Good news everyone: wage increases are slowing, raises are getting smaller, layoffs are beginning to happen, and inflation is all your fault. And you should be grateful about all of this, according to a series of recent headlines from the economic and political press.
“Millennials are to blame for sky-high inflation,” a CNBC tweet recently read. Politico ran an article titled “Pay raises are getting smaller. That could be a good thing for workers.” The premise was quite simple: inflation was being driven by wage growth, inflation is hurting workers, slowing down wage growth will help workers eventually. Politico later changed the headline to “There’s one hopeful sign for the Fed on inflation. Really” after backlash but the core thesis remained the same.
As debates over who or what is to blame for inflation and the looming threat of a recession, commentators have begun to focus on millennials again and the way they should (and shouldn’t act) in the current moment.
In the CNBC article, Smead Capital Management’s chief investment officer, Bill Smead suggested millennials were to blame for inflation for spending years saving money instead of buying homes and cars.
“So we have in the United States a whole lot of people, (aged) 27 to 42, who postponed homebuying, car buying, for about seven years later than most generations,” Smead told CNBC. “But in the past two years they’ve all entered the party together, and this is just the beginning of a 10-to-12-year time period where there’s about 50 percent more people that are wanting these things than there were in the prior group.”
This picture doesn’t exactly square with reality, however. In June, a CNBC survey of wealthy millennials (millionaires) found that nearly half were deterred from buying a car, a car, or taking a vacation because of inflation and interest rate hikes. An earlier survey in February painted a darker picture where nearly half of millennials said their savings had decreased during the pandemic and a third said their savings were less than their credit card debt.
Gains from the pandemic were largely limited to wealthy boomers and corporations, in fact. It is, after all, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans who own 90 percent of stock and saw the pandemic rally transfer more wealth upwards into their pockets. Corporations in highly concentrated industries have been able to hijack prices and curtail wages while shifting blame to consumers and workers squeezed for fatter profit margins.