From the South Bend Tribune – 12/6/1959
I wonder why wages are declining when employment is supposedly rising? Doug Ross http://directorblue.blogspot.com/ with the answer below:
We have now experienced five years of Obamanomics.
The results have been, in a word, catastrophic.
Here’s an open question for any liberal reading along (and by that I mean you, Carlito, among others): how many more failed experiments in central planning, including the $1 trillion “Stimulus”, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, nationalization of the student loan business, “Cash for Clunkers”, open borders, etc. will you tolerate before you finally declare that this regime’s Marxist agenda will only end in misery?
How many more failures will you accept before you put your children above your religion of Statism?
Please consider Exhibit 4,806 in a series I call “Legacy of Failure – The Results of Barack Obama’s Marxist Agenda“:
President Obama’s policies have devastated all age groups, but the most heartbreaking impact is on the young:
Gallup reports that, “The lack of new hiring over the past several years…seems to have disproportionately reduced younger Americans’ ability to obtain full-time jobs.” … According to Gallup’s “Payroll to Population” measure, fewer Millennials were working full time in June of 2013 than in June of 2012, 2011, or 2010… A recent 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 36 percent of the nation’s Millennials were still living with their parents.
Millions of older Americans have responded to the lack of job opportunities under Obamanomics by becoming “disabled.” Based on disability statistics, you would think that Americans have suddenly gotten sickly, or perhaps that we have been fighting a war:
A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco also attributes the drop in [labor force participation] in part to the “increased use of some social benefit programs, notably disability insurance.” … Fourteen million Americans, including roughly 8.5 million former workers receive disability. In 2011, that included 4.6 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 64. These Americans are not included among the “unemployed.”
Fourteen million Americans on disability–that is more than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho and West Virginia, combined: every man, woman and child in 13 states. The exploding ranks of the “disabled” are due to the absence of jobs in Barack Obama’s economy.
The human cost of this tragedy is incalculable.
The CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says: “All indicators suggest this shift [out of the labor force] is not sustainable.” That’s putting it mildly.
How much suffering do you want, liberals? How much more misery are you willing to impart on the next generation before you finally reject central planning? On a scale of Spain to North Korea, how far are you willing to go?
Hat tip: BadBlue Financial News.
Mike Shedlock with an interesting analysis of the “booming” auto market. It seems you can’t keep a good Boomer down. Young people without jobs and excessive levels of student loan debt can’t afford cars or houses. We also know that the average Boomer has saved virtually nothing for their retirement and many will have to work until they die. But they just can’t resist 0% financing deals for brand new GM cars. So Boomers go further into debt in order to impress the neighbors with their new ride. I guess you can’t expect a leopard to change their spots this late in the game. Destiny is a bitch.
US car makers are cranking out cars three shifts a day. The goal is to run plants around the clock, 365 days a year, even eliminating breaks.
Please consider Open All Night: America’s Car Factories.
Nearly 40% of car factories in North America now operate on work schedules that push production well past 80 hours a week, compared with 11% in 2008, said Ron Harbour, a senior partner with the Oliver Wyman Inc. management consulting firm.
“There has never been a time in the U.S. industry that we’ve had this high a level of capacity utilization,” he said.
But fresh from a near-death experience during the recession, auto makers are reluctant to put money into bricks, mortar and machinery that could become a drag on profits if car sales fall. Volkswagen new $1 billion Chattanooga, Tenn., factory recently cut 500 workers after sales of its new Passat sedan swooned.
Through a series of agreements negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, the Detroit Three now can schedule work at night and on weekends without paying as much in overtime as they would have in the past. Adding a third shift, as many plants have done, also reduces overtime. Overtime pay also starts after 40 hours a week, not after eight hours a day as in the past. On top of those savings, a newly hired Big Three factory worker now earns about $15 an hour versus $28 an hour for veteran workers, under postrecession labor pacts.
Toledo factory managers recently changed break schedules to squeeze out even more production. Instead of shutting down the assembly line eight times a day for routine breaks, they have hired extra workers to fill in during breaks, so the line doesn’t stop running.
GM is running six of its U.S. plants through the night on three-shift schedules. Last year, GM produced 3.24 million vehicles in North America compared with 4.52 million in 2007—when it had five more assembly factories.
Ford has gone a step further, adding a fourth crew of workers at some engine and transmission plants to keep those factories running 152 hours out of the 168 hours in a week.
The techniques have helped expand production by 600,000 vehicles during the past 15 months—the equivalent of about three assembly plants, says James Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North America manufacturing. Ford doesn’t plan to build a new North American assembly plant, he says.
“In an ideal world, we’d like all our plants to run around the clock, 365 days a year,” says Mr. Tetreault. “That would be a financial dream. But we don’t know how to do that yet.”
Who is Buying Cars?
So who is buying new cars? It’s not millennials struggling to find a job, loaded up in student debt and delaying family formation.
The Wall Street Journal reports Who’s Buying ‘Youth’ Cars? Seniors.
In recent years, auto makers have developed a bevy of pint-size models like the Chevy Sonic, Fiat, Ford Fiesta and Kia Soul, and promoted them using social-media, music festival sponsorships, and in some cases, daredevil stunts. To hype the new Chevy Sonic, General Motors Co. filmed the subcompact parachuting out of a plane for an online campaign aimed squarely at 18-to-30-year-olds.
