Meghan McCain has overcome setbacks in her life—her father not being President, her increasing resemblance to the animatronic mask Arnold Schwarzenegger wears in Total Recall—but those setbacks have only made her stronger. Now,
her political acumen and magnetic personality nepotism has earned her a talk/reality show on Pivot, the network for millennials. Somehow, she has named it Raising McCain, a title that encourages even viewers her own age to think of her as someone’s kid. But maybe that’s the point. Besides setting up Paul Begala, Me-Mac has contributed exactly zero ideas to American discourse. From a certain uncharitable perspective, she embodies the confidence of a generation. As Daniel D’Addario complains in Salon, her insistence that she is a pundit “is the hauteur that only a millennial could possibly possess.”
That certain uncharitable perspective is, in D’Addario’s formulation, the predominant media narrative re: McCain’s generation. Also: our generation? It’s unclear exactly who is and is not a millennial. D’Addario calls millennials “the generation after Gen Y,” which, if we assume that Gen-Xers are now in their mid forties, slices the demographic pie pretty thin. Basically, Gen-Xers are people born between 1960 and 1980, Gen Y is between 1970 and 1990, millennials are 1980 to 2000, and the whole scheme will end with Generation Z in 2020, when Time magazine ceases to exist.
Or we could say that the next generation is anyone more than seven years younger than you. It’s especially someone seven years younger than you who is lazy. That is the certain uncharitable perspective on millennials taken in this viral blog post, entitled Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.
By “Generation Y Yuppies,” the author means millennials who have jobs. His essential contention is that this generation is less happy at work than baby boomers and people who lived through the Depression because they regard themselves as special. This “special protagonist” view of their own lives has fostered unrealistic expectations among millennials, such that they cannot bear to do the hard work that previous generations took as given. Quote:
It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.
That is pretty straightforward. When people are unhappy, it’s because they expect something better than reality. It’s so simple that even a child could understand it, or possibly some sort of self-satisfied ignoramus. When you’re trying to figure out why a whole generation of Americans are unhappy at work, why take into account economic factors or sociopolitical changes over the last three decades. It’s much more straightforward to say something like this:
The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.
That may be true. An inordinate number of millennials might want to be DJs or fashion designers. But that’s probably just as well, since The American Dream as the boomers and Gen-Xers lived it is no longer an option.
It’s no secret that the years after World War II were an economic bonanza for the United States. The baby boomers and even those mopey, alienated Gen-Xers enjoyed robust wage growth when they entered the workforce, and median household incomes grew steadily between 1980 and 2000. Between 1989 and 2000, inflation-adjusted wages for recent college graduates grew 11%. Since 2000—the year I graduated from college—they have dropped 8%.
Meanwhile, home prices have skyrocketed, along has the cost of health care and college tuition. The American under age 35 is half as likely to have health insurance and twice as likely to owe education debt than his older counterparts. It’s true that baby boomers were, on the whole, satisfied with the American Dream of working full time at a steady job and using the money to buy a modest home and raise an arrogant family. To say that millennials are unsatisfied with that dream, however, is to ignore the fact that young people who work full time are less likely to be able to buy a home. They’re less likely to be able to afford a dentist.
But that’s a complicated explanation with a lot of numbers in it. It’s pretty straightforward, really, to say that millennials are dissatisfied at work because they think they’re special. So good news, you guys! We are special. We’re the first generation in recent American memory to get paid less than our parents. We get charged an especially high rate for medical procedures; our employers are especially not likely to cover our health insurance, and we enjoy the special position of not being able to buy a house no matter how satisfied we are with our full-time jobs. But really we’re just special complainers. I mean, look at Meghan McCain.