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February 12 2014

Failure to Launch

Patrice J. Lee

The President likes to refer to us as grown children and is quick to boast that because of his ObamaCare plan we can stay on our parents’ health insurance plans until we’re 26.  

But this is a generation that remembers typing papers on word processors and tearing the edges off dot matrix paper.  We weren’t the first on the information super highway but once we got a license, we took over the road.  Facebook has tracked every day of our lives since college and Twitter turned us into citizen reporters. We also have degrees – some of us multiple degrees- but we racked up five- and six-digits worth of debt along the way. We are Millennials.

With our penchant for technology, our idealism, and our education, one question we are grappling with is why so many of our classmates are still living at home with mom and dad?

The U.S. Department of Education released a report recently that tracked the progress of Millennials who were high school sophomores in 2002 over the past decade. This report provides a snapshot into the lives of older Millennials and our achievement toward life’s milestones. In short, despite our idealism, aptitude, and drive, many haven’t gone very far past “Go” and that’s an issue for our elected leaders.

Some notable findings:

  •  Thirteen percent "reported they were neither working for pay nor taking postsecondary courses." Of those who had enrolled in college, 60.2 percent reported they had taken out student loans. Forty percent had been unemployed for one or more months since January 2009; 20.6 percent owned/paid mortgage on their current residence. Money was a source of anxiety, which is understandable since 53.8 percent made less than $25,000 from employment in 2011.
  • On the potentially brighter side: 56.7 percent of those working recognized their current job as a step on the “path toward career goals.” Even better, 10.5 percent of those employed suggested that their "current job fulfills career goals." You can choose to read the latter figure as either a sign of unbridled optimism or deficient ambition. I choose the former. I have faith in us.

The question is why?

The economy and job market have quite a lot to do with it. According to Generation Opportunity’s January Millennial Jobs Report, the effective unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 15.8 percent and that includes those who have given up looking for work. Far worse, 1.9 million young adults are so discouraged by the job prospects that they dropped out of the labor force. (In full disclosure I work for Generation Opportunity.)

Millennials overwhelmingly elected President Barack Obama in 2008 and contributed to his re-election. Yet, he has done and encouraged Congress to do little to foster an economic environment that promotes growth.

Higher taxes on individuals take money from our wallets away from consumption, debt repayment, and savings. Our tax dollars are going to pay for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, government-funded retirement will not be a benefit that our generation can count on.

Where is the President’s focus? Healthcare. ObamaCare forces each person to buy health insurance and narrows the options to expensive plans that yank more dollars from our wallets. It’s built on the backs of young, healthy people paying for older, sicker Americans. Because of ObamaCare, companies are cutting worker hours (especially low-wage jobs that are the spring board for young workers as they start out in their careers), declining to hiring and laying off workers. And we now know that ObamaCare will reduce the American workforce by an additional 2 million jobs over the next few years.

It’s no surprise then that over one in three 18- to 31- year olds lives at home with parents. And to pay for our educations and existence, almost 80 percent of 27-year-olds are in debt, whether from student loans, credit cards, or mortgages. As a result, as we’ve reported, young people are postponing marriage and home ownership, both milestones that other generations had achieved by this time in their lives because of the difficult financial situations so many young people find themselves stuck in.

There is hope. Young people are entrepreneurial and are carving out new paths to success through business.

Instead of focusing on forcing us and every American to get healthcare, perhaps POTUS and Congress should focus on reducing the barriers to entry for new businesses, tax incentives that reward risk-taking, and reducing the regulations that strangle small businesses from growing.

Millennials want to move out of their parent’s basements. That will take policies that empower us, instead of hold us up.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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