But the largest customers for these cars, about 42% of buyers this year through May, are closer to retirement age, according to registration data compiled by car-shopping website Edmunds.com. The proportion is up from just 29% five years ago.
Meantime, the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds buying new subcompact cars fell to 12% through May, down from 17% in 2008, according to registration data.
Of course, 50 and 60-somethings are some of the biggest buyers of all cars.
“The baby boomer generation is the largest cohort in the marketplace,” Kia’s Mr. Sprague said. “Just by virtue of their numbers being so large, we’ll continue to see them skew the data for a long time.”
Last year, buyers 55 and older accounted for more than 40% of all new car sales, up from 33% in 2008 while buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 represented only 12% of new-car purchases. And that is down from 14% five years ago, according to Edmunds.com.
Auto makers’ big prize is the “Millennial Generation”—that group of consumers in their 20s and 30s whose numbers could rival the postwar baby boom that has dominated the auto market for decades.
Millennial Generation “Big Prize”
As more and more seniors stay employed longer (because they have to), the demand for cars has kept pace. I keep wondering how long that can last. The average age of those working at fast-food restaurants is telling.
There is no pent-up demand that I can see, at least in the age group of those buying.
Auto makers are targeting the big prize, the millennial generation, and curiously even youth cars are not going to the youth. And I do not think they will.
The generation of millennials is nowhere near as big as the boomers, and as a class, the millennials are struggling in low-pay jobs (if they can find work at all), and burdened down in student debt to boot.
And look at the pay differential of the car makers: $15 an hour for new workers versus $28 an hour for veteran workers.
Most importantly, a secular shift in attitudes towards cars and debt have changed. Millennials are not boomers nor do they have boomer attitudes. Carmakers should enjoy the boom while it lasts. The “big prize” is not around the corner.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
The government has failed in luring Millenials into mortgage debt, so they switched tactics and lured them into student loan debt. Same result. Disaster.
Kids of boomers are smarter about housing
Echo boomers still want a home, but only when they’re ready
By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch
CHICAGO (MarketWatch)—Here’s a benefit of the housing bust: It has created a generation of young Americans who are more knowledgeable about homeownership than their baby boomer parents were at their age.
At least that’s what the kids think.
Those between the ages of 18 and 35 still want to own a home, and view homeownership as an indicator of success, according to a survey released Monday by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. But they’ll buy only when they’re sure they’re ready for the responsibility—a sign of maturity from a group that often is stereotyped as being fiscally irresponsible and maintaining a less-than-stellar work ethic.
Moreover, 69% of the 1,001 18- to 35-year-olds surveyed also said the recent housing downturn has made them more knowledgeable about owning a home than their parents were at their age, the results found. And 77% think they’ve gained much of this knowledge because of the large amount of media coverage about the real-estate industry over the past six years.
“They’re not going to end up getting into a situation that they’ve seen… where they can’t keep the house” because they can no longer afford it, said Matt Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, a brokerage of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate based in New York and New Jersey.
Still, this survey suggests they haven’t given up on homeownership—even though other statistics and stories indicate people this age group would rather remain renters, he said.
While favorable home prices and low mortgage rates are tempting, people in this age group also are not going to buy until they’re ready for the responsibility, according to the survey. Sixty-nine percent said they will buy not only when can they afford it, but also when owning won’t disrupt their lifestyles.
It was only after saving up down-payment money, coming up to the end of his M.B.A. studies and getting a new and better job that 31-year-old Brandon Savisky bought his $224,000 home in Houston.
“It was more of my personal circumstances than market-driven,” he said of his purchase.
The survey also found that 75% of people in this age group think that owning a nice home is a key indicator of success, more so than taking extravagant vacations, owning an expensive car or having designer clothes. Forty percent said they’d take on a second job to save for a home and 23% said they’d move in with their parents to make it happen.
Members of “Gen Y are living at home with their parents, but this [survey] suggests they’re being strategic in living at home—not because they’re slacking,” Rand said
This graph tells a story of unsustainability. A system that requires infinite growth cannot grow if the young college graduates make less and less money each year. If they can’t move up the ladder, then there is no one to buy houses from the retiring Boomers. If your wages decline, you can’t buy new cars, buy new houses, or buy more iGadgets. The scary part is that this graph only reflects college graduates who are employed full-time. How about the college graduates without jobs or working part-time as waiters? Add a graph of student loan debt over this same time frame and you realize why the economy has no chance of reviving. Millenials will be the first generation in U.S. history whose standard of living will be lower than the previous generation.
The Graph That Should Accompany Every Article About Millennials and Economics
By Derek Thompson
The Atlantic has been on the Millennial beat for a long time, explaining why 20-somethings aren’t buying cars or houses or cable subscriptions, not getting married, not having children, and sometimes not even moving out of their parents’ basements. The answer, again and again, is the economy.
Unemployment for adults between 20 and 24 is 14%, compared to the national average of 8.1%. But even those with jobs are facing something without modern precedent: Steadily falling annual earnings (graph via Progressive Policy Institute).
Real earnings for young grads with a college degree have now declined for six straight years. “Real average earnings for young grads have fallen by over 15% since 2000, or by about $10,000 in constant 2011 dollars,” PPI reports.
Meanwhile, the earnings gap between college graduates and non-college graduates is holding steady, a reflection of falling real wages at the low end.
