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The Millennial Moment
By Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley – Thomas
Published June 1, 2017

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas

Attempt delay if you like, it will only hasten the inevitable.

The year 2017 finds the Golden State struggling to manage challenges of modernity, scarcity, innovation, and demographics as these realities cause great unease. While all this occurs, a new generation has arisen: the millennials. The largest generation in American history (topping some 92 million people) is positioned to redefine every facet of life.

Housing, education, marriage, employment, homeownership, consumerism, multiculturalism, art, culture, sport, technology, and retirement are just a small sample of the important topics that are impacted by this unique generation.

The GenForward Survey in coordination with the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago and The Associated Press Center for Public Interest Research found in September 2016 that economics drive the public concerns of this generation. This generation is diverse, more non-White than White, and the vulnerabilities of non-Whites with respect to the economy are very pronounced.

Goldman Sachs, always scrutinizing emerging trends, suggested more than three years ago that the consumption patterns of this massive generation were changing consumer goods and wellness patters. A little over 2/3 of American adults disapproved of cigarette and alcohol consumption in 1998. Some 15 years later, when the children who watched CSPAN coverage on television and archives online came of age, some 83% of adults disapproved.

In California, this has likely contributed to the appetite of the voters in the passage of Proposition 56 which increases the per-pack tax on cigarettes (with the yet to be realized hope of increasing California’s Medicaid funding-which is important to the more than 20% of that program’s recipients who happen to be millennials). While disapproval of alcoholic beverages is now over ¾, the Wine Market Council indicates that the fruit of the vine’s consumer base is now 40% millennial and indulgent with less sensitivity to price than might be expected.

Given that the youngest millennials are nearing the end of high school and the oldest are likely just beginning to settle in their careers, it may seem as no surprise that this large cohort is conspicuously absent in the development of public policy.

As annual budgets, policy programs, retirement structures, Capital outlay, and administrative directives are advanced, there too few voices from the 18 to 37-year-old ranks. Where is the AARP for this group?

And yet economics, driven by demographics and the imminent future, are forcing the concerns and idioms of the millennial generation to the fore.

Earlier this month, as Chairman of the California Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, I supported the advancement of a measure to expand affordable housing. Largely absent from dialogue surrounding Assembly Bill 71 was mention of ownership for expanding opportunities for homeownership.

The seemingly chief example, aside from childbearing and rearing, definition of adulting in a previous era was securing ownership of one’s first private residence. While once a major political imperative, various policies (the reduction of down payment assistance chiefly) have severely declined. Additionally, agressive land use restrictions foster artificially depressed homebuilding, modernization and retrofit activity, causing the cost of housing to explode.

The critical question that ought consume religious institutions, policy makers, educators, public intellectuals, media, advocacy groups, governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector is: What might the future hold based on this decisions that are made today?

Rigorous examination of this question will incentivize a different tact in all fields of endeavor. The great debates will incorporate a vision for the benefits that can be derived by all God’s children. This paradigm shift may allow for the true realization of the beloved community.

It is in this spirit that I dedicate the remainder of the time that I have to serve the people of California to sharpening focus on a millennial agenda. This agenda acknowledges the contributions of the those who have come before us and it sends a ray of hope that we might get it right for elders, ourselves and our children.

I am not unique in this pursuit, my 10 peers in the California Millennial Caucus are temporarily (we are legally limited in how long we may serve our constituents) well-positioned to have a seat at the table. A large, powerful, pivotal, impactful, and paradigm-defining moment is upon us.

 

 

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