The Faux Tea Party

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An extremely important two paragraphs in Frank Rich’s NY Times column today, toward the end:

However much these corporate contributors may share the Tea Party minions’ antipathy toward President Obama, their economic interests hardly overlap. The rank and file Tea Partiers say they oppose government spending and deficits. The billionaires have no problem with federal spending as long as the pork is corporate pork. They, like most Republican leaders in 2008, supported the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout. They also don’t mind deficits as long as they get their outsize cut of the red ink — $3.8 trillion worth if all the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

But while these billionaires’ selfish interests are in conflict with the Tea Party’s agenda, they are in complete sync with the G.O.P.’s Washington leadership. The Republicans’ new “Pledge to America” promises the $3.8 trillion addition to the deficit and says nothing about serious budget cuts or governmental reforms that might remotely offset it. Surfing the Beltway talk shows last Sunday, you couldn’t find one without a G.O.P. politician adamantly refusing to specify a single program he might cut at, say, the Department of Education (Pell grants?) or the National Institutes of Health (cancer research?). And that’s just the small change. Everyone knows that tax cuts for the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons must come out of Social Security and Medicare payments for everybody else.

The wealthy behind this effort are stirring the pot, using the Tea Partiers as their unwitting foot soldiers.

Conservative National Debt Argument Not Effective with Youth

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Brandon Griefe at U.S. News and World Report wrote a piece yesterday arguing that the Republicans have an opportunity to make amends with young, Millennial voters given the “genuine fear” created by Democratic spending.

With such a large and active base of young supporters it would appear Democrats have their Republican opponents nearing checkmate. But a closer look at the chessboard reveals neither party is in good strategic position to topple the other’s king.

The Republicans’ problem has been their inability to connect with youth and minorities. Only recently have they begun to deemphasize the socially conservative aspects of their platform that have polarized voters since the culture wars of the 1960s. A recent Pew Research poll found that young adults are “clearly more accepting than older Americans of homosexuality, more inclined to see evolution as the best explanation of human life and…are much less likely to affiliate with any religious tradition.” These and other social issues are not major concerns of young adults, a fact that is slowly being realized as Republicans seek to broaden their voting base.

But Democrats’ recent legislative priorities show they’ve also done a poor job at setting the board up for success. Enormous debt and deficit spending to fund a variety of new programs has created a dire fiscal future that is creating genuine fear among young adults. Then-Sen. Barack Obama said it best in 2006:

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.

The rhetoric of 2006 has not translated into reality come 2010. The failure of leadership now continues under his watch with trillions in new debt obligations. Young adults will not be able to ignore the red ink that fills the nation’s ledger forever. Unless Democrats act quickly to reverse the growth of the government’s deficit they will poison the well of Millennial support that carried them to historic victories in 2008.

Griefe’s analysis is faulty and disingenuous for three reasons.

1.) I don’t believe I saw anything from Griefe or anyone else about deficit spending when George W. Bush was in the White House. When Bush entered the Oval Office, Bill Clinton handed his administration a surplus. When he left, we were trillions of dollars in debt. Two major tax cuts and two wars did quite a bit of damage:

Obama’s stimulus package accounted for only .07/$1.00 of the national debt when he signed it into law. Nearly 90 percent of the debt was created under George W. Bush.

To clean up the mess Bush left, Obama has to spend more.

2.) The message about the national debt does not carry any water with Millennials, especially since they are encountering the worst youth unemployment rate since World War II. Our friend Karlo tackled this conservative talking point last year, aptly comparing someone climbing a hill to one’s life-long relationship with government.

Imagine for a moment that you are trying to traverse a hill. The hill represents how much taxes you expect to pay over your lifetime. One end of the hill is the start (the beginning of your life), the top of the hill is middle-age, and the other end of the hill is, well, six-feet-under. At both ends of the hill, you pay relatively little in taxes, and the top of the hill is when you pay the most in taxes. This is what tax-paying looks like throughout the course of one’s life. For some generations, traversing this hill was made easier (but not faster), because the government helped invest in the well-being of the tax-payer very early on in life.