Does the entitlement/welfare/ warfare state benefit the Boomers or the Millenials? Has the massive consumer and government debt accumulated over the last 30 years benefitted the Boomers or the Millenials? Who will vote in massive numbers to keep the status quo? Who didn’t save enough for their retirement so they are not leaving the workforce, keeping young people out of the workforce? Who gets sent to die in wars started and managed by Boomers? During Fourth Turnings the Prophet Generation is supposed to lead and the Hero generation is supposed to follow and do the heavy lifting. Not too much leadership coming from the Prophet generation, just finger pointing, greed and blaming the youth for their own sins. Yes, Boomers have earned their reputation as the Shallowest Generation.
Older generations to the young: Drop dead
The acronym NEET first gained wide exposure last August, when riots blamed on young people “Not in Employment, Education or Training” broke out in London’s Tottenham district. It’s a useful term, particularly with youth unemployment fueling the angst over the European debt crisis.
The NEET rate among those 15 to 24 years of age is 19 percent in Italy, 18 percent in Greece and 17 percent in Spain and Ireland. In the United States, it’s almost 15 percent, according to figures compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Urban development expert Joel Kotkin has another term for this group of young people: “The Screwed Generation.” Writing at his website NewGeography.com, Mr. Kotkin calls these young people “the victims of expansive welfare states and the massive structural debt charged by their parents.”
Mr. Kotkin has a knack for a blunt phrase. In 2004, when he was at Pepperdine University in California, he was hired by the Greater St. Louis Economic Development Council to study how St. Louis could attract young professionals and entrepreneurs. Mr. Kotkin had some useful recommendations, few of which were remembered after he told a Post-Dispatch editorial board meeting, “Your downtown sucks.”
His view of the dim prospects facing today’s young people is rooted not just in NEET numbers, but in studies that show many college graduates are struggling to find full-time employment at a living wage. One study of 444 recent graduates by the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University showed that only 51 percent of graduates of four-year colleges between 2006 and 2011 had found full-time employment. Twenty percent had gone back to graduate or professional school, but the rest were working part-time or not at all.
Data from the 2010 census show the number of unemployed young people, age 16 to 29, declined 18 percent between 2000 and 2010 to its lowest point since World War II. Nearly 6 million Americans aged 25 to 34 are living with their parents, up 25 percent since 2007. Among families with heads of household younger than 30, the the poverty rate was 37 percent.
Ninety-four percent of them came out of college carrying at least some debt; the median debt load for graduates of public universities was $18,690. It was $24,460 for private university graduates.
It’s not just that companies have been slow to expand, it’s that older workers are staying on the job longer, working at least until full Social Security and Medicaid benefits become available. These are benefits that young people will be taxed for (assuming they get work) but, given long-term budget outlooks, may not be available in 40 years.
And not only are older Americans hogging the jobs and the benefits, they’re voting in large numbers against changing the calculus. Having enjoyed the benefits of post-war prosperity, many older Americans don’t want to pay the debts they’ve incurred, much less preserve benefits, repair the infrastructure or fix global warming.
Screwed is right.
In the 2008 presidential election, record numbers of 18- to 24-year-old voters turned out at the polls. They may not match that 49 percent turnout this year. Their elders vote at rates of up to 70 percent.
It’s easy to understand why America’s NEETs and debt-burdened college graduates would be disenchanted with politics. But they really can’t afford to take the year off.
The middle aged and older generations are fairly pessimistic about the future. Most rational thinking people are pessimistic about the next decade. Some have hope about what can be done after the impending financial collapse. But, many in the Millenial generation are optimistic about the future. Are they crazy? Nope. Young people are naturally optimistic. We’ll need to tap that optimism to get through this Fourth Turning.
Sunny side up for the young and restless
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — He’s 30, between jobs, with $50,000 in student debt and no clear sense what the future holds. But Erik Santamaria, Ohio-born son of Salvadorans, has a pretty awesome attitude about his country, his life and the world of possibilities.
“Maybe things won’t work out the way I want,” he says. “But, boy, I sure can’t complain about how things have worked out so far.”
This is the sweet spot of American optimism, a trait that looms large in the nation’s history and imagination. To find it these days, talk to an immigrant, the child of one or, failing that, a young person of any background. That’s where the torch seems most likely to burn brightly.
With anyone else, it’s hit or miss.
For many, these times are a slog.
That “shining city on a hill” from political mythology looks more like a huffing climb up a field filled with ticks. Public opinion researchers find handwringing at almost every turn, over a glum and nervous decade defined by terrorism, then war, then recession, then paltry economic recovery.
Still, you aren’t seeing pessimism in the season of the political conventions.
The Democrats, convening Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., want to corner the franchise on happier tomorrows, just as the Republicans wanted at their convention this past week. The notion that America’s best days are ahead comes packaged and polished from the stage, cheered by delegates in goofy hats.
But such platitudes probably won’t go far with Marie Holly, 54.
On her lunch break in a mall just north of Columbus, Holly recounts a struggle to get by as a temporary floor designer at a department store, making one-third of the salary she once earned at a graphics-design firm that cut hours and wages before she quit in January to freelance. She firmly believes in the American Dream, but in the sense of dreaming it, not grasping it.
“I’m not seeing anything to strive for, I guess,” she said. “I’m settling.”
Polls sing the blues:
— Nearly two-thirds lack confidence that life for today’s children will be better than it has been for today’s adults, according to an NBC-Wall Street Journal survey in May.
