Eric Levitz at New York Magazine explains why people younger than me love Bernie, and that's because of how screwed they are over college loans and the job market that no longer needs white collar workers.
Thanks to a combination of the Obama era’s slow but steady wage and employment gains – and the Trump presidency’s bonanza of deficit-spending and loose money – America has returned to something resembling full employment. The percentage of Americans who are looking for a job but can’t find one is now near half-century lows. And yet, the “full employment economy” that awaits this year’s graduating class looks quite different than the one that welcomed their Gen-X and Boomer predecessors. In earlier boom-times, the labor market evinced an insatiable demand for white-collar workers. Today’s, by contrast, has more aspiring professionals than it knows what to do with. And the same can be said of the economy that greeted matriculating Corbynites in the U.K.
Put differently: Even as the price of a college diploma has risen nigh-exponentially (thereby forcing the rising generation of college graduates to saddle themselves with onerous debts), the value of such diplomas on the U.S. job market has rapidly depreciated. And there is little reason to believe that this state of affairs will change, no matter how long the present boom is sustained. According to the Labor Department’s estimates, the five fastest-growing occupations in the United States over the next ten years will be solar panel installers, wind turbine technicians, home health aides, personal care aides, and occupational therapy assistants. Not a single one of those jobs requires a four-year college diploma. Only occupational therapy assistants need an associate’s degree.
Throughout my (1990s) childhood and adolescence, leaders in both major parties heralded the arrival of a “knowledge economy,” and attributed rising income inequality to a “skills gap.” Our economic system was still capable of providing a broad middle-class with high-wage, high-quality jobs; it just needed more Americans to accrue the levels of skill and education that the jobs of tomorrow required. There was an endless supply of cushy, professional-class posts awaiting those who answered our economy’s demand for highly educated workers. Economic security would come to those who did their homework.
But this story has proven to be little more than a self-flattering delusion of our (highly educated) political class. Our economy only needs so many lawyers, consultants, and financial analysts (let alone, journalists). Nor, as presently structured, can it sustain an ever-growing caste of well-remunerated coders. We have a lot of elderly people who need help going to the bathroom, and a lot of manual labor that our robots aren’t dexterous enough to perform. Most of the work that our society truly needs to get done every day doesn’t require elite academic or intellectual capacities. And thanks to the collapse of the American labor movement, most that blue and pink-collar work pays terribly. The two occupations poised to add the most jobs to our economy over the next 10 years — home and personal care aides — pay an average salary of about $24,000 a year.
A vulgar Marxist looking at Bloomberg’s chart might predict that the college students and graduates of less prestigious, public universities – who have been most disserved by the “knowledge economy” myth – would be even more inclined towards leftwing politics than their Ivy League peers. And the results of the New Hamshire primary lend creedence to that view: While Pete Buttigieg held his own in the town of Hanover, home to Dartmouth, Sanders cleaned his clock in the precincts surrounding the University of New Hampshire.
To be sure, college graduates still account for a minority of Americans under 35. But whereas this white-collar subsection of previous rising generations was predisposed to view the market economy more favorably than their less educated peers, millennial matriculators largely don’t. In fact, the overeducated, precariously employed college graduate is the modal millennial socialist.
Which makes sense: Tell a subset of your population that they are entitled to economic security if they play by certain rules, provide them with four years of training in critical thinking and access to a world-class library – then deny them the opportunities they were promised, while affixing an anchor of debt around their necks – and you’ve got a recipe for a revolutionary vanguard.
So yes, I see why Millennials love Bernie Sanders.
The problem is Boomers and even Gen Xers are far, far more likely to vote.