People are increasingly taken aback that millennials have are embracing socialism in some form. No matter how much the elders scream about Venezuela or cases like Charlie Gard’s or Alfie Evans’, millennials have a positive view of socialism. Howard Schultz, who also benefitted from what would be called socialism today (public housing) thinks it’s crazy that my generation is embracing “eat the rich” politics. If you compare the economy that the Baby Boom generation had to the economy my generation is dealing with, it starts to become less crazy.
Previous generations had a functional economy
The generations before us had a working economy. They were employees, a distinction which will become important. They had health insurance. They had pensions. By the way, they had this even if they only had a high school education. Heck, even dropouts had some chance at a decent job.
If they wanted a college education, it was basically dirt cheap. If it wasn’t basically free with grants, you could pay for it with a summer job. You didn’t really need to get loans unless you were going to something like graduate school. Even then, the loan rates were far cheaper.
If they had a grievance with their boss, they could go to a group called the union. Unions were these groups that kept bosses in line and held their feet to the fire if the workplace was unsafe or if the boss was stiffing them on their paycheck. Said paycheck was big enough to raise a family on and there was an opportunity for advancement. It all sounds fantastical but it’s true!
Millennials have the “gig economy”
Millennials do not have what the previous generations had. We’re largely not “employees.” We’re “independent contractors.” This means that we don’t get employer-backed health insurance or any other benefits. That said, we’re still doing the same amount of work that the previous generation did, if not more. If we manage to get employee status, we’ll likely be kept as part-timers so we don’t qualify for employer-backed benefits.
This means our health plan is don’t get sick and if we do, pray that our GoFundMe gets on the local news so we can win the popularity contest that is voluntary charity. Good luck to those of us who don’t hold political/religious beliefs that are popular in our local communities. We also don’t have pensions either due to the fact that Boomers busted unions. We have to hope and pray that we stumble into the exact right person that can give us a stable job with things previous generations got almost as a matter of right (thanks to unions or fear that the workplace would unionize). Your best bet, if you want those things, is to get a job with the government but the long knives are out for those jobs too.
And here’s another fun part of the gig economy: Being constantly asked to work for free. There’s an epidemic of this in the artist/musician communities but it goes on in IT and a decent number of professions that have become gig-based. “We’ll pay you in exposure!” “We’ll pay you when we get bigger!” “You’ll get experience!” Are constant refrains I’ve heard. There’s also the chance they’ll break contact or skip town entirely.
Had that happen to me once right here on Medium. Someone wanted to publish a piece I wrote and vanished when I asked about compensation.
And if we refuse to work for free, we’re inevitably called entitled.
A college education is more expensive than it’s ever been and is now necessary. Many jobs that our parents and grandparents got right out of high-school now require college degrees for no other reason than spiteful gatekeeping. You can get into trade school but even that is still expensive. Government grants have been replaced with loans brought on state and Federal budget cuts. Said cuts were designed in part as a final “screw you” to students who protested against wars of choice and the draft. The thinking was that if you had time to protest, you could work another job. And we are. Several in fact.
Yet it’s still not enough.
Boomers had the ladder. Millennials have the hamster wheel.
When we were kids, we were told that if we got educations and didn’t commit crimes, we all had a shot at climbing the same ladder our parents climbed. When we got out of school, we found that the ladder had been yanked up. There might be secret elevators for people in the Good Ol Boys Network. Everyone else has the hamster wheel of the gig economy or if they’re lucky, at-will employment that will get terminated just before they’re eligible for any sort of benefits. Thanks, all you codgers who voted for union busters.
We have little hope of stability unless we get excessively lucky and become the Uber driver of some CEO or something. There’s very little in the way of health insurance. Pensions, enjoyed by the Baby Boom generation, have all but vanished. The gig economy is also not in any way conducive to providing a stable home for a child. This is becoming a major problem if you’re concerned about population replacement. And when we dare say anything about it, the Boomers scream, “SNOWFLAKE!”
The way I figure it, there are two options. The first is to end the gig economy and bring back all the things the Boomers had. The second is to keep doing what we’re doing and pretend to be shocked when millennials who have had enough of the gig economy hamster wheel vote accordingly. If you want people to support the current system, there has to be an investment in it. Calling millennials entitled for wanting the good things the previous generation got with ease does not make us want to keep American capitalism as it is today.
In short, pay us in money, not “exposure.” Classify us as employees, not contractors. Give working millennials benefits instead of office pizza parties. Above all else, don’t ask us to work for free for any reason.