Pinkman’s America

by lizard

Netflix caught me, and their bait was Breaking Bad. I’m nearly through season 2, and goddamn, what a perfect analogy for America.

I was able to ascertain, via an extensive wikipedia search, that Breaking Bad premiered January 20th, 2008, nine months before Lehman collapsed. That’s great timing for a narrative featuring a high school chemistry teacher with a bad cancer diagnosis who, because our health care system is broken, decides to use that justification to cook meth. For the Benjamin’s.

Though I’m just getting into it, there are obvious generational tensions at play. Walt’s millennial sidekick, Jesse Pinkman, certainly takes some warming up to. From the link:

Jesse Bruce Pinkman was born in September 1984 into an upper middle-class family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time the series starts, he has long been estranged from his parents due to his drug abuse and lifestyle. After being forced to leave his parents’ residence, Jesse moved in with his Aunt Jenny, whom he cared for until her death from cancer; afterwards, he was allowed to stay in her home, whose ownership fell to Jesse’s parents.

The reason I’m using wikipedia to describe a fictional character on a tv show is because I think the narrative is important, though I doubt Jesse Pinkman took the time to vote, but if he did, a Moyers & Co piece by Peter Beinart is wondering Will Disillusioned Millennials Bring an End to the Reagan-Clinton Era?

From the link:

The argument between the children of Reagan and the children of Clinton is fierce, but ideologically, it tilts toward the right. Even after the financial crisis, the Clinton Democrats who lead their party don’t want to nationalize the banks, institute a single-payer health-care system, raise the top tax rate back to its pre-Reagan high, stop negotiating free-trade deals, launch a war on poverty, or appoint labor leaders rather than Wall Streeters to top economic posts. They want to regulate capitalism modestly. Their Reaganite Republican adversaries, by contrast, want to deregulate it radically. By pre-Reagan standards, the economic debate is taking place on the conservative side of the field. But — and this is the key point–there’s reason to believe that America’s next political generation will challenge those limits in ways that cause the leaders of both parties fits.

Why? Because this:

In 2001, just as the first Millennials were entering the workforce, the United States fell into recession. By 2007 the unemployment rate had still not returned to its pre-recession level. Then the financial crisis hit. By 2012, data showed how economically bleak the Millennials’ first decade of adulthood had been. Between 1989 and 2000, when younger members of the Reagan-Clinton generation were entering the job market, inflation-adjusted wages for recent college graduates rose almost 11 percent, and wages for recent high school graduates rose 12 percent. Between 2000 and 2012, it was the reverse. Inflation-adjusted wages dropped 13 percent among recent high school graduates and 8 percent among recent graduates of college.

But it was worse than that. If Millennials were victims of a 21st-century downward slide in wages, they were also victims of a longer-term downward slide in benefits. The percentage of recent college graduates with employer-provided health care, for instance, dropped by half between 1989 and 2011.

The Great Recession hurt older Americans, too. But because they were more likely to already have secured some foothold in the job market, they were more cushioned from the blow. By 2009, the net worth of households headed by someone over 65 was 47 times the net worth of households headed by someone under 35, almost five times the margin that existed in 1984.

I don’t think giving Larry Summers the keys to the Fed will do anything positive to address the bleak Millennial landscape. Kudos to Jon Tester for signaling opposition to a Summers appointment.




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