Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke at the Alex Theater in Glendale as part of his speaking tour promoting his new book, “It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism.”
The crowd of almost 1,400 people filed in to hear much of the same talk Sanders has been saying for decades; Medicare for all, free public college, higher wages and less income inequality.
He’s the Billy Joel and Elton John of politicians; he plays the hits, so to speak.
Everyone who even moderately pays attention to politics knows what Sanders is about, but that’s not necessarily the point. The book’s title strikes a chord, highlighting the growing disdain the younger generation has for our current economic system.
According to Pew Research, in 2022, only 40% of people aged 18 to 29 said they had a positive view of capitalism. In comparison, 60% of 50 to 64-year-olds and 73% of those aged 65 or older felt the same.
On the economic flip side, 44% of 18 to 29-year-olds had a favorable view of socialism, while only 32% of 50 to 64-year-olds said likewise.
“It’s tough living in such bad conditions and having the older generations say, ‘pull up your bootstraps, it’s not that bad,'” said Brooke Doll, an attendee at the event. “It’s like we’re experiencing some of the worst times.”
The younger generation does seem to have just cause to be a tad miffed about the current state of their economic prospects, though. According to Statista, there is not a single state in the U.S. where working 40 hours a week at minimum wage could afford someone a two-bedroom apartment.
Even here in California, you need to be making $39 an hour to afford a two-bedroom, and that’s in a state with one of the highest minimum wages in the country, at $15.50 an hour. Many states follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“We’re the first generation that’s likely to have a lower standard of living than the previous generation,” said Matthew Jordan, another event attendee.
With the even basic need to be housed not within reach for many young people, it’s no wonder why they would begin to question a system that doesn’t seem to be working for them.
When the 75-year-old Vermont senator stepped into the Democratic presidential primary in 2016 with a Democratic Socialist platform, it appealed to a generation of people who had watched the global economy nearly collapse eight years earlier.
According to CNN exit polling from the 2016 Democratic primary, 65% of 18 to 29-year-olds voted for Sanders in Hillary Clinton’s home state of New York.
The thing is, though, Sanders is not president, and he’s 81 years old, which doesn’t make it likely that he is gearing up to challenge the incumbent President Biden in the 2024 presidential election.
Despite losing both presidential bids, Sanders was the catalyst for a new generation to re-evaluate what future they want for the country.
The tenor of the audience that night in Glendale was anger; it seemed like they felt their futures had been leveraged by entities completely out of their control.
Younger people are always criticized for “wanting things for free” or “being lazy and entitled,” but they often just want the same opportunities allotted to previous generations.
The federal minimum wage in 1976 was $2.30. Working 40 hours per week makes the yearly income $4,784 before taxes. The average home price in 1976 was $44,200, and that’s an 11-1 home price-to-income ratio.
The average home price in 2022 was $454,900, so that ratio now stands at 30-1.
Sanders may not be the person that saw the full impact of this change in political ideology among the younger generations, but it can be argued that he was the one who started it.
Sanders ended his speech by taking a few submitted questions from the audience. His final statement was spent answering the question, “how do you maintain a sense of hope looking towards the future?”
“You look out on this beautiful evening, and you see the best of America. Beautiful young people of every background coming together to demand transformational change in this country,” said Sanders. “You asked me how I go on and how I am inspired; that is precisely why.”