Forgetting all the doom and gloom regarding dwindling oil supplies and climate change, this country has an enormous problem on the horizon, and it's mostly affecting my age group and younger.
How many people my age or younger will ever pay off a house? Most of my friends, despite working 50 to 60 hours per week, can't even afford to live by themselves. How will they ever afford a home? Even if they did some how scrape together enough money to pay a mortgage, how will they have families? How will they support children? How will they put those children through college?
Back 50 or 60 years ago, if you had a job, any job just about, you were OK. It didn't matter what you did. If you worked on an assembly line somewhere, chances are you made enough money to buy a home and pay the mortgage. You could put food on the table and pay the bills. You could raise kids. Your wife could work if she wanted, but you could get by without her income. You would have very little debt, and when you retired, chances are you'd be able to live off a company pension plan.
Back then, being employed meant being able to live. You might not be rich. You might not have the fanciest car or the best furniture, but you'd have a home. You wouldn't starve.
Fast forward to today...
I have a friend who is a manager at a restaurant chain. By all accounts, he does a pretty good job, and he's really energetic and enthusiastic about it, probably more than the job deserves. He makes less than $40,000 per year in a part of the country where the average home price is upwards of $250,000. He's tried to move out of his parents' house 3 times now. Each time, he only made it 4 or 5 months before running out of money. The last time, he rented an apartment with a roommate, and even with the roommates' contribution to the rent and bills, he couldn't afford to stay in the apartment.
Therefore, it was back to his parents' house for him. He's 28 years old, a manager, and he can't afford to live on his own. The kicker is that it could be even worse. He doesn't have any college loan debt because he went into the NAVY after high school. A lot of people my age are in the exact same position as him, except they also have over $60,000 in student loans.
When you start crunching the numbers, it doesn't seem possible that these people will ever get out of debt. They'll go to their graves owing money all over the place, or they'll file for bankruptcy, which of course doesn't eliminate the student loan debt.
This is the outlook for my generation though, and it's not pretty. I'm fortunate enough right now to have a job that makes well over $100,000 per year. That sounds like a lot, but even with my salary, and even just by myself, I can't have as comfortable a life as my parents did, and they were raising 2 kids! When I was growing up, we went on vacations just about every year. We had nice things. I pretty much had everything I could ever ask for. I can't afford the things my parents were able to afford for me, and I make more compared to my peers than they ever did.
My girlfriend has a job in a city. She has a 4-year college degree, and she makes just over $30,000 per year working in that city. As I wrote about before, she's trying to find an apartment in or near the city she works, but it's nearly impossible for her. She can't afford anything. She really wants to live without a roommate, but any decent apartment is well out of her price range. She has student loans and a car payment, so the only apartments she can really afford are 400 square foot efficiencies with long outdated appliances.
In order to find a decent apartment that she could afford, she'd have to look 40 or 50 miles outside of the city. How messed up is that? She works in the city, but she gets paid so little that she has to move 50 miles away in order to keep her job.
It's getting increasingly difficult for anyone my age or younger to live on their own. We're encouraged to go to college because "education is the key to our future success," or so we're told. However, most of us come out with huge student loan debt and degrees that get us jobs that pay a starting salary barely above minimum wage. It's no wonder people my age seem to me maturing more slowly, moving out on their own and starting families later than the previous generations. We simply cannot afford it. It takes a $100,000+ annual income to be able to do the things that the average American citizen of previous generations did.
It was a huge talking point during the previous Presidential election, and it drew a lot of ire from everyone on the right and a lot of people on the left. However, Barack Obama was 100% correct when he asserted that he have to redistribute the wealth in this country. It IS a problem! This isn't imaginary. It's not something crazy liberals are making up.
As of 2001, the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans owned 38% of the wealth in the country. The bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation's wealth.
Think about that for a second. Even though we hadn't quite reached 300 million citizens in 2001, we were pretty close, so lets use that as our nice round number. The top 3 million Americans OWNED 38 TIMES MORE WEALTH than the bottom 120 million Americans.
Again... 3 million people owned 38 times more wealth than 120 million people, and most sources say the disparity has only grown larger since 2001.
The top of society has everything, and the average American is working harder and harder to just get by. How is that right? How is that just?
From 1932 to 1981, the lowest tax rate for the top tax bracket was never below 63%. For most of the 1950's, the golden years of The United States, the top tax rate was over 90%. Despite this, the rich still managed to do just fine, but more importantly, the average American was far better off than he is today.
I don't know if taxing the richest Americans more is necessarily the ultimate solution. I don't think it's a bad thing though. The government has to work to help the people. That's it's role. It doesn't serve Wall Street. It doesn't cater to the top 1% of society. It's supposed to represent the masses and the collective good of the people.
All I know is that if the current trend continues, the economy will completely collapse because the other 297 million Americans won't be able to afford to own anything. When the majority of Americans work 50 to 60 hour work weeks and still struggle to make ends meet, it's definitely a sign that something is wrong.