Friday, July 20, 2007

My wish for future generations

As a parent and grandparent, I'm like most people in that I'd like future generations to have a bigger piece of the American Dream than I did. What I'm seeing isn't too encouraging. Consider this statistic from the EPI:

Employer-provided health coverage declining for college grads in entry-level jobs
A college degree is no guarantee of receiving health insurance on the job. Over the recent recession and recovery, college graduates in entry-level jobs (defined as employed college graduates between 23 and 27 years old) have become increasingly less likely to receive employer-provided health insurance coverage.1 The Chart below illustrates the recent trends in employer-provided health insurance for this group. Their incidence of employment-based insurance has fallen roughly nine percentage points from 1999-2000 to 2004-05, from 69.6% to 60.5%.
Among those lucky enough to have employer-provided insurance, how many pay a hefty monthly premium toward the cost? Jobs for the college-educated used to include health insurance that was totally paid for by the employer. Not anymore.

Maybe the stock market will provide a good life for future generations. After all, the market just surged past 14,000. That's not too realistic according to DetNews columnist Brian O'Connor:

Dow: Big number, big disconnect
As a reflection of the biggest and best public companies in the nation, a healthy Dow means a healthy stock market, and a healthy stock market means a healthy economy.

If by "healthy" you mean "all but completely disconnected from the reality of U.S. citizens." [...]

Sure, many (OK, some) of us participate in the broader economy thanks to mutual funds in our retirement plans, and it's nice to see those go up with the Dow. That way, if we hang on until retirement we'll have money for milk, gas and mortgages.

For right now, though, we're seeing very little of the growth from "the economy" showing up in our personal economies.
Money isn't everything though. It can't buy piece of mind or health, and it can't buy security. Those are all intangibles that make up what I believe to be part of the American Dream. The rest of America appears to see it that way too according to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
"There have been times in our history when the American dream was rooted in opportunity, and there have been times in our history where the dream was rooted in security. This is a time, and has been for a couple for years now, where the dream is rooted in security."

There's not a lot of security in a fast-paced global economy where workers get ahead by chasing opportunities (not obediently following office rules), by constantly reinventing their careers (not relying on seniority), by self-investing their savings (not counting on company pensions).
Face it, the global economy is here to stay, but that doesn't mean the American Dream is no longer relevant. Looking into the future, my dream includes health care for all, social security for our elderly, children who never have to go to bed hungry, and jobs that pay a living wage.

There's no good reason we can't leave future generations some security and peace of mind.


Anonymous said...

I think that the decline of employer provided healthcare, when coupled with the rise of high contribution levels for the remainder, are the biggest factor in the declining "real income" of American workers.

abi said...

Those shouldn't have to be dreams. They're all reasonable goals in the wealthiest country on earth.

Downward pressure on wages by the global economy is part of the problem. But I think a larger problem is that we've somehow come to accept that selfishness is a virtue, thanks in part to demagogues like Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. They don't put it that bluntly, tho. They simply push the fantasy that everyone has the same opportunities, that all you need to succeed is to work hard. It's a fairytale that is sold all too easily.

Larry said...

As long as healthcare continues to spiral, real wages will continue to decline.

The way things are shifting, the only healthcare in America, will be what Americans can scrape up the money to buy.

Employer paid healthcare will soon be a thing of the past.

Praguetwin said...

Money isn't everything though. It can't buy piece of mind or health, and it can't buy security.

That is why I live out here. I like the security of health care, public transportation, and an economy that is based on reality on not on M&A.

I may not be rich, but I've got peace of mind.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, good point, and even for those of us who have employer provided health care, the copays and deductibles continue to erode families budgets.

Abi, thanks, I think it's a reasonable goal for the richest country in the world too. We always seem to find the money to hand out tax cuts to the rich or invade foreign countries, but people here at home are increasingly being left behind. That's a moral failing society needs to address.

Larry, I think employer paid health care will soon be gone too, which means Americans really need to push for universal health care now and have employers divert a percentage towards that.

Praquetwin, peace of mind is priceless in my opinion. It can't be bought by even the richest person in the world.