Millennials and the Decline of Middle Class Stability

Photo by Isabela Drasovean on Unsplash

via :

Americans born between 1981 and 1996, the most educated and most diverse generation in U.S. history, were once considered harbingers of economic progress and promise. But now, even well into their careers, most of them lag behind the financial and familial strides of previous generations.

By the time our parents (baby boomers, typically) were our age, most of them were already raising us. But the majority of millennials aren’t yet married, let alone having children. One reason, of course, is lack of money. They are contending with a student debt crisis and staggering racial wealth inequities. Kneecapped by the Great Recession, the average millennial in 2016 was earning about 20 percent less than baby boomers did at the same stage of life.

That wage gap casts a long shadow over what millennials can save and invest. By 2019, Americans born in the 1980s were 11 percent behind wealth expectations based on previous generations. (And that was good news; the deficit was 34 percent just three years earlier.) Meanwhile, loans rule their lives: The debt-to-income ratio of Americans born in the 1980s is higher than any other birth group, making them especially vulnerable to financial setbacks. Now that most millennials are in their 30s, a point when many of their parents were able to own homes, they’re squeezed between the worst inflation rates of their lifetimes, eye-watering housing prices and the precarious fallout of the pandemic.

I spent the past several months speaking to more than 30 millennials from around the United States about their finances. Their anxieties were palpable, and painfully familiar — many of them felt behind, indebted, unable to live up to the expectations placed upon them. Even those who were doing well were vigilant.

via Ezra Klein:

The numbers are startling. The median home price in 1950 was 2.2 times the average annual income; by 2020, it was six times average annual income. Child care costs grew by about 2,000 percent — yes, you read that right — between 1972 and 2007. Family premiums for employer-based health insurance jumped by 47 percent between 2011 and 2021, and deductibles and out-of-pocket costs shot up by almost 70 percent. The average price for brand-name drugs on Medicare Part D rose by 236 percent between 2009 and 2018. Between 1980 and 2018, the average cost of an undergraduate education rose by 169 percent. I could keep going.

We papered over the affordability crisis with low prices for consumer goods, soaring asset values that kept richer Americans happy, subsidies for some Americans at certain times and mountains of debt: housing debt and student-loan debt and medical debt that kept the working class semi-afloat. But none of this addressed the core problem. For far too long, the prices of the things we need most have been growing far faster than inflation.


A Catholic Argument for Selective Conscientious Objection


via the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage:

Why does humankind continue to be plagued by war?

Catholic pacifists blame the just war tradition, which can be invoked to justify any war, and so must be jettisoned. In his book, Preventing Unjust War: A Catholic Argument for Selective Conscientious Objection, Roger Bergman argues that the problem is not the just war tradition but the unjust war tradition. Ambitious rulers start wars that cannot be justified, and yet warriors continue to fight them. The problem is that warriors are believed not to hold any responsibility for judging the justice of the wars they are ordered to fight. Selective conscientious objection, the right and duty to refuse to fight unjust wars, is the solution. With the example of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at hand, Loyola sociologist of religion Fr. Paddy Gilger, SJ, will engage author Roger Bergman in a lively discussion of what the Catholic intellectual heritage can contribute to this perennial problem.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The Long Shadow of Eugenics in America by Linda Villarosa: “By the 1930s, women became a majority of the victims, sterilized in mental hospitals and prisons and under court orders. This shifting gender pattern resulted from a rising concern about the fitness to parent, with a focus on mothering, as well as the development of a safer, standardized tubal-ligation procedure for sterilizing women. The movement was codified in 1927, when the Supreme Court upheld the right of the state of Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a 20-year-old white woman.”

Pope Francis Encourages “Courageous” Families by Rachel Amiri: “What is important for the Holy Father is how parents and families respond to the cultural threats they perceive. The path to fighting the “culture of indifference and culture of waste” is not to retreat in defensiveness, but to courageously face their own tendencies to anxiety and overprotectiveness.”

Interview: Douglas M. Stringer on the need for Democrats—and Black Catholics—in the pro-life movement by Nate Tinner-Williams: “With Democrats for Life, one of our philosophies is “Pro-life for the Whole Life.” So, you know, while we may be against abortion, we’re also against the death penalty. And we’re also advocates for the elderly, for social programs such as prenatal care, and for ensuring economic conditions that would provide children with the opportunities they need to actually live and thrive.”

If only Americans, or even Catholics, knew about Catholic social doctrine by MSW: “The libertarianism that is so strong in the American political psyche remains what Pope Pius XI said it was, a “poisoned spring,” from which all manner of social ills flow. Catholic social doctrine is the antidote. It is a font that never dries up. Too bad it fails to register in the political attitudes of most Catholics, let alone most Americans.”

The End of Roe is the Beginning of the Fight for a Whole-Life Culture by Kristen Day and Sophie Trist: “Pro-life Democrats must lead the way in pushing for popular, pro-family reforms like paid parental leave, affordable health care and child care, a living wage, a permanently expanded child tax credit, and stronger protections against pregnancy discrimination. America is not currently set up for working families to succeed, and the end of legal abortion in roughly half of the country is a golden opportunity to enact holistic, life-affirming policies.”