— Half of registered voters do not see the U.S. as the shining city on a hill, meaning the example for other countries, though 45 percent do, according to a Fox News poll in June.
— In April 2011, a USA Today-Gallup poll found that optimism that the next generation’s lives will be better than parents’ dropped to its lowest level since the question was asked in 1983. Only 42 percent thought so. Before then, majorities always believed their children would have a better life.
— In a dramatic drop from the late 1990s and early 2000s, just over one-third were satisfied with the U.S. position in the world in a February Gallup poll, down from at least two-thirds in the months before and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Younger people, though, typically see a rosier future than older generations. As long as that holds, optimism stays woven in the nation’s fabric.
In an August Associated Press-Gfk poll, only about half said it’s likely that today’s youth will have a better standard of living than their parents. But optimism was the greatest among those who have the farthest to climb — those of modest to low income, and the young themselves.
In the poll, 55 percent of those earning under $50,000 said it’s likely the next generation will do better; 58 percent of those under 35 expect to have a better life than their parents.
So it seems to be with Santamaria. He possesses both the idealism of his recently completed college years and the belief, perhaps stirred by his immigrant parents, that this is a land of options.
“Their dream for me would be picking the tallest building out here and making the most money,” he said, sitting on a picnic table outside a downtown Columbus market with friends, and gesturing to the cityscape.
Before getting his English literature degree in June, he worked at the Limited Brands in Columbus, where he was responsible for communicating with managers and customs officers to make sure paperwork for overseas Bath & Body Works stores was properly handled.
“I know people are really struggling out there,” he says. “But I looked for a few months and I ended up at the world headquarters of the Limited Brands, and I didn’t even have my degree yet. I mean, months. And yeah, they were stressful but when I look back, I mean, a few months and I ended up there and I didn’t even want to be there. I mean that’s unreal. That’s unreal opportunity.”
Santamaria left that job and won’t be seeking work at the city’s tallest building, 41 stories housing state employees. He set his sights since growing up in Toledo on “being able to do something you really loved to do,” more than raking in riches.
So he is moving to Pittsburgh to set up a nondenominational Christian church on the University of Pittsburgh campus. He won’t be getting paid but hopes to get a foot in the door at a counselor’s office and someday become an academic adviser and preacher.
Kayla Ruffin, 17, from Sylvania, Ohio, gives voice, too, to the idea that it’s the young and restless who are sunny side up.
“It’s really hard to get me in a bad mood,” she said during orientation for new students at Ohio State University, where she is a freshman. “I’m usually pretty excited to learn new things and meet new people.”
She’s free of the burdens of college debt and likely to stay that way, not typical for many students. “My dad, he has it all figured out,” she said. “He’s been planning my tuition since I was like born. So he’s made it easy for me.”
Ruffin will be studying aeronautical engineering and wants to design spaceships. “I just love everything that NASA does.” And if that doesn’t work, she said she’ll tap into the same design skills to make golf clubs.
The February Gallup poll found that pessimism about life for the next generation deepened with age. Also, that the poor were more optimistic about tomorrow than the rich.
However down Americans get about the country’s direction and what the future might hold, they tend to be more satisfied with their own lives.
Carl Adler, 69, is one of those. A retired Lutheran minister, he said his family learned to live on modest means and, with Social Security benefits and his wife’s pension from years of teaching, “I’m wealthier now than I’ve ever been in my life.”
Still, he said, “I think people my age are finding it difficult to be optimistic.”
Does he believe the American dream is alive? “Oh boy, I don’t know. I think it will be possible for fewer people.”
“I’m not sure what the American dream is, to be honest, anymore. … It seems like the middle class is disappearing.”
This is more than an abstract thought for him. He’s giving part of his retirement income to his son, who is married with two young kids and hasn’t seen a raise in three years at the public college where he works in information technology. His daughter-in-law is in nursing school.
Ohio is a battleground state, so the political opinions of people who are out and about in Columbus no doubt matter more to the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns than voters’ attitudes in the most dependable Democratic and Republican states.
But do people here think actions in Washington affect their lives? The capital seems awfully far away. Optimism, or pessimism, may have roots closer to home.
Adler’s sense of wealth comes not just from retirement money but from family gatherings that carry on a life-long musical tradition: “If all the family is together, we have 28 people playing horns,” he says.
For Santamaria, too, joy isn’t derived from what happens inside the Washington Beltway. He says, “I don’t depend on any president for my happiness.”
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
Neil puts the 2012 election into a generational perspective. If you are looking for Neil to pick a winner, read no further. He’s an academic at heart and never tells you what he thinks will happen. But, he supplies plenty of data for you to make up your mind. Based on his breakdown of voters by generation it seems that the Millenials will decide this election. They are still strongly in Obama’s camp, but their enthusiasm for Obama has waned. If they don’t vote in significant numbers or if Romney can split the young white vote, the election would go to Romney. The old farts are strongly in Romney’s corner. GenX is split down the middle. The yuuts will decide this election.
Pundits have long been predicting that the presidential election will be much closer and much meaner in 2012 than it was in 2008. Closer it now is. According to the RCP Poll Average, the race is now a virtual tie: Incumbent Obama now leads by a mere 1.8 percent over Romney, whereas challenger Obama led McCain by 7.6 percent exactly four years ago. It will certainly revolve around a very different array of issues—much less argument about the war on terror and GOP performance, and a lot more about the stagnating economy and Democratic performance.
