In the past few months I’ve continually come across mentions of Millenials or Gen Y, and since I know I fell in around there age-wise and identify most strongly with the young people of today, they have always piqued my curiosity. So I immediately clicked through to the article when I saw Bob Herbert’s op-ed “Here Come the Millenials” on the list of most e-mailed articles on the NYTimes.
When I first got there, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought, “Here’s what other people are reading about my generation.” But it actually turned out to make me more self-aware of how not alone I am, how many, many others who grew up in the same America I did are facing the same things.
A number of studies, including new ones by the Center for American Progress in Washington and by Demos, a progressive think tank in New York, have shown that Americans in this age group are faced with a variety of challenges that are tougher than those faced by young adults over the past few decades. Among the challenges are worsening job prospects, lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher levels of debt.
This struck me hard. Husband and I absolutely face all three of those (bold emphasis mine). While we are highly educated and skilled enough that we are both confident we can find jobs when needed, the choices may be more limited than we’d originally hoped.
When I met Husband, he was working as an elementary school computer teacher, despite his degree in CS and experience in web jobs during the late 90’s. He didn’t want to do this forever, but it was a job, and it paid something, so he was there. He had been doing web design on the side, and I encouraged him to try to find a job in that full-time. He was miserable in that job, so with his freelance plus my work-study income, we decided that he could quit, quickly improve his web portfolio, and find a new job. That winter, he did, but it didn’t include benefits, vacation, etc. He took it as a way to get his foot (back) in the door, and worked for a year without health insurance coverage. Meanwhile, we both had racked up debt on my credit card for things like, oh, eating.
The story could continue but I’m going to stop there. You get the point. Similar themes as we progressed through the next 3 years, and here we are. My being kicked out of school leaves me without health insurance, and Husband has been unwisely living without it for a year and a half, despite the fact that he’s on medications and has some medical issues. For the summer I have work lined up, but, surprise surprise, without the possibility of benefits. I just looked up yesterday the cost of putting Husband and I on a health insurance plan for the self-employed – $700 or more combined. Each month.
Among other things, we are fed up with the government. We see that in a completely free-market economy the rich get rich and the poor get, well, shit on. We both think that while free-market works well for a lot of things (like motivation for work to be done well and efficiently), we need more safety nets, more regulations to ensure opportunities for the poor and minorities, and more compassion in American politics.
Later in the article, Herbert writes:
According to the study: “Millennials mostly reject the conservative viewpoint that government is the problem, and that free markets always produce the best results for society. Indeed, Millennials’ views are more progressive than those of other age groups today, and are more progressive than previous generations when they were younger.”
The study is right on, because that’s exactly how we feel. This is not the America I learned about growing up. I see so many people in worse situation than ours (around me everyday when I go home to my apartment in the Bronx or any time I visit Husband’s family), and Husband and I both are fed up with the political state of the country. Even most of the “liberals” aren’t liberal enough for us. You think America offers equal opportunity? Bullshit.