Gordon argues that Millennials have a larger sense of entitlement than Baby Boomers, who, after all, were raised by people from the notoriously self-reliant Greatest Generation. My late parents, for example, lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and they didn't believe anyone was entitled to anything; and I suppose some of that philosophy was passed on to me. My children are Millennials; and I think they believe that everyone living in a prosperous society is entitled to health care and a basic level of education. If so, I agree with them.
Gordon made two observations about Millennials that have important political implications. First, millennials make about 20 percent less than the Baby Boomers did at their age--they are poorer as a whole than my generation was when we were young.
Second, a lot of Millennials believe student loans should be forgiven. And why shouldn't they hold that view? After all, I paid a pittance for a fine law degree when I was young and immediately got a well-paying job. Millions of Millennials are burdened with student loans and are struggling to find good jobs in a weak job market.
Long believes the Millennials' support for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election can be largely explained by Bernie's impassioned call for a free college education for everyone. This is a very appealing proposal to a generation of Americans who hold billions of dollars in student debt.
So what are the political implications of Long's observations? Simply this: the Millennials will not put up with the status quo in terms of the federal student program. Our political and media elites seem to think young Americans will continue borrowing more and more money for postsecondary education and will be content to enter into income-driven repayment plans that last as long as a quarter of a century. But the elites are delusional.
In the next presidential election and every election thereafter, the Millennials and the generations coming after them will flock to any candidate who calls for student loan forgiveness and free postsecondary education. They will become one-issue voters.
So far at least, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are tone deaf to the student loan crisis. The Department of Education is mishandling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and it nullified a decision by the Obama administration to ban student loan collection agencies from slapping huge penalties on student borrowers who defaulted on their loans. Apparently, DeVos is seeking advice from the for-profit college industry rather than the student debtors who were victimized by that industry.
The student loan crisis grows worse by the month, and the politicians who step forward with solutions will win the vote of the Millennials and a lot of other Americans. If our current President doesn't understand that, he will be a one-termer.
Stacy Cowley. Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says. New York Times, March 30, 2017.
Steve Rhode. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Teeters With Unmitigated Disaster. Personal Finance Syndication Network, PFSyn.com, May 2, 2017.
Editorial, The Wrong Move on Student Loans. New York Times, April 76, 2017.