examiner

---A lot of people...can still earn a good living now by building their own branded reputations.. --Thomas Friedman, the New York Times

---The ability to so take photographs makes [people] richer. --Forbes

To the out-of-touch super-rich capitalists, those of you in the newest working generation thrive on social networking, good reputations, and picture-taking. A nice lifestyle, as long as you don't have to support yourselves or your families.

 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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