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Robert Reich: Six Ways Millennials Will Clean Up Mess Boomers Left Them – OpEd


Baby Boomers – my generation, born between 1946 and 1964 – dominated politics and the economy for years. There were just more Boomers than people of any other generation.  But that’s no longer the case. Now, the biggest generation is the Millennials, born between 1983 and 2000.

Millennials are different from boomers in 6 important ways that will shape the future.

1. Millennials are more diverse than boomers – so as Millennials gain clout, expect America to become more open.  More than 44 percent of Millennials identify as a race other than white. And they’re more accepting of immigrants:  69 percent of millennials think that newcomers strengthen American society, compared to 44 percent of Boomers.

2. Millennials are more distrustful of the political system than Boomers – so as Millennials gain power, expect more anti-establishment politics A strong majority of Millennials think the country is on the wrong track. Most disapprove of both the Republican Party and the Democratic party. Virtually no Millennials – only 6 percent – strongly approve of Donald Trump, compared to 63 percent who disapprove. A strong majority – 71 percent – want a third major party to compete with Democrats and Republicans.

3. Most Millennials have a tougher financial road than Boomers – so expect them to demand changes in how we finance higher educationAccording to Pew Research, Millennials are the first generation in the modern era, “to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of life.” No surprise, then, that Millennials are living at home much longer than previous generations, and getting married later.

4. Millennials view the social safety net differently than boomers – so expect them to demand that Medicare and Social Security are strengthened. Boomers move into older age, more and more of the federal budget is going into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Many Millennials even doubt Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be there for them when they retire.

5. Millennials care more about the environment – so expect them to demand stronger environmental protectionOver 90 percent of them believe climate change is occurring, compared with 74 percent of Boomers. Over 60 percent of Millennials want to reduce the use of coal as an energy source, compared with 28 percent of Boomers. And over half of  Millennials support a carbon tax, compared with 23 percent of Boomers.

6. Finally, as wealthy Boomers transfer $30 trillion to their lucky Millennial heirs, expect Millennials to demand a fairer inter-generational tax systemAmerica is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As very wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children and grandchildren over the next three decades. The tax code allows these lucky Millennials to inherit rich Boomer assets without paying capital gains on them, and paying far lower estate taxes than previous generations. Expect this to change.

As I said, I’m a Boomer – born the same year as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Dolly Parton, among others. It’s up to you – the Millennials – to fix a  system we Boomers broke.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

2 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Six Ways Millennials Will Clean Up Mess Boomers Left Them – OpEd

  • March 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Actually there is only one issue pertaining to any “. . . .ennial”, “boomer” or “foofoo”. Sober up and realize that this is a nation of laws. By projecting your press for changes will resonate with the naive to create chaos. We seen these results in your ‘home town’, Bezerkley. And the evidence is revealed in the activities of your goons in assorted ‘Occupy…” movements.
    Of course, this is what you would promote, being a communist. After all, who but a confirmed Marxist would co-create an award winning (?) documentary entitled, “inequality fo all.”

  • March 15, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Robert, your description of the young people known as Millennials sounds very much to me to be the way an experienced columnist writing in the 1970’s might have described the Boomers when the Boomers were just coming into their own. Recall the Boomer’s Vietnam war protests, their ecology movement, civil and woman’s rights marches, anti-establishment culture and the rejection of materialism and their general distaste for the way the prior generation mismanaged and mucked up just about everything about America. Perhaps our children and grandchildren are not so different from us. Perhaps they are just young and full of desire to make the world a better place and completely unaware of just how difficult it may be to do so. You know, just like we were.


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