In one respect, however, the next election will be a replay of the last: There will be a historically large divide in the preferences of younger voters (under 30) versus older voters (65+). In 2008, this divide (21 percentage points) was wider than in any election since the advent of age-bracketed voting data in the 1960s. The second-biggest divide (16 percentage points) was back in 1972, when nearly half of all young voters voted for McGovern while older voters went overwhelmingly for Nixon.
I’ve been tracking generational leanings in the polls pretty carefully. The Pew Research Center has issued several reports (most notably, The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election) exploring this divide, and Time followed up with its own cover story (“The New Generation Gap”). More recently, Mike and Morley, Forbes, The New York Times, and many others have also weighed in.
Bottom line: Every generation is today a bit more favorable toward Obama than they were in 2010 and a good deal less favorable than in 2008. The partisan gap between the Democrat-leaning young and the Republican-leaning old, however, remains as strong as ever—at around 20 percent.
Back in 2008, the big story was how and why today’s rising Millennial Generation voted by a large and decisive margin for the Democrats. This fall, the media focus may shift. The big story could be how and why today’s angry, aging Silent Generation put the Republicans over the top. The relevant parallel here is 1972, when Nixon was able to split the young Boomer vote with McGovern—and then crush McGovern with all voters over age 30. (Nixon’s popular margin in 1972, 23.2 percent of the electorate, is the fourth largest in U.S. history.) Romney, of course, cannot hope for Nixon’s margin. But the basic logic still stands. Romney doesn’t have to win the youth vote; he just has to contain youth losses enough so that his huge advantage among older voters puts him ahead.
The 2012 election will hinge on the collective choices of five generations of voters, each with a different collective life story shaped by its own location in history. Let’s take a look at how each of these stories is likely to determine the outcome. (Throughout, I will borrow shamelessly from Pew’s wonderful cohort-tracking research and graphics.)
Because this piece turned out to be pretty long, I’m going to break it into two posts. This post will look at the generations themselves. The next will look beyond generations to the election outcome.
At the very elder edge of the electorate is the G.I. GENERATION, born between 1901-24. (Sample leaders: John Kennedy, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr.) With its youngest members now age 87 and older, the G.I.s today comprise just 2 percent of likely voters. Except during the late 1960s and 1970s, this “greatest generation” has always heavily favored the Democrats, having come of age as huge supporters of the “big government” presidency of FDR. Indeed, in every election from 1994 to 2004, the peers of Jimmy Stewart were more likely than younger Americans to vote Democratic. [See the “Roosevelt” chart on this page from the Pew study.] Even in 2008, according to Gallup, Obama ran almost even with McCain among these overwhelmingly white 80+ voters—better than he did with any other age bracket over 40. Apparently, generation trumps age when it comes to racial bias. Prediction for G.I.s in 2012: slight edge (3 percent) to the Democrats.
Now let’s turn to the “young old.” Dominating the ranks of retirees is the SILENT GENERATION (born 1925-42, today age 69 to 86), comprising 13 percent of likely voters. (Sample leaders: Robert & Ted Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, John McCain.) Coming of age during the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies, when Americans generally were voting Republican, the young, conformist Silent leaned more Republican than the rest. While the Silent produced nearly all of the most famous civil-rights leaders and “good government” reformers of the post-war era, they have never favored a strong executive (no Silent has ever been elected President) and have tended to return to their GOP roots as they have grown older. In seven of the last nine elections, they have voted more heavily than other Americans for Republicans. [See the “Truman” and “Eisenhower” charts on this page.]
Since 2008, the Silent’s pro-GOP tendency has widened considerably, along with their unhappiness with the direction of the country. Polls show the Silent are upset not just because they are “angry” at government (they are twice as likely as Millennials to say this), but also because they are “uncomfortable” with positions they associate with younger Obama Democrats on issues such as immigration, marriage, homosexuality, religion, and the Internet. The Silent are the least-immigrant generation (per capita) in American history, and they grew up at a time when the rules of life were clear and simple. Today they are disoriented by the bewildering diversity of today’s younger generations, and they can’t figure out what the new rules are.
Most Silent recognize that are doing well economically compared to younger Americans. But they worry that America is losing its sense of exceptional “greatness” and gaining an addiction to endless public debt—faults they attribute more to Democrats than to Republicans. Many fear the nation is headed back toward the Hard Times they witnessed in their childhood. According to recent Gallup surveys, the Silent favor Romney by 14 percentage points. Prediction for the Silent in 2012: large margin (15 percent) to the Republicans.
Occupying midlife and already surging past age 65 is the BOOM GENERATION (born 1943-60, today age 51 to 68), today comprising 31 percent of likely voters. (Sample leaders: Bill & Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Condoleeza Rice.) Boomers came of age during the social and cultural upheavals that rocked America during the late ‘60s and ‘70s—giving them a fixation on vision and values that defines them even to this day as a generation of individualists and culture warriors (left versus right, “blue” versus “red”). As they grow older, Boomers increasingly call themselves “conservative,” but not necessarily Republican.
