To Millennials’ Supporters of Bernie Sanders: Curb your enthusiasm

The Washington Post has a piece about millennials fondness for Bernie Sanders‘s 2016 presidential campaign. The Post writes,

They are the country’s gloom-and-doom generation of millennials — and they have found a gloom-and-doom candidate to love in the 2016 presidential election: Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from Vermont who has attracted a stream of young people to his rallies in numbers unmatched by any candidate from either party.

The campaign is aiming to match President Obama’s historic performance among this group of voters in 2008. Already, in polls from key nominating states, Sanders is outperforming Hillary Rodham Clinton, in some cases by lopsided margins, among young voters.

It is to be expected that young people who graduated post- 2008 financial crisis will be so strongly attached to an anti-Wall Street political candidate. After all, they have come to associate the current economic malaise with corporate “greed”. Also, Sanders’s New Deal-ish proposals, as shown below, is a magnet for debt-ridden college graduates. Quoting a 27-year-old supporter of the Senator, The Post states,“[i]t’ll be 10 to 15 years, and by that time, we’ll be too old to have children. I don’t know how people afford to have children these days. We’re exactly the kind of people who should be looking at a middle-class lifestyle.”

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Curb your enthusiasm 

As a fellow millennial, however, I don’t look at Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign with rose-tinted glasses. His policies have been tried elsewhere, and they failed. To tackle his country’s dismal youth unemployment rate, Francois Hollande, for example, started a youth job initiative to subsidize employers in order to hire and train young people between 18-25. The program has not relieved France’s youth jobless rate, however. When Hollande started this $3.7 billion (3.5 Billion Euro) initiative to provide up to 75% of young workers’ salaries, France’s youth unemployment rate was around 25%. Two years later, things have not changed much, as illustrated below.

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Instead of tackling the root cause of the problem, Bernie Sanders’s proposals will simply paper over it. For instance, youth unemployment rate in Urban America is quite high due to regulations such as minimum wage laws and occupational licensing, which discourage employers from hiring young people on a market rate basis, and keeps many from gainful employment. Therefore, his youth job initiative to subsidize up to a million jobs for disadvantaged youth will fall short, à la française. So, it is imperative for millennials and others to ask critical questions, and not just abide by herd mentality. 

Even though millennials’ attachment to Bernie Sanders baffles me, I empathize with them. Many have graduated college with large debts, face under-employement, unable to rent or own a house like their parents before them, etc..In addition, they have been indoctrinated by society and the media that praise government intervention in the economy. It is difficult not to fall into this trap. Even many free market thinkers also fell for this vision. Thomas Sowell writes,

Indeed, most of the leading contemporary opponents of the prevailing vision were themselves formerly within its orbit. Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper, Edward Banfield, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz— the list goes on and on— once shared many of the assumptions of those with whom they came ultimately to differ so fundamentally. Even in the realm of practical politics, the most prominent and most successful opponent of the prevailing vision, Ronald Reagan, was once so much a part of it that he belonged to the liberal organization Americans for Democratic Action.

Millennials support statist politicians such as Bernie Sanders and others, because they misdiagnose America’s economic problems. For instance, Instead of blaming the 2008 financial crisis on the “federal government’s implicit guarantee of the debt and other obligations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” as noted the Congressional Budget Office in 2010, they instead blame it on greedy free market capitalists and Wall Street financiers. They also mistakenly condemn free market capitalism for high unemployment rate and a host of economic problems. More important, they confuse free market capitalism with crony capitalism. As a result, people like Bernie Sanders and France’s Francois Hollande swoop in to play the firemen, even though their well-intended government policies cause and exacerbate these issues. As long as millennials and others keep misdiagnosing societal and economic illnesses, these symptoms will never dissipate.

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