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According to an April 2016 Harvard University poll, support for capitalism is at a historic low. 51 percent of Americans in this age cohort reject it, while 42 percent support it. 33 percent say they support socialism. The Harvard poll echoes a 2012 Pew survey, in which 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had a positive view of capitalism, and 47 percent a negative one. While older generations had a slightly more positive take on capitalism — topping out at 52 percent for the oldest cohort, citizens over 65 — youth had a markedly different take on socialism. 49 percent viewed it positively, compared to just 13 percent of those 65 or older.
When you are twelve, in 2008, the global economy collapses. After years of bluster and bravado from President George W. Bush — who encouraged consumerism as a response to terror — it seems your country was weaker than you thought. In America, the bottom falls out fast. The adults who take care of you struggle to take care of themselves. Perhaps your parent loses a job. Perhaps your family loses its home.
In 2009, politicians claim the recession is over, but your hardship is not. Wages are stagnant or falling. The costs of health care, child care, and tuition continue to rise exponentially. Full-time jobs turn into contract positions while benefits are slashed. Middle-class jobs are replaced with low-paying service work. The expectations of American life your parents had when you were born — that a “long boom” will bring about unparalleled prosperity — crumble away.
Baby boomers tell you there is a way out: a college education has always been the key to a good job. But that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. The college graduates you know are drowning in student debt, working for minimum wage, or toiling in unpaid internships. Prestigious jobs are increasingly clustered in cities where rent has tripled or quadrupled in a decade’s time. You cannot afford to move, and you cannot afford to stay. Outside these cities, newly abandoned malls join long abandoned factories. You inhabit a landscape of ruin. There is nothing left for you.
In 2016, pundits declare your hardship an aberration: unemployment is a low 4.7 percent! At first you think it’s a mistake, until you realize the government counts everyone working part-time or gig jobs or making salaries below the poverty line as “employed.” That is what employment looks like in America. It is not personal fulfillment or a path to a future. It is futility — and it is forever. Survival is the new American Dream.
Is it any wonder over half of 18- to 29-year-olds in America say they do not support capitalism?
Vir: Foreign Policy