First-wave Boomers (today in their 60s) have more years of education than younger Boomers, have done better economically, vote more reliably, gravitate to humanist or mainstream churches, and vote more for Democrats. Last-wave Boomers (today in their 50s) experienced a rapid fall in SAT scores and college attendance, lag far behind first-wavers economically, vote less often, veer toward atheism or “born-again” evangelicalism, and vote more for Republicans. In recent elections, first-wave Boomers have tilted to the Democrats; their younger brothers and sisters have favored the GOP. [See the “Kennedy/Johnson,” “Nixon,” and “Ford/Carter” charts on this page.] In recent months, Gallup shows Boomers favoring Romney by about 5 percentage points. Prediction for the Boomers in 2012: medium edge (5 percent) to the Republicans, with red-leaning last-wavers slightly overpowering blue-leaning first-wavers.
Today’s emerging leaders and the parents of most school-age kids belong to GENERATION X (born 1961-81, today age 30 to 50). Gen Xers now comprise 35 percent of likely voters, a slightly larger share than Boomers. Gen X’s share should be much larger, but their tendency to vote less often than older generations dilutes the impact of their raw numbers. (Sample leaders: Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal.) The left-alone children of the Consciousness Revolution who later came of age during an era that stressed free agency, personal ownership, and survivalism, Gen Xers have mixed feelings about the two parties. Xers like the social and cultural liberalism of Democrats (whatever “works for me” is perfect), but they also like the economic conservatism of the GOP (hey, don’t even think about picking my pocket!).
Like Boomers, they show a strong political trend from oldest to youngest, but it’s in the opposite direction. First-wave Xers, born in the early 1960s, first voted during the early Reagan years and have thereafter leaned heavily to the GOP. (Just over 70 percent of today’s state governors and members of Congress born from 1961 to 1965 are Republican—the biggest partisan tilt of any five-year cohort group.) Late-wave Xers came of age with Clinton and now lean more toward the Democratic Party. [See the “Reagan/Bush” and “Clinton” charts on this page.] According to recent Gallup polls, Generation X favors Obama by 1 percentage point. Prediction for Gen Xers in 2012: dead even, with GOP-leaning first-wavers exactly neutralizing Democratic-leaning last-wavers.
Finally comes the youngest generation of voters, the adult members of the MILLENNIAL GENERATION (born 1982-93, today age 18 to 29), comprising 18 percent of likely voters. (As yet, they have no national political leaders.) Twenty years ago, they were the special and fussed-over “Friends of Barney.” Today, they’re telling older Americans to share their toys and put a smile on their face. For Millennials, the team comes first: They are more likely than older voters to favor strong communities, urge consensus solutions, trust “big government,” and shrug at paranoia over privacy. With their trademark confidence, Millennials embrace many of the social trends (related to race, ethnicity, religion, homosexuality, and the Internet) that older voters find threatening. Millennials are the least likely to believe such trends undermine patriotism or family cohesion. They are the most likely to be optimistic about America’s long-term future.
This outlook puts Millennials decisively in the Democratic camp, with roughly two-thirds of them (66 to 32 percent) voting for Obama over McCain in 2008 and (according to Gallup) a smaller yet still impressive margin of three-fifths of them favoring Obama over Romney today. [See the “Bush/Obama” chart on this page.] The big question is whether the waning enthusiasm Millennials now show in re-electing Obama—combined with the extra fervor Silent and Boomers show in defeating him—will allow the GOP to prevail. Nonwhite Millennials are as overwhelmingly pro-Obama in 2012 as they were in 2008 (roughly a 60 percentage point margin). Yet Democrats should worry about the recent Pew finding that, among white Millennials, the 10 percentage point margin for Obama in 2008 has been fading away and nearly disappearing over the past year. If young whites split anywhere close to 50-50 in 2012 (remember, non-Latino whites still comprise 60 percent of this generation), then it hardly matters what young minorities do: The GOP will possess an almost insuperable advantage. Prediction for Millennials in 2012: very large margin (20 percent) to the Democrats, led by a 4-to-1 advantage among young minorities.
It’s always great to have the young on your side. After all, youth represent the future. In the decades to come, if the Millennials stay their political course, they would confer a huge advantage to the Democratic Party. But in the next election, they are still outnumbered by two larger generations of voters (Gen X and Boom), and they may well be outworked by a more energized generation of seniors (the Silent). The young can sometimes lose elections, and lose them badly. It happened in 1972, when the Boomer youth who voted for McGovern were overwhelmed by all the midlife and senior voters (the G.I. and Lost Generations) who favored Nixon.
Two years later, of course, Nixon resigned. The age gap closed almost entirely by the next election and pretty much stayed closed all the way until 2008. As if to close the circle, many of the Millennials who now favor Obama are children of the same young “peacenik” Democrats who once voted for McGovern. That’s what makes elections so fascinating—their power to surprise and to reveal, both who are today and who we will become tomorrow.
If you do all the arithmetic with the voter shares and margin predictions cited above, you will find that my overall prediction is for a dead-even tie between Obama and Romney. Meaning: The 2012 winner is going to have to put together a generational scorecard that is, in some combination, better than the figures I have revealed.
How likely is it that Obama or Romney will put together that scorecard? I look at that in the next post.
This happens often. After I write about generational drivers or changes in the social mood, readers will contact me and ask: OK, so much for the drivers and the theory, Neil—what do you think will actually happen?
So let me try to pre-empt those readers. In my last post, I talked about how and why different generations lean toward or against the 2012 presidential candidates. In this post, I’ll talk about the connection between generations and some of the more conventional ways pundits currently handicap the election. I won’t exactly say who I think will win, but I will discuss some of the indicators I am following closely.
