As Democratic candidate after Democratic candidate continues to find things to make “free,” there’s the inevitable question of who will pay for it. Free health care, free college, reparations for African Americans, back taxes for married gay people, canceling student loans — there are few proposals among the Democratic presidential field that don’t involve someone paying up.
While the candidates defer to a generic “the rich” or “the millionaires and billionaires,” it’s actually Generation X, currently around 40- to 54-years-old, who is poised to pick up the tab for all the “free” stuff.
Every proposal to make something “free” will involve plans to raise taxes and is aimed directly at the pockets of that generation. With the boomer generation largely retired, it’s Generation X who will see their taxes spike if plans to cancel all student loans or create Medicare for All see fruition.
In a time of obsessive “fairness,” this seems pretty unfair.
Gen X was hardest hit by the Great Recession. A 2013 report from Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project found that Generation X had too much debt and too few assets before the recession hit to be able to ride it out like their boomer elders.
And a Pew poll last year found that “the median net worth of Gen X households had declined 38 percent from 2007 ($63,400) to 2010 ($39,200), while the typical wealth loss for boomer … households was not as steep (26 percent).”
But they slowly rebuilt, and the same poll showed that Gen X had the fullest recovery from the recession and the lowest current rate of being “underwater” on their mortgages.
Not that things are all rosy for the demographic. A Business Insider and Morning Consult survey from April found that almost half of Generation X has no savings whatsoever and nearly a fifth of them say they have no hope of ever retiring.
They also have more debt than the luckier generation behind them. An assessment last year by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve found that “the real average total debt balance was around $49,000 for Generation X members in 2004 and about $44,000 for millennials in 2017.”
Meanwhile, millennials have about 15 percent lower mortgage debt and far lower credit-card debt than Generation X did at the same point in their lives.
But while members of Generation X always braced themselves for the worst, millennials may feel it can never happen to them.
Yes, they’re poor — because younger people are poorer than older people and this has always been the standard.
But the expectation that they should be living it up remains sky-high. Politicians play directly into that by promising to pick fruit from the never-ending money tree to provide free stuff for all.
And now it’s not just millennials complaining about how hard they have it. A recent survey by Randstad and ApartmentGuide.com highlighted “43 percent of Gen Z workers say they can’t afford to live near their jobs.”
The top age range of Generation Z is currently in their early 20s. A Pew survey looking at the lives of these post-millennials found they “overwhelmingly reside in metropolitan as opposed to rural areas.” Yes, it’s more expensive to live in cities than outside them, and, yes, when you’re just getting started in your career you may have to commute.
But, of course, Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have a plan for that. You pay, Generation X!
Warren has said that her plan “starts by attacking the growing cost of rent in America” and involves “historic federal investments to increase housing supply.”
Generation X should set the example for the youngsters and push back on the politicians eyeing their money to spread around for young votes. The real message from older generations to the younger ones should be: Life is not easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. No one is better to deliver that message than the so-called slacker generation, whose wallets could end up getting hit hard.