Perhaps the most famous businessman in America revealed his positivity about the United States’ economic future over the weekend. In a letter to his shareholders, Warren Buffett claimed we shouldn’t be listening to the negativity on the presidential campaign trail about how children born today will be worse off than their parents. While Buffett slammed presidential candidates for their pessimism, it’s actually ordinary Americans that are generating these feelings of gloominess.
We must recognize that there are compelling reasons why the political environment is decidedly negative right now, and it has nothing to do with politicians. Politics are ultimately a reflection of voter sentiment, and politicians wouldn’t be peddling negativity if voters weren’t feeling the pinch financially.
Anti-establishment politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are enjoying a renaissance in politics because the last decade has been harsh on the American consumer. We live in the age of brutal economic uncertainty, and we must admit the obvious–it used to be easier to make it in America.
Photo by @NZStuff
In the not-so-distant past, the job market was better, housing was much cheaper, health insurance was a negligible expense, and student loans were much more manageable. For the time being, these disturbing trends don’t seem to be going away, so it’s really hard to picture how our children stand a chance in the brave new economy.
It’s difficult to buy that future generations have a bright future when we have not yet healed from the blunt force of the recession. It’s been a whopping seven years since the Great Recession, but unemployment is still higher in 42 states than it was in 2007. A quarter of Americans have more credit card debt than savings, and an astonishing 1 in 5 kids are growing up in poverty, a number that’s increased since the depths of the recession. Wages have stagnated, while the cost of nearly everything has gone up significantly.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Our immediate economic future also remains largely in question. A wobbly stock market and serious questions about the risk of another global recession means many of us are cautious about making our next move financially. Insecurities about our precarious personal finances are affecting America’s economic outlook and they’re infusing our political climate with the economic blues.
Buffett rightly recognized in his annual shareholder letter that U.S.’s long-term prospects look bright. When you compare us to the rest of the mature economies of the world, our potential for economic growth is promising. A growing population and a flexible, free-market economy brimming with technological advances will pave the way toward prosperity in the future. But our political dysfunction could change that trajectory, and in the meantime, there are many structural challenges in today’s economy that are making life difficult for average Americans.
There are many obstacles standing in the way of a brighter future for our children. That’s the whole theme of the election: we must reverse trends that hinder economic opportunity. If politicians were running around saying everything is stellar in America today, we would never vote for them. The general theme of economic gloominess isn’t any politician’s fault–it’s a reflection of the average citizen’s plight in recent times.
We can’t have our head in the sand. There will have to be serious policy changes for Buffett to be right about our children being “the luckiest crop in history.” Republicans and Democrats alike agree that the middle class is struggling and that changes must be made to ensure future generations will enjoy widespread prosperity. The future is never certain, and negativity is most appropriate for the 2016 presidential election in light of the trends that have made life less bearable for average Americans.
Photo by @Slate
David is the Editor of Bold. He's especially passionate about millennial economic empowerment. A former local news reporter, David is originally from the Little Havana area in Miami, and later became a pioneer resident of the Disney-inspired town of Celebration, Florida. David holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.