This is not the case with Millennials. The rising cost (PDF) of college and beyond has not resulted in a proportionate increase in services or resources. When you place this fact of rising costs into the context of rising college attendance, the effect is magnified. The share of young people that have attended college has increased 21 percentage points from the 1970s to the present (PDF, pg. 5). What’s more is the fact young people with post-graduate degrees on are on the rise, too. What all this amounts to is a more difficult (but not slower) journey over the hill. It’s almost as if Millennials have to carry a heavy backpack (read: student debt) and still keep pace with everyone else. Now add to that the fact that the end of the hill for Millennials is much farther away than it is for previous generations due to longer life expectancy.

In addition to this, Millennials themselves tell National Journal that they think Obama’s spending has been a good thing.

A plurality of Millennials say they believe that the president’s agenda will increase rather than diminish opportunities for their generation (41 percent to 27 percent). More respondents say that his policies averted an even worse economic crisis (44 percent) than believe that Obama ran up the national debt without doing much good (36 percent). By 46 percent to 31 percent, they also say that the comprehensive health care reform bill Obama recently signed into law is a good thing for the country. Just one-fourth believe that the country is worse off because of the president’s policies; the rest feel that his efforts have significantly improved conditions (16 percent) or are beginning to move the nation in the right direction, even if they haven’t yet produced major gains (43 percent).

Given the toxic economy the Bush policies gave Millennials as they have come of age, making the figurative hill even steeper, the government must invest in the youngest generation to ensure they have a chance of getting over the top, and thankfully, it is.

3.) Griefe comically cites a list of GOPers including Rand Paul and Bob McDonnell as smartly handling social issues in order to keep the focus on the fiscal matters at hand.

This is pretty simple.

Rand Paul doesn’t think the 1964 Civil Rights Act should have passed.

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia issues a proclamation for Confederate History Month in the commonwealth, failing to mention trafficking of human beings and the consequential brutal decades of Jim Crow.

I’m not sure whether Griefe had a brain lapse here or what. Griefe is right that if the GOP can’t get social issues right, they won’t have any shot at Millennials period. Justin Miller at The Atlantic notes this, describing Millennials as the generation least tolerant of racism. The list of Republicans Griefe provides, though, is laughable. Their clumsy navigation of social issues has provided Democrats with several opportunities to beat back any Republican momentum.

The generational theft argument sounds good, but it doesn’t play with young people. It plays even less with Millennials when it’s shrouded in social issues.

Nice effort. Back to the drawing board.

More Youth Staying Home with Parents

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Kristi Eaton at Campus Progress wrote a piece this week discussing a Future of Children study finding an increased rate of young people staying at home with their parents.

Today’s typical 22-year-old is living at home longer, is more financially insecure, and is making lower wages than previous generations. These factors contribute to a delay in the start of “adulthood,” says Richard Settersten, a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University and co-author of the study. The study [PDF] notes that leaving home, finding a job, and becoming financially independent was, for a long time, the determination that made someone an adult.

[…]

The economic opportunities for the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, were vast. Settersten notes that the current economic recession is making tasks that were once associated with the start of adulthood more difficult; now young adults are living with their parents longer or returning home later. In fact, Millennials are similar to the youth of the G.I. Generation (born 1901-1924) because they are slow to leave home and start families. For today’s young adult, the recession is largely blamed for the delaying of adulthood. In fact, half of Millennials still rely on financial support from their family, while a third of all 18 to 29 year-olds receive help from parents or other family members, according to the Pew Research Center.

Eaton concludes her piece by correctly linking this phenomenon with its root cause: a lack of jobs.

Immigration Issue Exposes Generational Fault Lines

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A New York Times piece published this morning sheds light on the generation gap present in views on immigration.

In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition — leading protests on Monday at Senator John McCain’s offices in Tucson, and at the game here between the Florida Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of “live and let live,” are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.

This emerging divide has appeared in a handful of surveys taken since the measure was signed into law, including a New York Times/CBS News poll this month that found that Americans 45 and older were more likely than the young to say the Arizona law was “about right” (as opposed to “going too far” or “not far enough”). Boomers were also more likely to say that “no newcomers” should be allowed to enter the country while more young people favored a “welcome all” approach.