Futures Markets. Everyone knows that Republicans believe in futures markets (and in weird options and derivatives based thereon, like CDFs) more than anyone else. So here’s the bad news they have to swallow: Futures markets are now predicting Obama to beat Romney by roughly 16 percentage points. (This is not the predicted voter margin in the election; it is the probability margin by which of most investors think Obama will sneak by in at least a razor-thin victory.) That’s 57-40 percent on Intrade or 58-42 on Iowa Futures. Obama has been leading in these markets since last fall. Bless those markets. Because of the “law of one price” (look this one up under “arbitrage”), all of these futures market prices have to match, worldwide. Even brainy liberals (see Infotopia by Cass Sunstein, ) give very high praise to futures markets.
I agree that futures markets have a great track record and need to be taken seriously. Why do they lean more pro-Obama than the weekly polls? Maybe they sense that the sentiment for Romney is merely the way Americans vent their anger (always at the incumbent when talking to pollsters) before settling down and voting for the incumbent after all. Or maybe they sense that the strong preference of the rising generation for a cool and pragmatic Gen Xer as POTUS really does represent where the nation is heading—and that most voters will wake to that fact come November 6. Young Pompey once declared (to aging Sulla) that “more people worship the rising than the setting sun.” Maybe the markets agree.
Then again, markets no less than polls can be greatly mistaken this far away from the election. At the very least, I think that buying a Romney contract on Intrade at $4.00 and waiting to sell it once it hits $4.50 is an extremely safe trade—since sooner or later Romney is bound to have a surge carrying him at least this far. Even John McCain in 2008 surged in early September to 0.47 in the futures markets. It is also possible that the markets could gradually drift to a sizable Romney advantage between now and mid-October, and that after Romney wins everyone will congratulate the markets for being so prescient.
The Economy. According to the Pew Research Center, Romney leads Obama in his handling of one big issue, the economy, no matter how you phrase the question. And the economy—for example, the creation of jobs and the revival of wage growth—is now far more important to voters than any other issue (environment, gay marriage, immigration, foreign policy, what have you) by a very large margin. This is a big advantage for Romney. The unemployment rate is now 8.2 percent; looking at current indicators, it may not decline at all between now and November. No President since FDR has won an election with an unemployment rate over 7.2 percent. (That was the rate in November of 1984, when Reagan won re-election; and unlike Obama, Reagan brought the rate down from the date of his first election.) See The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight column for a detailed update on the link between the economy and election outcomes.
The economy is as good an argument for Romney as the futures markets are for Obama. Still, it has potential weaknesses. Voters have yet to buy into Romney’s economic program—or even to understand it—in any big way. Is Romney going to cut deficits faster than Obama? Who knows? However he runs deficits, Romney says he wants to do it more through tax cuts than spending increases. Is John Q. Public OK with this? Also, keep in mind the “no President since FDR” proviso. If the public comes to equate George W. Bush with Hoover—and Obama with FDR—well then all bets are off. FDR won as an incumbent in 1936 with an unemployment rate of 16.9% and in 1940 with a rate of 14.6%.
I agree that if the economy worsens in the next couple of months, or if we simply learn more about how bad the economy now is (at least one eminent forecasting group thinks we’re already in a recession, it just hasn’t been called yet), the news will certainly give a further boost to Romney. But the link between each generation’s pocketbook and vote is seldom simple or direct. The Silent Generation has done the best economically in recent years and will never bear much of the burden of large deficits, yet the Silent are the most anti-Obama. For the Millennials, it’s the other way around. Liberals often complain that red-zone Americans would switch parties if they only understood their own economic self-interest. Conservatives say the same today about Americans under age 30. The problem is, most people don’t respond to piecemeal economic incentives. They either do, or do not, buy into a whole vision.
Likeability. How much do you like the candidate? How much would you like to have a beer with him? These are the sorts of warm-and-fuzzy questions that many political analysts believe turn the tide in an election. In most of the critical elections I can remember, GOP candidates have had the likeability advantage: Reagan over Carter; Bush Sr. over Dukakis; Bush Jr. over Kerry. But this election, it’s tipping the other way: The Democratic candidate in 2012 is currently much more likeable than the GOP candidate. It hardly matters what you ask—which candidate is more “friendly,” “connecting,” “honest,” “good,” “trying,” or “engaged,”—Obama comes out ahead, typically by double digits. Likeability could be a huge plus in an era of great anxiety when many voters will want to go with their “gut. It certainly worked for FDR.
Speaking of whom, there actually was a time when the least likeable candidate was, routinely, the Republican. And that was the 1930s and 1940s. Herbert Hoover and Alf Landon were less likable than FDR, and Tom Dewey was less likeable than just about anyone, including FDR and Harry Truman. So Democrats, yes, can be likeable. Are we reverting to the last Fourth Turning in party likeability? Or is there a simpler explanation? Perhaps Mitt Romney, whom nearly everyone who knows him would call him very “likeable,” has simply not yet had the chance to get his charm on in prime time. We’ll see.
