The racial wealth gap has become a heated issue as part of the ongoing woke crusade, but rather than the economic elite, it is average, workaday White Americans who are the scapegoat. White millennials in particular—ironically given their role as some of the most vocal carriers of the woke torch—will be the primary bearers of this burden The explosion of anti-white identity politics over the past decade coincides with one of the worst economic crisis’ in modern history which has particularly impacted Millennials. Millennials now control just 4.2% of the nation’s wealth, and are 4 times poorer than Boomers were when they were 34. Those now graduating from college face grim job prospects while older millennials are still recovering from the last economic crisis. Rhetoric and policy aimed at depleting White Privilege can only make a bad thing worse for this floundering generations of whites—but it may just supply a moral veneer for their suffering.
Millennials have been hard hit across racial-lines by recent economic downturns, but the media, academia, and powerful corporate interests persist in focusing on the racial dimension of inequality. JP Morgan Chase, for example, proposes spending $30 Billion to solve the racial wealth gap, with a significant portion of that granting home loans to African Americans and Latinos. The bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, who is of the Baby Boomer generation, has taken this cause as an opportunity to virtue signal, professing that “Systemic racism is a tragic part of America’s history,” and that “It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way.” The last foreclosure crisis demonstrated where these policies could well lead: to another economic bubble-burst in the housing sector, spurred by overzealous loan-granting. Meanwhile, Millennials across racial lines are unable to achieve security at the very age that is crucial for starting families and building up assets. 17% of Millennials state they will further delay starting a family due to Covid-19 and the economic aftermath of these policies could very well end up having an impact on the future of family formation.
This election, voters in my native state of California voted upon initiatives that presented opportunities for age and race-based favoritism. California is worth focusing on here as in many cultural and political matter it is a bellwether for where the rest of the country may be heading. The most notable piece of proposed “woke” California legislature was Prop 16 which would have ended a previous ban on affirmative action in higher education, jobs, and government contracts. Prop 16 was mercifully defeated by a diverse and democratic leaning electorate but bankrolled by billionaire donors, most of whom were White Boomers. When looking at the statistics, White undergraduate enrollment in the UC system has declined from 31% in 2010 to just 21% in 2019. Whites are currently estimated at 36.6% of California’s population and prop 16 was expected to reduce both White and Asian enrollment. One must ask: when will whites be underrepresented enough to right the wrongs of history? And why should it be the Millennial generation and below that suffers the most?
Less entrenched in the culture war but notable nonetheless was California ballot measure Prop 19, which passed by a narrow margin. Prop 19 allows Californians over the age of 55 to transfer their lower property tax rates when they relocate, while passing on the tax burden to their heirs. This measure’s main backer is the real estate industry, and it will likely further enrich those who already benefit from California’s Prop 13—a 1978 act which froze property tax rates. Thus, one major effect of Prop 19 will be the passing on of an economic burden to future generations, and the subsequent worsening of the intergenerational wealth gap in the State of California, where the median net worth of Baby Boomer’s is $230,000 compared to Millennials with a net worth of $10,000. California’s Boomers also have homeownership rates close to the national average, but those of ages 25 to 34 have rates approximately 40% below the national average.
Even the conservative Howard Jarvis Tax Payer Association–the architect of the original Prop 13—oppose this measure on the grounds that it does not so much eliminate a tax burden, as push it into the future. This future tax burden will in fact be even more severe. As Howard Jarvis spokeswoman Susan Shelley said to the LA Times : “It’s a billion-dollar tax increase on California families.” Meanwhile, on the supposedly progressive side, The California Democratic Party did in fact endorse Prop 19 as did Governor Newsom.
Perhaps there is no better encapsulation of the “progressive” California Boomer mentality—no huger middle-finger to White Millennial citizens of California– than the significant minority of voters who did in fact follow the California Democratic Party’s recommendation by voting “yes” on both propositions 16 and 19. The California counties that voted yes on both measures are those which constitute the wealthiest sections of the Bay area: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Alameda Counties. These are some of the wealthiest counties in the Country and are known for their extreme nimby restrictions on new housing which make it difficult for Millennials to get a foothold. Ironically, many majority Latino counties in the Central Valley rejected both those measures.
