The Intergenerational Theft: How We Are Failing Youth

Scott Galloway's powerful TED Talk exposes the alarming intergenerational theft that is robbing younger generations of their future.

The Intergenerational Theft: How We Are Failing Youth
Photo by Damir Samatkulov / Unsplash

In a thought-provoking TED Talk, Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU, sheds light on the alarming trend of declining prosperity and opportunity for younger generations in the United States. Galloway argues that through a series of purposeful decisions and policies, the older generations have orchestrated a massive transfer of wealth and well-being from the young to the old, leaving today's youth facing unprecedented challenges and diminished prospects for success.

The Breakdown of the Social Contract

Galloway points out that for the first time in U.S. history, a 30-year-old is no longer doing as well as their parents were at the same age. This breakdown in the fundamental agreement between society and its citizens has led to a growing sense of rage and shame among the younger generations. The stark contrast in outlook is evident: while over 55% of people over the age of 55 feel good about America, less than one in five people under the age of 34 share the same sentiment.

The Inaccessibility of the American Dream

One of the key factors contributing to the plight of young Americans is the skyrocketing cost of pursuing the American Dream. The median home price has risen dramatically relative to median household income, making homeownership an increasingly elusive goal for many. Galloway cites Vancouver as an example, where 60% of the cost of building a home goes to permits, as incumbents who own assets have weaponized government to prevent new entrants from acquiring their own assets.

The Higher Education Conundrum

Galloway, a professor himself, is critical of the higher education system's role in exacerbating the problem. He argues that universities have embraced an "LVMH strategy," artificially constraining supply to create scarcity and aspiration, allowing them to raise tuition faster than inflation. This has made higher education increasingly expensive and inaccessible, particularly for those from less privileged backgrounds. Galloway calls for a rethinking of the system, advocating for the use of technology and scale to reduce tuition, expand enrollments, and increase vocational certifications and non-traditional four-year degrees.

The Erosion of Labor's Power

Another significant factor in the declining prospects of younger generations is the erosion of labor's power relative to capital. While wages have risen, they have not kept pace with the explosive growth in corporate profits and the stock market. This has created a situation where it has never been easier to become a billionaire, but never harder to become a millionaire. Galloway argues that the role of higher education should be to give the bottom 90% a chance to be in the top 10%, rather than creating a super-class of billionaires.

The Third Rail: Social Security

Galloway tackles the controversial topic of Social Security, arguing that the current system is a massive transfer of wealth from the young to the old, bankrupting the nation in the process. He calls for a reform of Social Security, where the criteria for receiving benefits should be based on need rather than age. Galloway points out that 80% of the audience has no reason to take Social Security and that the money could be better spent on programs that benefit the younger generations.

The Intergenerational Theft and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the intergenerational theft, with the government pumping money into the economy to prevent the stock market from crashing. This has disproportionately benefited the wealthy, who own the majority of stocks, while saddling future generations with an unprecedented level of debt. Galloway argues that this bailout has robbed opportunity from young entrepreneurs and small business owners, who could have benefited from the disruption and recalibration of advantage that a market crash would have brought.

The Mental Health Crisis

In addition to the economic challenges, younger generations are facing a mental health crisis, exacerbated by the rise of social media and technology. Galloway argues that tech giants like Facebook have done more damage to young people's mental well-being while making more money than any person in history. The graphs highlighting the alarming increases in self-harm rates, depression, and deaths of despair among young people are a sobering reminder of the urgent need for action.

Solutions and the Way Forward

Despite the bleak picture painted, Galloway believes that there is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed with what's right with it. He proposes a range of solutions, including:

  • Increasing the minimum wage to $25 an hour
  • Restoring a progressive tax structure with alternative minimum taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals
  • Reforming Social Security to be based on need rather than age
  • Eliminating the capital gains tax deduction
  • Breaking up Big Tech monopolies
  • Age-gating social media, with no one under the age of 16 allowed on these platforms
  • Implementing universal pre-K and expanding the child tax credit
  • Introducing term limits for elected officials
  • Shifting to income-based affirmative action
  • Expanding college enrollment and vocational programs
  • Investing in mental health resources, banning phones in schools, and promoting national service programs

Galloway's TED Talk serves as a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need to address the intergenerational theft that is robbing younger Americans of their future. By implementing the proposed solutions and investing in the well-being and prosperity of the younger generations, America can begin to rectify the imbalance and restore the promise of the American Dream for all.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The social contract between society and its citizens has broken down, leading to declining prosperity and opportunity for younger generations.
  2. The cost of pursuing the American Dream, including homeownership and higher education, has become increasingly inaccessible for many young Americans.
  3. The erosion of labor's power relative to capital has made it harder for young people to achieve financial success.
  4. The current Social Security system is a massive transfer of wealth from the young to the old, bankrupting the nation in the process.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the intergenerational theft, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy while saddling future generations with debt.

P.S. As we reflect on the issues raised by Scott Galloway, it's essential to ask ourselves: What kind of future do we want to create for the younger generations? How can we work together to implement the necessary changes and ensure that the American Dream remains accessible to all?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the blog writer and his affiliations and are for informational purposes only.

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