Monday, June 25, 2012

Young people's love affair with Obama long gone

In the 2008 election, 66% of voters under 30 voted for Barack Obama and the youth turn out in that election was the highest in 16 years. It is hard to determine exactly what will happen this year but one thing is certain----Obama's lustre has faded as many of these young people find themselves out of work with very few job prospects and no money.  In a recent Harvard University poll, the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds who say they will definitely vote for Obama has fallen to 47% from 64% in 2008.

The effect of the capitalist crisis on young people has been savage. Last year, one in six 16 to 24 year olds was idle meaning not in school or the workplace says the Harvard economist Lawrence Katz, for 20 to 24 year old men the corresponding figure is one in five.  Under 25 year olds are about 14% of the workforce yet as of May this year, the net decline in full-time jobs from 2008 was among this age group. This would explain the drunkenness, petty crime, smashing car windows, and empty beer bottles I have noticed in my neighborhood of late. And history teaches us that among youth of color, particularly black youth, the figures will be much, much worse.

Young people I talk to tell me that they have postponed marriage, children, even relationships in general due to their poor financial situation.  For so many young people they too did everything right, borrowed money for school, got a degree, and now find themselves $30,000 in debt with no chance of a job.  The Occupy Movement was full of young people like this and the official figures confirm this. Bloomberg Business Week points out that a recent Pew survey found that 31% of young adults say they postponed marriage or childbirth.  The US birthrate fell more than 11% between 2007 and 2011 and the marriage rate fell 6.8% over approximately the same period.

This severe and prolonged crisis shows no sign of a letting up.  Adding to the crisis among the youth is the crisis at the other end of the age scale.  As the politicians of the two Wall Street parties shift the burden of their crisis on to the backs of workers and the poor, eliminating social services, jobs and extending the retirement age, older workers are forced to stay at work longer to make ends meet. "The number of  70 to 74-year olds in full-time jobs has swelled by almost a third since 2008",  Business Week adds. This means fewer jobs for young people. Not being able to pay off student debt has seen the average student debt rise 11% between 2008 and 2010.

It's hard to say what will happen in this years election.  I was absolutely certain Obama would sail home as the Republican party with its lunatic right wing and vicious assault on workers and particularly women seemed to me like a party imploding.  I didn't and still don't rule out a split in that party at some point.   The problem is that so many of the young people that voted for the first time and volunteered for Obama, ensuring him victory have become very disillusioned with him.

As one young woman fresh out of college, living with her parents and having done stints as an intern in Congress told Business Week, "I didn't anticipate that a year out I would be barely making any money at all."

Welcome to the political dictatorship of the two party monopoly.

Next: What is Obama going to do about it? Orchestrating a win for Obama and the cesspool that is US politics

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