Intangibles & Wildcards. I give most of the intangibles at this point to Romney. He is the challenger, and it is an old maxim (though some disagree) that challengers do better late in the campaign. A much larger share of his supporters say they are “enthusiastic” about this election—no doubt reflecting the higher relative energy of older voters this time around. He also remains relatively unknown, which means that millions of Americans will be taking a close look at him for the first time in the ten weeks between the GOP convention and the election. Since much of what is known about Romney thus far is negative (thanks to the attacks from his primary opponents and to the Obama campaign’s efforts to “predefine” him), it is likely that his strengths—for example, his intelligence, wit, and dedication to his family and the community—will get plenty of play. Romney may surprise voters during the debates by coming across smarter and warmer than most voters are expecting.
Another possible plus for Romney is the “reverse coattails effect.” Since the GOP are odds-on favorites to retain a majority in the House and gain a majority in the Senate, Romney could be pulled along by state and local candidates. That assumes of course that most voters prefer to vote a straight ticket and have a single-party government. It’s often said that Americans are happy with divided government, but according to one recent study a large (and possibly rising) majority say no, they really do want one party in charge.
Any intangibles for Obama? Confidence, maybe. Though Obama supporters are less enthusiastic, they are more likely to say they want to cast a positive vote for their candidate (as opposed to voting against the other guy) and are a lot more confident than Romney supporters that their candidate will win. Obama must hope that confidence doesn’t morph into complacency and that his supporters are still ready to sprint. Many pundits also say that Obama has an advantage in the electoral college by leading in the bigger states. That could make a difference, but only if the popular vote is extremely close.
As for wildcards—meaning sudden big surprises—these usually break for the incumbent Commander in Chief, unless voters associate them with mistakes made by the incumbent. An attack on Iran (by Israel and/or the United States, though the most likely date now mentioned in the media is October, after the election), would likely break favorably for Obama. Seismic financial news (like a crash triggered by an impending breakup of the Euro) may not break as well, since it may persuade many voters that the world needs better global economic leadership.
Obama and Romney. Let me conclude with a few thoughts on the two candidates themselves—and how they are, or are not, representative of their generation.
As readers of our books and this blog know, I consider Obama (born, 1961) to be a first-cohort member of Generation X (born 1961-81). The Gen-X dates we’ve explained and defended at length elsewhere (too many books to hyperlink!). But what about Obama? Does he fit the basic Xer picture? I’ve always thought so: Son of a new-age mom; child of a broken family; growing up disoriented amid incessant travel, change, and social experimentation; coming of age agoraphobic, feeling (as he puts it) “like an outsider”; and ultimately constructing his own persona (like Gatsby), a quality I see in many successful Xers. What’s more, Obama knows he’s not a Boomer: In his books (Dreams from My Father, The Audacity of Hope), he repeatedly mentions how he feels he came along “after” the Boomers and wants to put an end to much that Boomers have done wrong (culture wars, ideological polarization, and so on). Back in 2008, Obama often referred to this as a contrast between an earlier “Moses” generation and his own “Joshua” generation.
Obviously, opinions differ about who Obama “really” is. I think he is at heart a canny survivor, a masterful tactician, a pragmatist who doesn’t let emotions cloud his judgment. He knows when to play rope-a-dope (always let the GOP make the first budget move, then counter), or when to rouse his base by inveighing against Wall Street tycoons (even while hiring them to staff his Treasury), or when to ignore his own base and make a shrewd cost-benefit call (War on Terror by Predators, anyone?). On the Boomer cusp, Obama is certainly capable of crusading oratory—which adds to his versatility. Many of the most memorable crisis-era leaders in American history have been, like Obama, Nomad-Prophet hybrids: FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Adams. Yet clearly Obama would need a very different and far more effective second term—and another opportunity handed to him by history—to enter these ranks.
As for Mitt Romney (born 1947), no one doubts he is a Boomer. He’s led a committed religious life; he’s always won accolades as a driven achiever; he’s made tons of money as a blue-chip yuppie; he believes in Values and Culture and Principles; and he tends to see America’s future in heavily moralistic terms (for example, in his recent book, No Apology: Believe in America, he juxtaposes his father’s “Greatest Generation” against his own “Worst Generation”—a dark figure of speech that Obama would never use). Will his religion be a problem? There is lots more talk about Mormonism as a Christian heresy among older than among younger Americans, that’s for certain. Many Millennials are impressed by the strong community ethic of Romney’s LDS Church.
One mystery about Romney, though, is the impression he gives to many of his fellow Boomers that he never shared their passionate coming-of-age experience, never broke from Mom and Dad, and never drank from the same deep well of authenticity and inner fire. We used to call this the “Dan Quayle problem.” Boomers have never been drawn to someone who seems to paint by the numbers. In the GOP primaries, when running against Gingrich and Santorum, Romney consistently did worse among Boomers than among other generations.
Yet in the general election, this weakness may rebound to his advantage. In the GOP primary, Mitt Romney consistently did better with young voters than any of the other candidates (with the occasional exception of Ron Paul). Millennials may actually like Romney’s cool and precise 7-point memo responses. (Romney, far more than McCain, will be able to debate Obama this fall on his own Ivy-League level.) Silent voters, similarly, may also prefer the buttoned-down Romney over the totally unplugged Boomer radical.
Yet at some point, for all of his advantages on paper, Romney will have to show some flame, some focus, and some real killer instinct. He will have to get ahead, stay ahead, and systematically thwart his opponent’s comebacks. In a national election, Romney has not yet demonstrated he has that endurance and resolve. Obama has.
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