This makes sense given what we know about the diversity in the Millennial generation.  The New Politics Institute’s 2007 Report, “The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation,” cites Census data showing that nearly 40 percent of Millennials do not identify as being white.  “[A]bout 62 percent of Millennial adults are non-Hispanic white, 18 percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian,” the report notes.  What sharpens the debate is that many of the areas having the most diversity among youth also have fairly homogeneous white Boomer/Silent populations.

Given their demographic diversity, Millennials hold progressive opinions about immigration compared to the rest of the population.  The Times piece, for example, provides some anecdotal evidence ensconced in the opinions and stories of youths Meaghan Patrick and Nicole Vespia.

Meaghan Patrick, a junior at New College of Florida, a tiny liberal arts college in Sarasota, says discussing immigration with her older relatives is like “hitting your head against a brick wall.”

[…]

Nicole Vespia, 18, of Selden, N.Y., said older people who were worried about immigrants stealing jobs were giving up on an American ideal: capitalist meritocracy.

“If someone works better than I do, they deserve to get the job,” Ms. Vespia said. “I work in a stockroom, and my best workers are people who don’t really speak English. It’s cool to get to know them.”

Her parents’ generation, she added, just needs to adapt.

“My stepdad says, ‘Why do I have to press 1 for English?’ I think that’s ridiculous,” Ms. Vespia said, referring to the common instruction on customer-service lines. “It’s not that big of a deal. Quit crying about it. Press the button.”

The stories are backed up by data on Millennials.  In his 2008 book/project Generation WE, Eric Greenberg cites data revealing Millennials’ open attitudes on immigration.

Generation We also has an open and positive attitude toward immigration, much more so than older generations. In the Pew Gen Next poll, 18- to 25-year-olds, by 52 to 38, said immigrants strengthen the country with their hard work and talent, rather than are a burden on the country because they take our jobs, housing, and healthcare, compared to very narrow pluralities in this direction among Gen Xers and Boomers and 50–30 sentiment in the other direction among those 61 and over. In a 2004 Pew survey, 67 percent of 18- to 25-year-old Millennials thought the growing number of immigrants strengthens American society and only 30 percent believed this trend threatens our customs and values—again, much stronger positive sentiment than among any other generation.

Unfortunately, most Boomer-run news outlets do not pay attention to Millennial opinion on this issue.  With older Americans voting at higher rates than young people, the age and views of Congress and other officeholders reinforce the fear-driven status quo.  Just like many other issues, to change this reality, youth must vote in higher numbers, be willing to run for office themselves, and pair this with some organized, non-traditional resistance to mount a strong opposition.  It might be convenient to take a John Mayer approach and wait for the world to change, but how many hard-working families who already embody American values will suffer in the meantime?  This is yet another issue on which we must make change now.

Panetta Institute Poll: College Students Continue Support of Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, and a Strong Government

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The Panetta Institute of Public Policy, located at California State University – Monterey Bay, has sponsored an annual survey of U.S. college students since 2001.

This year’s survey results revealed that students continue to be preoccupied with economic worries, though they bear much more positive attitudes this year than they have in the past. The executive summary is below:

