by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I’m not sure I like the name Kirsten Powers applies to the youngest generation of American adults, but my fellow Generation X-er certainly makes an interesting point in a new Daily Beast column about that generation’s reaction to new Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
We hear incessantly about how members of today’s screwed generation face the prospect of less prosperous lives than those lived by their parents. But the maiden generation to stare down that gloomy prognosis was Generation X, the tiny slice of America born between about 1965 and 1980. (Ryan was born in 1970.) We were the first generation to be told we would never get Social Security or Medicare even though we would be forced to pay into these programs.
When many X-ers graduated from college, stocking shelves at the Gap was considered a career choice, as jobs were few and far between amidst a major economic downturn. I won’t bore you with the horror show of the low-paying and miserable jobs I had for the first three years after college.
Unfortunately, the future looks as bleak for today’s young people. No amount of coddling by their well-provided-for Boomer parents can save Generation Y and the Millennials from the dire economic conditions they face, including criminal levels of educational debt. Pensions have gone the way of the horse and buggy. You want to retire with health-care benefits, as both my professor parents did? Good luck. As the 1994 movie turned Gen-X mantra has it: Reality Bites.
Generation X chronicler Jeff Gordiner, has written that Gen-Xers suffer from “athazagoraphobia”—“an abnormal and persistent fear of being forgotten or ignored.” Except it’s not really a phobia; it’s been reality for a long time. Maybe that is about to change.
Enter Ryan. While Democrats attack his Medicare plan as “radical” and portray him as pushing granny off the cliff, young people don’t seem to be buying this caricature. Or maybe “radical” is what they want.