Bernie_Sanders_on_a_smartphone_(21580048468)

A young adult captures an image of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a September 2015 campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. (Credit:  Phil Roeder via Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATE: Almost 40 percent of Americans with student loans may default on them by 2023, a new study says. Default rates are much higher among those who have attended a for-profit college.

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We already have class warfare in the U.S. — do we really need generational warfare, too?

Millennials worry that their future is not bright, with continuing trends toward low-wage jobs, high health care costs, and a Social Security system that may not be there when they need it. The cost of going to college is astronomical, and working millennials are finding it difficult to buy a house.

Sometimes, because of student loan debt or just the kind of bad financial decisions that people across all age groups make, their credit scores are so low they can barely qualify to rent an apartment.

The statistics keep pouring in, and they don’t look good.

Writing for Huffington Post’s Highline magazine, Michael Hobbes, explained “Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression.”

He says millennials have taken on 300 percent more debt than their parents, are half as likely as their parents were to own a home when they were their age, and are saddled with a stunning poverty rate of 20 percent. “Based on current trends,” he says, “many of us won’t be able to retire until we’re 75.”

It’s an impressive analysis, especially his conclusion that fundamental changes in the job market — that over the last 40 years, companies have shifted from long-term investment in employees and infrastructure to short-term profit-making and stock run-ups — have taken a heavy toll on millennials.

“The Olds” (the term younger folks use to describe older people who “don’t quite get it,” the Washington Post explains) believe that the millennials’ problems “are all our fault,” he says.

“We got the wrong degree. We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need … We killed cereal and department stores and golf and napkins and lunch. Mention ‘millennial’ to anyone over 40 and the word ‘entitlement’ will come back at you within seconds, our own intergenerational game of Marco Polo.”

A Q&A on Vox was more bitter, running under the headline: “How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America.”

It’s an interview with Bruce Gibney, author of “A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.”

“The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it,” Gibney said. “They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children.”

On his show, Morning Joe,  host Joe Scarborough basically echoed the sentiment in a whack at the recently passed tax cut.

“Millennials, you just had $1.5 trillion stolen from you,” he said. “Past Congresses have stolen $20 trillion from you, and over the next ten years, they’re going to steal another $10 trillion from you. And they’re going to die, and then you’re going to be left holding the bill.”

Gibney blames boomers for electing officials responsible for the tax cut — and the “fantasy about trickle-down economics” used to promote the tax package. “They’re still clinging to this dogma, and indeed the latest tax bill is the latest example of that,” he said.

It should be noted, though, that the Pew Research Center reported in summer that millennials and generation Xers — people age 36 to 51 — represented the majority of voters for the first time in 2016.

According to NPR, 69.6 million millennials and gen Xers cast votes in 2016, compared with 67.9 million baby boomers and older generations. And so apparently enough of the younger folks agreed that trickle-down economics deserved another shot, even after the historic flop of the Bush tax cut a decade-and-a-half ago.

Most people think millennials trend Democrat. But NPR says another 2016 study found that young people born between 1980 and 1994 were more likely to identify with conservatives than boomers and Xers at the same age.

The millennials — and to perhaps to a lesser extent the Xers — have legitimate beefs. The cost of college is a national disgrace, and loading college graduates down with crushing debt as they start their careers is a terrible injustice.

Politicians, and a lot of “The Olds” too, will tell you that young people waste their time with unusable degrees. But that’s not true. We don’t need the university system to churn out an endless stream of graduates with degrees in business, management and marketing.

In a society that desperately lacks perspective, the world needs art history majors more than ever.

But the costs of getting that perspective have reached new levels of absurdity. Forbes calls student loan debt “a $1.3 trillion crisis” and notes that total student debt is now higher than credit card debt and car loans. It’s second only to mortgages.

The magazine says 44.2 million U.S. borrowers are dealing with student loan debt. Everyone’s heard anecdotal accounts of people finishing a bachelor’s degree more than $50,000 in debt, or a law or medical degree with $250,000 worth of debt.

Helping people get this under control should be one of the top five issues in national campaigns. Democrats did bring it up in 2016, but it never gained much traction.

On the other hand, as a boomer myself, it won’t surprise anyone that I think Social Security and Medicare should be saved. And not just for The Olds, but for the younger people coming up the line who have already figured out that defined benefit pension plans won’t be around to see them through their senior years. Ditto for retirement health care programs; hence the argument for Medicare.

These programs — which workers pay into — should be around for everybody, not just the silent generation and the boomers.

So I would propose that like-minded boomers join forces with Xers and millennials to address a whole range of social issues, not just those peculiar to one age group.

Class warfare is dog-bites-man. It’s something that has roiled societies, and governments, since the first civilizations were created 5,000 years ago. It waxes and wanes. It certainly seems to be on the increase these days.

But really — is there any reason why a more just society shouldn’t be a cross-generational effort?

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