Rich Kids for the Rich

The Can Kicks BackOver on (I don’t know) Matt Yglesias’ corner of ThinkProgress a couple years ago, Ryan McNeely wrote a really good article, Will The Debt Commission Listen to Young Americans Who Didn’t Go to Phillips Academy? It is about the group Concerned Youth of America who seem to now be called The Can Kicks Back. Everyone should care about this group because no one should care about this group.

The group claims to be concerned about all the young people of today who will be saddled with government debt in the future. But this is not what the group is really about. McNeely points out that the group was founded by seniors at Phillips Academy, a $40K per year prep school for the kids of the wealthy. And just like their parents, they are concerned about the debt—and for the same reasons. They are concerned about debt because they associate it with inflation and if there is one thing rentiers hate, it is inflation.

These young people at Phillips are not going to depend upon Social Security. (Although you can bet they will draw it when they qualify.) So the idea of entitlement cuts is a-okay with them. If they are worried about debt that their generation will have to pay, it is because they are worried that this would force the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.

What is perhaps most troubling about these young people at The Can Kicks Back is that they are just useful fools. I doubt very much that they’ve looked seriously at all sides of the issue and come to their current state as deficit hawks. In fact, I’m sure of it, because back in 2010, Executive Director Yoni Gruskin was on CNN bemoaning the lack of jobs for recent Ivy League graduates. The fact is that austerity and good new jobs are inconsistent, at least in the medium term. But that’s not the kind of thing that the Peterson Foundation teaches to its interns.

But as we know: rich kids like Yoni Gruskin are not allowed to fail. And that’s why the whole The Can Kicks Back routine is so vile. It’s just another group of rich people pushing for policies to enrich themselves. The fact that they are young does not make them any more worth while.


Jamelle Bouie says much of what i did:

I find it completely bizarre to fixate on the vagaries of future budgeting when young people have the most to lose from high unemployment and a prolonged recession. Not only does unemployment add to the pressure of paying back student loans—which average about $22,700 per student—but the consequences of post-graduate unemployment extend for a lifetime; according to a Center for American Progress report on youth unemployment “lifetime earnings are diminished with each year of missed work equating to 2 percent to 3 percent less earnings each year thereafter.” What’s more, even if you aren’t unemployed, you’ll face diminished earnings by simple virtue of graduating during a recession. According to Lisa Kahn of the Yale School of Management, a one-point increase in the unemployment rate corresponds with a 6 percent to 7 percent loss in initial wages. And while this effect declines over time, it can remain statistically significant for up to 15 years.

Put another way, if you graduated from college this year or last, you’ll be nearly 40 before your earnings recover from the effect of merely graduating during a recession. And the picture is even worse if you didn’t go to college or dropped out of high school; for high school dropouts ages 15 to 24, the unemployment rate for the year ending in September 2009 was 26.6 percent. For those with a high school diploma, it was 14.7 percent. Simply put, it’s very hard to find work if you only have a high school diploma, and nearly impossible if you don’t have one at all.

You won’t find any of this on Concerned Youth of America’s website, and in his interview, Gruskin all but dismisses the “short term” problem of unemployment. But that’s not very shocking; as Ryan notes, the CYA was founded at the elite Phillips Academy, and its leadership “attends such diverse universities as U-Penn, Yale, Harvard, Duke, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins.” With that kind of privilege, this kind of media exposure, and an issue set tailor-made for the Beltway crowd, these students will likely never hurt for employment. For them, it makes perfect sense to obsess over the deficit; after all, they can afford to studiously ignore the recession, even as it produces a lost generation of under-skilled, under-employed adults.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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