Confessions of an Old Man is about how next generation is being robbed of their future and what can they do about it. The goal of the book is to get Millennials angry enough to actively engage with the American political system and take control of their destiny instead of their future being decided by rich old white men. It is a statement of collective guilt that places the responsibility on my generation, the baby boomers, for dealing a bad card to their children and grandchildren. My generation controls the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidency, so we cannot shirk from the responsibility.
This is a call to action for the MI generation—who has the most to lose if the United States continues with its current domestic and foreign policies. It is also a call to those parents and grandparents who want to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. Millennials and the iGeneration combined are called the MI generation in this book. They are defined as those who were born between 1980 and 2018, and they represent about 150 million Americans, and about 32% of eligible voters. The election of 2020 will be the most consequential election of this generation. By 2020, members of the MI generation will represent the largest and most powerful voting bloc in the United States. Through their votes, they can transform American laws and policies by engaging in the political process and public deliberations.
My generation is leaving members of the MI generation a mountain of national debt to pay down for the rest of their lives, a very expensive higher education system that does not provide a decent return on their money, and an unaffordable and inaccessible health-care system. They are left with a planet that is getting warmer and two unwinnable wars primarily financed by money borrowed from foreign countries. If that is not enough, the Beltway has created a political system of tribal warfare where politicians are too busy dividing Americans and making them afraid of one another just to win their next election.
There is a silver lining, and it lies with the MI Generation. Instead of getting depressed, they can start changing the face of Congress where the mess is being created. Congress has the power to make laws and write checks. It is Congress that passed laws incentivizing large corporations to export American jobs, piling debt on the MI generation, taxing working income at a higher rate than nonworking income, charging higher interest rates on student loans, and prohibiting Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
One opportunity for making a change is in the demographics of the House and Senate by removing career politicians who have been there far too long. At least 57 Congresspersons and 20 Senators have been there for over 20 years. Just replacing them with younger Americans will be enough to shift the balance of power in the Congress. It is time for them to pass the baton to the next generation.
America’s future depends on the MI generation using its energy, idealism, and tenacity to start making changes. They can begin by pursuing a seat at the table instead of being on the menu. The only thing the MI generation needs to do is vote, which is FREE and remove career politicians who have been in Congress for too long and are part of the problem.
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Read an Excerpt
Agents of Change
An ATM for Congress and the White House
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix, Evan Spiegel of Snapchat, Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, and Brian Chesky of Airbnb cofounded their respective companies in their twenties. They all changed the world forever by connecting billions of people across the globe. Gitanjali Rao, an eleven-year-old from Colorado, invented a portable and relatively inexpensive device that can identify lead compounds in water. Rao was named "America's Top Young Scientist" in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. The challenge comes with a $25,000 reward. This is what the MI generation is all about — its members are agents of change being used as an automated teller machine (ATM) by Congress and the White House to fulfill their appetites for federal spending.
There is no precise date that defines millennials or the iGeneration. However, Americans born between 1980 and 1998 are considered millennials, and those born after 1998 are generally known as the iGeneration, iGens, or Generation Z. iGens are also known as post-millennials. They have witnessed the dot-com bubble, the housing and financial crisis, and two wars within their lifetime. Despite all that turmoil, they are more optimistic than older adults.
The millennial generation places a high value on finishing school, followed by economic security, as part of their moving to adulthood and forming a family union. More millennial women in the workforce had a bachelor's degree (46 percent) than men (36 percent) in 2016. On average, almost 40 percent of millennials in the workforce have a bachelor's degree, which is almost 10 percent higher than the baby boomers when they were in the same age range. They are more ethnically diverse than previous generations — 22 percent are Hispanic, and 15 percent are African American. They make up 37 percent of voting-age minorities and 43 percent of working-age minorities. Minorities constitute more than 50 percent of millennial populations in ten states, including California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. These ten states combined represent more than one-third of the US population. They will have a consequential impact on national politics in terms of shaping the American political landscape for the rest of the twenty-first century.
The MI generation, as agents of change, will represent the most powerful voting bloc in elections to come. Over eighty million of them are of voting age, representing about 25 percent of the US population. Elise Stefanik is one of them. She became the youngest woman ever elected to US Congress in 2014, at the age of thirty, and was reelected in 2016.
In recent American history, younger generations have been at the forefront of ending the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights. The Vietnam War, where fifty thousand Americans and millions of Vietnamese lives were lost, would not have ended if it were not for them. In keeping with that tradition, college students' commitment to activism and political engagement is at an all-time high, according to a UCLA study conducted in February 2016. They played a significant role in electing President Barack Obama in 2008. They also proved their power by supporting and making Senator Bernie Sanders a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 against the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton.
The MI generation is diverse and reluctant to identify with either one of the two major political parties. However, it is overwhelmingly in support of a third political party, according to an NBC/GenForward poll conducted in November 2017. Seventy-one percent say the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people. More Americans have consistently identified themselves as independents over the last three decades instead of belonging to either of the two major political parties, Democratic and Republican. Yet they have no representation. In a polarized political climate of Washington, DC, the MI generation, with its voting power, can influence the congressional elections in 2018 and beyond. The MI generation may serve as an impetus toward the birth of a third major political party that is socially and fiscally responsible. Speaking of fiscal responsibility, the MI generation holds enormous economic power.
