Millennials and Public Policy
by Jerome Armstrong, Mon May 05, 2008 at 04:47:53 AM EDT
If you've any questions for Mike or Morley, go ahead and ask them in the comments, and I'll folow up with their answers in the comments, over the whole series, in a post later this week.
This is the third of three parts in review of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics
Part I: About Political Makeovers
Part II: Millennials and the 2008 Election
Part III: Millennials and Public Policy
Millennials and Public PolicyYou've written that Millennials respond more positively to a message emphasizing a multilateral rather than unilateral foreign policy. This seems to be reflected in a subtle way when Obama ends his speeches by saying "let's go change the world" rather than "God bless you" or "God bless America." What brought about this shift?
This shift has occurred for several reasons. First, "civic" generations such as the Millennial Generation, have historically favored multilateral rather than unilateral or nationalistic approaches in foreign policy. This was certainly the case with the GI Generation. Once that generation determined that an interventionist and activist, rather than an isolationist, foreign policy was in America's interest, the GI Generation endorsed World War II and postwar efforts that emphasized alliances such as NATO and international organizations such as the United Nations. Millennials, like their GI Generation grandparents, are not an isolationist or a pacifist generation. While they oppose the Iraq war, they do so because they believe it has diverted the country's attention from and weakened the overall struggle against terrorism and Islamic extremism. They also believe that United States efforts in these arenas should emphasize multinational alliances rather than unilateral military actions.
Another reason that Millennials may be more comfortable with multilateralism and globalism is the diverse ethnicity of the generation. The Millennial Generation is the most diverse in U.S. history. About four in ten Millennials are African-American, Latino, Asian-American, or of mixed ethnicity. About 20-percent have at least one immigrant parent. Millennials seem especially comfortable with the world because, in their demographic composition, they are the world.
Finally, Millennials are constantly in communication with "friends" from around the world through their social networks. They have been raised to believe in the importance of including everyone in the group and finding "win-win" solutions to problems. They will take this attitude into the international arena, based on the friendships they have already established there. As a result, we expect Millennials to look for policies that include everyone in the decision-making process and are likely to produce results that are acceptable to everyone in their expanded group, even if that group extends well beyond the borders of the United States.
In regards to policy, you write that Millennials "are up to their eyeballs in debt" (p. 251) which will no doubt become even more of an issue as they come out of college with that debt. The previous generation had to deal with this to an extent, but nothing like the current generation, which is also going to have to deal with other issues of national debt. How does this play out with the Millennial generation when it comes to the polarized debate over taxes?
We believe Millennials will favor policies that relieve their debt burden even if it means higher taxes. Remember, civic eras reduce economic inequality, often through redistributive taxation policies, but also through other economic programs designed to provide relief from financial obligations, even at the expense of the financial sector. Having set the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2010 in order to avoid the budget scoring rules of the Congress, Republicans have, in effect, made it easy for the Democratically controlled Congress that will be elected in 2008 to simply let those tax cuts, that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans, expire. Even in the event McCain is elected president , he will not be able to force the Democrats to pass extensions of tax breaks for the wealthy while the middle class is being so tightly squeezed. And, of course, should a Democrat become president, there won't even be a debate about the wisdom of doing so.
However, the problems of the debt that George Bush has passed on to future generations by refusing, for the first time in the nation's history, to at least partially finance a war out of current tax receipts, will create an interest among Millennials and politicians of all types in a civic era to take additional measures to relieve this debt burden. Making all income subject to the payroll tax, as Senator Obama has suggested, is one such step that seems likely to be included in the mix of solutions to assuring the future viability of Social Security. Mandating health care for all individuals and providing government subsidies to those who can't afford the premiums, is another way in which Millennials will seek to lower the cost of health care that is preventing many Americans from having enough money for other necessities. And creating not just an optional, as Obama has suggested, but a mandatory program of "national citizen service" in exchange for the federal government paying for the first two years of post-secondary education will also become national policy in the civic era we are now entering.