I keep wondering why I don’t see or hear young people react to the burden newly imposed on them – and forever – by the implementation of Obamacare. It seems to me that, by and large, they don’t know about it. In addition, they tend to harbor an all-around cynicism of such completeness that they deliberately tune out anything negative as if it were completely expected. I except young Christians from this generalization.
To raise this question is to ask why president Obama continues at such a high level of popularity. (Although his ratings are sinking, they are still high by most standards.) The best answer I can give to this question is so simple, it took me an embarrassingly long time to grasp it. It is that the young, and many others who are not young, think that words are deeds.
Recently, I spent a little talk time with two young women I knew not to be on my side on much of anything. They told me that they supported Obama because he is “pro-women.” They assured me that he resisted the Republicans’ many attempts to abolish “contraception.” (NOT abortion.) They couldn’t name any successful Republican venture against contraception. I interpret this to mean that they may have heard of some speech by some extremist somewhere and considered it a done deed. Both were insensitive to my argument that if they mean by “pro-women,” defending contraception, most relevant decisions belonged to states and are therefore not within Mr Obama’s realm of decision-making.
I am not here dumping on the young and feeble. I was having a meal with these young women because one is a sometimes reading buddy of mine. (A “reading budding” is like a drinking buddy without the hangovers.) The other has a quick intelligence that is so obvious it invades the room she is in like a strong perfume. Neither is a dummy and I am always charmed by their company. But they are preoccupied by many other issues, more personal ones. They satisfy themselves that listening to words makes them politically conscious enough and good citizens, I suspect. And, of course, even in the absence of confirmation bias, they would hear ten of Mr Obama’s well-delivered speeches for one speech from any Republican at all. (“Confirmation bias” is the well-studied tendency to pay more attention to items of information that conform with one’s opinions than with those that diverge from it.)
So, when Mr Obama speaks of improving the economy (five years later and some), his young supporters consider it done. Difficulties finding jobs, or good jobs, stagnating wages, irresponsibly mounting college tuition, rising and absurd mountains of college debts, must come from somewhere else. The more frightening prospect is that the bad economy – started elsewhere but continued by the Obama administration – is becoming the normal state of things for young people who have little memory of happier times.
Here is a tangible example of the new normal. Some dispositions of Obamacare law 2,000 pages-plus drive companies to limit employment to thirty hours a week. Now, consider a reasonably well paid young worker taking home $13/hr. (Taking home). With the new limited work-week, this young worker has to manage to live on about $20,000/year. It can be done, easily in some rural areas , with difficulty in most American cities (except Detroit, of course). In my town of Santa Cruz, rent and utilities would easily eat half of this
amount. Of course, depending on where you live, with that kind of income, you might be eligible for food stamps.
I have seen something like this happen in France. We may have a French disease.
I try hard to think back and I suspect I did the same when I was young. I mean that I confused words with deeds. That plus a strong sense of justice may explain why I was a leftist. It took years and a really good education to get into the habit of looking at the facts behind and after the words. That new custom turned me into a conservative libertarian quickly.
This analysis is all bad news. I hope the young of today are smarter than I was, and quicker. They surely know more than I did; they are closer to the facts if they want to be. I hope I am wrong about mistaking words for facts. Please, tell me that I am.
Update 8/4/13 A story about “fourth trimester abortion.” It takes place on the campus of Georges Mason University , one of the few universities in the country that is neither leftist nor born again. I think it would be worse elsewhere.