As the election stands it looks like Joe Biden will be our next president and there is strong symbolism behind the image of a frail, old, White man, long privileged and powerful, grandfathering in Kamala Harris, a power hungry woman of color who also happens to be the favorite of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, ushering in a new woke era in American history.
Joe Biden’s initial primary support was largely a coalition of Baby Boomers and African-Americans who helped him defeat Bernie Sanders. To a large extent, it would seem, Biden had the upper hand over Bernie with these groups because Senior Citizens and African Americans already benefit from the kind of specialized government programs that Bernie promised to institute. With a more color-blind economic-focused agenda that promised a social safety net for all, Bernie appealed to many younger Whites struggling with student loan debt, and with a generally uncertain view of their economic future. In 2016 the slur Bernie Bros was used by the Democratic establishment to deride young Bernie supporters as racist, misogynistic, and having middle class entitlement. In 2020, however, Bernie shifted his message towards woke politics and after his defeat put his support behind Joe Biden who fails to provide any positive vision of a better future for America’s youth.
The GOP really isn’t much better. Despite Trump’s reputation as both a bigot and the leader of new populist nationalist movement his re-election agenda and rhetoric were fairly standard GOP, with tax cuts, deregulation, and special race based government packages, e.g. a Platinum Plan for African Americans and an American Dream plan for Latinos. Trump did succeed in winning over more non-White voters this cycle, but his greatest electoral weakness was in the upper Midwest where he especially lost among White voters in those crucial swing state including many of the original Obama to Trump voters he was able to win over in 2016 with a more populist and middle class focused message.
The reality of politics is that groups that organize for their group interest will have greater clout in the political process. This applies to both senior citizens, minority interest groups, and obviously corporate interests but White Millennials were brought up with individualistic or universalist values and view organizing for their own interest as an alien concept, or as pure evil if the “whiteness” is emphasized.
Racial grievance culture is not going away and will likely continue to be pushed starting in early education. A recent report from the UK warned that White working-class children could fall further behind if they’re told to apologize for “White privilege and another study reported that Liberals who were exposed to the idea of White Privilege became less sympathetic to poor Whites. It would seem that a laser-focus on the identity-based elements of inequality breeds a culture of ignoring the concerns of a middle-class White youth facing a hypercompetitive job in which they will be discriminated against due to racial quotas.
We will likely see the continuation of woke austerity combined with a more draconian cancel culture in years ahead. Besides affirmative action, younger workers without long work histories on their resumes will be especially vulnerable to losing their job over having the wrong political opinions.
Woke policies are a way for those in power to virtue signal and it’s much easier for major institutions to chose select and favored groups than to secure the economic future for a middle class. Many well-off liberal boomers feel guilty about their own prosperity being a product of White privilege and systematic racism but rather than making personal sacrifices, it is much easier to just pass on the burden to future generations. In the case of many wealthy Boomers, their wealth is such that their immediate offspring will be able to thrive come what may, and their me-generation individualism precludes concern for their genetic lineage past this short term.
In California there is an unspoken dynamic in which well-off, White, liberal boomers signal their loyalty to the woke cause by putting a BLM sign in their yard and are thus able enjoy the rest of their golden years, self-assured of their moral righteousness, all while the policies and rhetoric they have supported have ensured that their descendant’s quality of life will decline for generations.
The political culture that evolved out of the great prosperity of the latter half of the 20th Century lacks any concept of a birthright for future generations—any concept that future generations are entitled to reap the benefits of the accomplishments and sacrifices of their forbearers. Much the opposite, this political culture insists that future generations must sacrifice for the sins of their ancestors—quite possibly more than they can afford to lose. In a future with increased scarcity and austerity, younger Whites will bare the brunt of these policies. Long term these trends are not sustainable, and we will likely see a continued rise in populism as well as an increase in those engaging in identity politics and identity-based patronage networks. It will become increasingly clear that anyone who wants to thrive must engage in these identity politics and patronage—even whites—and the culture of identity politics will become less idealistic and more focused on group survival. This is hardly the multicultural harmony Boomers once dreamt of, but it may move us all away from the pernicious individualist values that got us into this predicament.