Removing Class From Generational Politics Is A Mistake

Gen Z was the hardest hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ava DeSantis writes why her generation’s leftist politics are not naive, just class-conscious.

“If you’re not a socialist at twenty, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.” This quote, attributed to the French jurist Anselme Batbie, continues to be repeated by conservatives as a criticism of young leftists. Progressive thought is often described as naivety or rebelliousness, an anti-establishment sentiment that is a result of youthfulness. But we are not naive, just class-conscious.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many states shut down their economies, leaving only essential workers, or people who are able to work remotely, employed. 

30% of British workers under 25 worked in a shut-down sector, compared to 13% of workers over 25. Young people are more likely to sell their labor than purchase others’, they are often employees, not employers. Members of our generation who graduated this year are less likely to be employed three years from now. For graduates, the likelihood of employment is predicted to fall by 13%. For “lower-skilled” graduates, the likelihood falls by 37%. Lower-skilled graduates, according to this account, are graduates of 2-year degree programs or qualifications other than a 4-year college degree.

Progressive thought is often described as naivety or rebelliousness, an anti-establishment sentiment that is a result of youthfulness. But we are not naive, just class-conscious.

Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Pew Center, said “layoffs were concentrated in a certain set of industries, which hit the 16-24 age group hard . . . That initial unemployment was very much concentrated on Gen Z. They got hit badly.”

It is in our interest to seek the economic stability a strong safety net offers and to oppose an economically conservative agenda. A safety net would protect citizens from unemployment, and detach basic needs from employment. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a guaranteed federal jobs program, in combination with Medicare for All. Most politicians, those who criticize youth leftism fail to recognize, realize politics is a competition of interests.

The Conservative Thinking

Conservatives typically argue for a “trickle-down” theory of economics, popularized by President Ronald Reagan. This theory says, essentially: cut taxes on the rich, and on corporations, and they will spend more, hire more people, and this money will end up in the pockets of lower and middle-class people. However, it is clear that in order to have the wealth multimillionaires, billionaires, or soon to be trillionaires have, the idea is not to spend money but to amass as much as possible. That is the goal of much of the ultra-wealthy; to keep and grow their wealth not spend it.

The correlation between youth, low-wage work and leftist Gen Z beliefs might be ignored: there are less outright socialists in Gen X or the Baby Boomer generation.

Under the Trump administration, conservatives continue to push for legislation that fits this model. The 2017 Republican tax bill cuts corporate and individual taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. This is a failing strategy if your goal is truly to help working-class people. President George W. Bush’s administration executed a similar policy, which by all accounts did not result in increased wages or corporate investment. 

The conservative agenda is diametrically opposed to the interests of people who work for wages.

We Don’t Grow Out Of It

The correlation between youth, low-wage work and leftist Gen Z beliefs might be ignored: there are less outright socialists in Gen X or the Baby Boomer generation.

In 2012, the numbers were clear: Obama was favored heavily by voters under $75,000. Voters earning six-figure salaries were much more likely to vote for Romney. 

 61% of 18-24-year-old Americans have a positive association with the word socialism, compared to 39% of the general population. This information is evidence for some that the likelihood of young people to be on the left is not a result of income or class, but of rebelliousness, or inherent anti-establishment fetishism. However, there is a consistency to the association of left-of-center beliefs with income level, which continues beyond youth.

In 2012, the numbers were clear: Obama was favored heavily by voters under $75,000. Voters earning six-figure salaries were much more likely to vote for Romney. 

Not all people who work low-wage jobs are lower-class, but they have the experience of the instability which comes with selling their labor. A destabilizing economic force, like a pandemic, removes your source of income, and with it, your healthcare. We, Generation Z,  are not naive for being leftists, we are class-conscious.

 


 

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