Taylor Swift, who was worth $200 million at age twenty-five, became an agent of change when she called for the fair treatment of artists by refusing to provide free access of her album to Apple. She challenged Apple's policy of not paying royalties to artists for any streaming of their songs during subscribers' three-month free trial. She withheld her album, 1989, from Apple's streaming service and said on Tumblr, "We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation." By that night, Apple changed its policy and began paying royalties to artists during the three-month free trials.
The MI generation and the generation after them will gain greater economic power as they move into the workforce, build families, and purchase homes and new cars. Members of the MI generation, being about 150 million strong as of 2016, are the largest consumers of goods and services. They are estimated to have over $600 billion in annual purchasing power that is projected to reach over $1.4 trillion by 2020 — enough to influence corporate decisions.
Bank of America, in 2011, instituted a five-dollar monthly fee to consumers who used a debit card for purchases. To protest that charge, a grassroots effort led by a twenty-two-year-old woman from Washington called for a "Bank Transfer Day." She collected more than three hundred thousand signatures opposing the fee, using the Change.org platform, and on that day, customers of big banks moved their bank accounts to community banks and credit unions. Upon consumer uproar and increased competition, Bank of America retreated and canceled the debit card fee.
The MI generation represents more than a quarter of the US workforce, which is expected to reach 50 percent by 2020. They are conscious of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in both their consumption and employment decisions. They are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products and verified packaging and choose companies with higher CSR reputations. In order to provide transparency in accordance with millennials' preferences, 81 percent of Fortune 500 companies published sustainability reports in 2015. In response to a growing demand (primarily made by millennials) for cruelty-free meat, Perdue Farms changed its farming process by reducing the use of antibiotics, providing more natural lighting, and altering the way animals are slaughtered. Perdue is one of America's largest poultry companies. Whereas some millennials are using their economic power to modify corporate behavior, others are using their money to empower Americans with philanthropy.
The millennials are transforming philanthropy, from sending checks (as done by their parents) to texting donations via their phones or social media platforms. Millennials, like the generations before them, are interested in helping others and making a difference. They prefer to give for specific causes and tend to buy products associated with a cause.
Lauren Bush, the granddaughter of former president George H. W. Bush, is one of those millennials and founded FEED in 2007. She built a movement that connects its customers to the cause one bag at a time, where every purchase provides meals to children. Each one of the company's bags and accessories designates the number of meals or nutrient packets that will be donated against that purchase. In partnership with retailer Target in 2013, FEED provided meals to more than ten million American children and families by selling limited-edition FEED USA collection products.
The Ice Bucket Challenge that started in the summer of 2014 raised $220 million for the ALS Association and became the world's largest global social media phenomenon. This virtual chain letter was started by millennials Pete Frates and Corey Griffin. It spread like wildfire and ended up going all the way to the White House, with many celebrities and public figures participating. People hoisted buckets filled with ice water and poured them over their heads, then nominated a few friends to do the same. All of this was done to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and gain donations. This phenomenon of raising large sums of money quickly and creating awareness of a disease at the same time was possible only because of social media.
Old rules of influencing public policy have given way to such movements as #NeverAgain, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #TakeAKnee. These are just a few examples of new ways of setting the political agenda. #MeToo went viral in the wake of sexual assault accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The movement was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2017. The #MeToo movement has galvanized women and has finally given them a platform to speak out about systemic sexism in the workplace and in American culture. Outrage is one of the emotions that attract others with similar experiences, and this movement has taken down politicians, celebrities, journalists, and TV personalities for alleged sexual assault or harassment. Speaking of outrage, social media has also played a key role in the formation of campaigns against violence toward African Americans.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) was cofounded by millennials Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. It started in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the 2013 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African American teen in Florida. The movement started with a simple hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, on Twitter. It mushroomed into today's civil rights movement (according to some) through the power of social media, becoming a strong outlet for change whether one agrees with the movement's tactics and practices or not.
Facebook claims to have two billion monthly users. If those users were a country, it would be the largest one in the world. It has changed how people communicate, share information, define friendship, engage in politics, and view and use media. Facebook can also claim some credit for Barack Obama's presidential win in 2008. Twitter, on the other hand, was the main communication medium for Donald Trump in his rise to the presidency of the United States in 2016.
Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy cofounded Snapchat in their mid-twenties. The video and photo messaging app has more than 250 million monthly users. User images are available for only about ten seconds, and then they're deleted. Introduced in early 2017, Snap Maps provides unvarnished, unfiltered, live experiences of people witnessing a scene. It took on special meaning during Hurricane Harvey in Houston in the summer of 2017. With a quick search on Snap Maps, one could see users posting locations of power outages, watch floodwaters rise or recede, or help locate a loved one. In a world of biased media reporting, Snapchat provides a multidimensional view of world events as told directly by the people who are living through them. Even as millennials are bringing people together through innovations and helping others with their philanthropy, they find that my generation is busy stealing from them.CHAPTER 2
Stealing from the MI Generation
"There's nothing like doing things with other people's money." -President Donald Trump
Every US president since Reagan has added hundreds of billions to the national debt compared to his predecessor. President Trump may top all the previous presidents by having an estimated annual deficit of $1 trillion by 2020 or even sooner. Congress and the White House have been living on the backs of the younger generation since 1980 by continuing to spend more than they collect in taxes. They have no plans to balance the budget, nor do they have any plans to pay back the principal on the debt. Having no intention or plans to pay the national debt is nothing less than stealing from the MI generation.
In May 2016 candidate Trump proudly claimed, "I'm the king of debt. I love debt." As president, he has made it clear that he does not mind if deep tax cuts result in a ballooning of the national debt. He proved that by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump bragged about using other people's money. He said:
It's called OPM. I do that all the time in business. It's called other people's money. There's nothing like doing things with other people's money.
However, in this case, OPM is coming from the MI generation. The reason Congress and the White House don't care and continue to add to the national debt is because it is not their problem. Congress's own self-interest trumps any concerns it may have for high national debt's detrimental impact on future generations. They will be long gone before any of the serious problems from uncontrolled national debt surface.
"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," said former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen back in 2010. He went on to state:
That's why it's so important that the economy move in the right direction, because the strength and the support and the resources that our military uses are directly related to the health of our economy over time.
Seven years later, Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, in her testimony to Congress in November 2017 about the national debt that was estimated to surpass $20 trillion, stated:
The debt is the type of thing that should keep people awake at night ... This should be a very significant concern.
Yet all these warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Congress is exporting millions of American jobs, making it the largest exporter of jobs. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the budget deficit is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2020. The interest payments alone on the national debt are expected to reach $380 billion per year by then. About 35 percent of the US national debt is owned by foreign countries, with China being the largest lender. In plain English, by 2020, about $133 billion of the interest payments will go overseas to pay foreign lenders. If that amount were invested in the United States, it would create over a million jobs — but it will be exported by the US government instead.
Continued dependency on deficit financing of the US budget over the long run will weaken the dollar as a reserve currency. Reserve currency refers to the currency that is held by foreign governments and financial institutions in significant amounts as part of their foreign exchange reserves. It reflects the strength and stability of that currency and the government behind it — that is, in the case of the United States, the dollar backed by the full faith of the US government. A weakened dollar will require the government to pay higher interest rates for its future borrowing and will result in higher loan payments on the national debt. This will result in more money going overseas and will create more jobs outside the United States. Subsequently, higher interest rates on personal, business, and mortgage loans will ensue. Furthermore, losing reserve currency status would reduce foreign companies' incentive to invest in America.
Despite these facts, Congress continues to borrow more money to pay for the federal deficit. It even borrows money to make interest payments on those loans. This is congruent to the 2008 financial crisis, where Americans bought homes they could not afford and borrowed money to make monthly payments on their mortgages. That scenario eventually led to the collapse of the US economy, millions of homes in foreclosure, and jobs lost. As the national debt continues to grow, the interest payments on it will also increase proportionally. The size of the interest payments will grow even higher as the interest rate goes up. A one percent increase in the interest rate will add $200 billion in annual interest payments and continue to take a larger share of the national budget. That will leave less money available to pay for other programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and other safety-net programs. In the end, there may not be any funds available for national emergencies, natural disasters, or research.
Higher interest payments on national debt also result in less (or even no) money available for vital institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The NIH was one of the leading partners in the Human Genome Project. The project sequenced all three billion base pairs in the human genome, which is the complete set of DNA in the human body. It fueled the discovery of more than eighteen hundred disease genes. There are now more than two thousand genetic tests and three hundred and fifty biotechnology-based products in works as a result of the Human Genome Project. For over a century, NIH scientists have paved the way for important discoveries that improve health and save lives. Their studies have led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the understanding of how viruses can cause cancer, insights into cholesterol control, and knowledge of how our brains process visual information, among dozens of other advances. Imagine how many lives would be lost if the NIH did not exist!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Confessions of an Old Man"
Copyright © 2018 Munir Moon.
Excerpted by permission of MGN Press.
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Table of Contents
1. Agents of Change 9
2. Stealing from the MI Generation 17
3. Profiting from Student Debt 25
4. Inequality Everywhere 31
5. Health Care: Anything but Affordable 39
6. An Insecure Secured Nation 51
7. No Planet, No Jobs 61
8. Un-Retirement 69
9. Shattering the American Dream 77
10. Divide and Rule 87
11. Do-Nothing Congress 97
12. Make a Change 107
13. The Road Map 113
Appendix A. Compliance Complaint Process by Congress 121
Appendix B. 115th Congress—Twenty-Plus Years in Congress 122
Appendix C. 115th Congress—Congresspersons Seventy Years or Older 124
Appendix D. 2018 Competitive Races 125
Appendix E. NextGen Pledge Sample for Congresspersons 127
Appendix F. NextGen Pledge Sample for Senators 128
About the Author 147