We have a unique opportunity this year in Virginia. Voting is now the most accessible it has ever been in the state’s history. For 44 days, from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, any registered voter in Virginia can vote early at a designated polling location. During that same window, and through to Nov. 3, any registered voter can mail-in their ballot, provided the ballot is postmarked by the Nov. 3 deadline. With a newly expanded access to voting, our generation must take advantage and vote in historic numbers.
The urgency of this election is not really lost on anyone — especially for young people. During the current recession, young Americans are twice as likely to have lost their jobs or source of income. Our generation also accounts for 33 percent of COVID-19 cases in Virginia — cutting off access to education, to jobs and to our normal lives. But even before the pandemic, our generation was screwed.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our generation was emerging into adulthood in a country that seems thoroughly intent on scamming us. We were taught extensively about the American dream and how we have unprecedented opportunity to rise through the economic and social ladders of America. But that’s a lie. Your chances of achieving the American Dream are doubled if you moved to Canada. There are various reasons for this — the main one being that America no longer works for people who aren’t rich and old.
Social mobility in America is dead. We are currently less likely to out-earn our parents than any other generation in recent American history. Further, as social mobility declines, economic inequality rises. In 2015, economic inequality was worse than in 1929 and even worse than inequality in France in 1789, when they chopped the heads off of 17,000 rich and upper-middle class people. What’s even worse is that to get the tools needed to succeed in this unequal country, young Americans have to saddle themselves with enormous debt just to receive an education.
But even if a student our age somehow pays off all those debts, they may not be able to afford to live. Firstly, healthcare costs are rising fast — too fast for us to keep up with. That becomes an even greater problem considering young Americans are most likely to be uninsured. In fact, the share of uninsured millennials and Gen Z-ers is on the rise. In other areas, we fare even worse. In the past ten years, the United States has seen the greatest increases in cost-of-living in recent history. In contrast, real wages have barely moved at all and are stagnating for most Americans. Some of this is seen fairly plainly in the housing market. While wages for American workers continue to stagnate, the housing market continues to rise drastically. Home prices in the United States have increased from an average of $161,000 in 2012 to $280,000 today. Furthermore, for a generation burdened by debt and increased costs of living, rising prices in homes will prevent us from owning them anytime soon. For evidence, look no further than millenials.
Around 53 percent of Millennials say they can’t even afford a down payment on a home today, and another 33 percent say that they wouldn’t even be qualified to receive a loan for a mortgage. This has caused the homeownership rate between generations to be drastically different. Fewer millennials are homeowners by the ages of 25-34 than the Silent Generation or Baby Boomers. Because of this, millennials are renting far more frequently than they are buying homes. Further, nearly 35 percent of millennials are “rent burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their salaries towards rent. We are destined for the same reality.
Unfortunately for us, we are being forced to enter a hostile economy — one where our odds of reaching the “American Dream” and earning more than our parents is extremely difficult. Some of us will likely never become homeowners. Many of us will never pay off student debts. Even more of us will likely be uninsured. To ensure we receive the basic necessities for life and to make sure we enter a healthy world, we need to vote — and vote like our lives depend on it.
Jeremy Siegel is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.