  • College students continue to express confidence in Barack Obama, and rate his performance much more highly than the country as a whole: 66% approve of his job performance, compared with 48% of the public in a contemporaneous survey. However, Obama’s approval rating has declined 9 points since his 2009 “honeymoon” period.
  • While two-thirds (66%) believe that Barack Obama understands college students’ needs, just 21% say the same of Sarah Palin.
  • College students continue to lean toward the Democrats as they consider the 2010 off-year elections, but there are clear warning signs for Democrats in this poll. Students are paying far less attention to this election than they were the historic 2008 presidential race (44% now, 82% in 2008) raising questions about college students’ likely turnout in November. Moreover, Democrats’ 12-point margin in the generic congressional ballot is much smaller than the 26-point lead they enjoyed at the same point in the 2006 cycle, and only slightly better than in 2002 (seven points) when Republicans elected congressional majorities.
  • Students continue to view the economy as weak (83% say it is not so good or poor), and although they are not yet in the workforce, fully 40% say they have been personally affected a great deal or quite a bit by the economic downturn.
  • Students’ confidence in their ability to find an acceptable job after graduation, which declined in 2009, remains low: 36% of college students, including 45% of seniors, are just somewhat or not confident that they will find an acceptable job. The 64% expressing confidence is the lowest level the survey has ever recorded.
  • Interest in a government career continues to rise among college students, with 42% now very or fairly interested!the highest mark we have ever recorded. While the recession may have contributed to this rise, there has been a fairly steady increase in this measure over the past nine years.
  • The survey reveals a startling gender gap when it comes to interest in an eventual run for office, with men being twice as interested in running for federal office than women (men 36%, women 18%), and also more interested in pursuing local or state office (men 43%, women 28%).
  • College students’ support for same-sex marriage continues to grow, now reaching 65%, compared with just 52% in 2004.
  • Students support a much more active government than the public as a whole, and they rate government’s performance much more highly. By 51% to 30%, they say government should do more to solve problems, while among the public overall, 43% say government should do more and 48% believe the government is doing too many things.

Students are ostensibly still liberal in their political views according to this survey, but their enthusiasm for participating in the 2010 midterms and supporting the Democratic Party is waning, along with their approval of President Obama. Not waning at all is their concern regarding their ability to find jobs after college.

This poll provides more evidence that the issue of job creation should be paramount for Democrats if they wish to attract college students (and young people) by this November.

Youth Unemployment on Rise

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What else is new, right?

NPR covers the continued rise of unemployment for 16-19 year olds, especially among African-American teens.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the while the country gained 162,000 jobs in March, the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent. And it’s much tougher for teenagers; The jobless rate for those between ages 16 and 19 rose to 26.1 percent. For African-American teens, it’s even worse: That rate stands at 41.1 percent.

“They are competing with people who have experience, and they simply don’t have it,” says Deborah Shore, founder of Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a group that provides housing and workforce training to homeless kids in Washington, D.C. “It’s the worst unemployment for teens ever.”

The longer they go without work experience, the harder it will be for them to find jobs in the future, she says.

Unfortunately, the teen job market is one of the last indicators of a healthy economy, with many white youth finding jobs before the African-American demographic. Because of racial discrimination, a lack of resources, and fewer connections, African-American youth are one of the most disadvantaged groups of job seekers.

One way to assist these young people is by passing legislation with comprehensive youth programs and public works projects included.

There is at least one proposal before the House that would devote $8 billion to year-round youth training and employment. Other proposals in the Senate have been blocked, although congressional staffers supportive of such measures believe Congress may still pass funding for youth programs through an amendment to other, broader jobs bills.

However, as the article points out, summer vacation is quickly approaching. Will our representatives act in enough time?

It’s important to remember that while changing the way college students finance their education is important, there are less privileged youth out there who want to get to work but are devoid of opportunities. What are we doing to help them?

Wall Street Journal Lies about Teen Unemployment

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I want to start today by pointing to a post by Jonathan Chait at The New Republic. Chait attempts to refute the suggestion the Wall Street Journal put forth in an editorial claiming that the minimum wage increase was to blame for rising youth unemployment numbers. The chart to the left appeared in the Journal to augment the editorial board’s argument.

Chait draws on analysis from University of Michigan political scientist Brendan Nyhan explaining that the unemployment increase in ALL age demographics undoes the Journal’s argument. The Journal can’t seem to distinguish between correlation and causation, Nyhan writes.

While it’s certainly plausible that the increases in the minimum wage over the last three years have worsened teen unemployment, correlation doesn’t prove causation. Any variable that trended in one direction during the current economic downturn will be correlated with the unemployment rate among teens or any other group.

More importantly, unemployment is rising across the board, which cuts against the WSJ’s hypothesis that the minimum wage is having a particularly devastating effect on teens.

Though the Wall Street Journal might like to think they can downplay youth unemployment by practicing amateur science, they’ve made their ignorance quite apparent. It’s another example of a contribution to our political dialogue that misleads citizens in an attempt to assist the right-wing conspiracy.

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