Psychosis, Addiction, Chronic Vomiting: As Weed Becomes More Potent, Teens Are Getting Sick by Christina Caron: “Marijuana is not as dangerous as a drug like fentanyl, but it can have potentially harmful effects — especially for young people, whose brains are still developing. In addition to uncontrollable vomiting and addiction, adolescents who frequently use high doses of cannabis may also experience psychosis that could possibly lead to a lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity and poor memory. But despite these dangers, the potency of the products currently on the market is largely unregulated.”

The Strategies Needed to Achieve a Culture of Life by Daniel K. Williams: “The end of Roe presents an opportunity for those who believe in the value of all human life to live up to the historic values of their movement, with the full realization that the future credibility of their movement will depend on it.”

Is the Supreme Court in danger of abandoning its own legitimacy? by MSW: “The power of finality is enormous, and like all enormous power, it should be exercised with great caution. Yet we live during a pandemic of ideological extremism, and the court has caught the virus. The justices risk losing the respect needed to function as a final arbiter. They risk the court’s legitimacy. And they might take respect for the Constitution with them.”

Making an idol of personal freedom makes us less free by Alice Camille: “Pope Francis points to the “culture of the ephemeral” in diagnosing the social ill of too much attachment to personal liberty. In our delirious quest to be free from every obstacle posed by the reality of other people, we treat others as ends to our individual purposes. We become consumers of one another.”

Stop framing abortion as the solution to Black women’s problems by Gloria Purvis: “Have we been similarly conditioned to see abortion as the solution for poor Black women so we don’t see the necessity of removing the concrete obstacles to safe, sanitary and affordable housing? The necessity of providing low-cost health care for mothers and a good education for their children? Are we so conditioned to see abortion as the solution for poor Black women that we are blind regarding their concrete material needs?”



You Are What You Love

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

Millennial editor Robert Christian writes:

Our habits shape a lot of our behavior, and it is hard to break bad habits and establish good ones. In You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith explains why it is so hard to simply think our way to new ways of living.

Smith argues that the end to which we are oriented (and we are all oriented toward some vision of “the good life”) is not primarily something we think about, but what we desire — we are motivated by a vision of flourishing that we crave at a visceral level. This is our vision of what will deliver happiness, of what society should look like, and how the world ought to be. So Descartes was wrong in the end: We are not defined simply by what we think — in many ways, we are what we love.

There are competing visions of the good life. We may think that we wish to seek God and live as kind, virtuous, loving people, but we may very well be worshiping what many Christians call false idols and others call false paths to happiness. Often we follow these hollow desires unconsciously, but we can see them reflected in our daily habits and in our environment.

To be the person we wish to be, therefore, we need to be aware of our unconscious desires and the cultural practices (Smith calls them cultural liturgies) that may be shaping them….

If we wish to break away from the insecurities, materialism, and emptiness of consumerism and our throwaway culture, we therefore must think about our daily rituals and habits so that we can reorient our hearts toward the end we truly value.

This transformation cannot occur in isolation. If we wish to live a life animated by love, to live in communion with God and others, our relationships and communal spaces will play a big role in establishing these habits and reorienting our hearts. They will shape our imaginations and unconscious thinking.

Read the full article here.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Democracy advocates raise alarm after Supreme Court takes election case by Colby Itkowitz and  Isaac Stanley-Becker: “Voting rights advocates expressed alarm Friday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it will consider a conservative legal theory giving state legislatures virtually unchecked power over federal elections, warning that it could erode basic tenets of American democracy. The idea, known as the “independent legislature theory,” represents to some theorists a literal reading of the Constitution. But in its most far-reaching interpretation, it could cut governors and state courts out of the decision-making process on election laws while giving state lawmakers free rein to change rules to favor their own party. The impact could extend to presidential elections in 2024 and beyond, experts say, making it easier for a legislature to disregard the will of its state’s citizens.”

This July Fourth, let’s celebrate our dependence on one another by MSW: “One of the most perceptive of de Tocqueville’s insights was that individualism is linked to materialism, which is why he thought the religiosity of Americans was such a balancing force in society. In our day, it is the nones who are increasing and the pews that are emptying. Social capital has been declining for decades and no one seems capable of finding ways to reverse that trend. We endured a pandemic and, still, the nation found itself divided even over that common and thoroughly nonideological, nonpartisan threat. This July Fourth, perhaps we should mourn the increasing loss of dependence, instead of celebrating our independence.”

Human dignity and holes in the seamless garment by Mike Lewis: “I’m saddened that there seem to be fewer people than I thought who really do embrace the seamless garment in its entirety. Pope Francis does, and for that I’m grateful.”

‘Born a Democrat, Baptized a Catholic’ by John Carr: “Mark Shields, a PBS commentator, Washington columnist, and Catholic layman, died on June 18, 2022, at the age of eighty-five. Mark offered a positive vision of politics, an example of faith in action, and a sense of humor and humility that we will greatly miss. His combination of Catholic values and civic virtues offered a way out of the angry polarization and failing leadership that often demoralize Washington and undermine both public and religious life.”

What Makes a Fetus a Person? by Erika Bachiochi: “Without robust societal support of pregnant women and child-rearing families, too many women will be left to regard their unborn children as trespassers on their already taxed lives rather than unbidden gifts that open new horizons to them. These women need society’s utmost assistance — not abortion, or scorn.”

How America Sold Out Little League Baseball by John W. Miller: “The privatization of American youth sports over the past 40 years is one of those revolutions of late-stage capitalism that should shock us more than it does. We have commodified the play of millions of children into a $19.2 billion business, weakening volunteer-based programs that promise affordable sports for all children. It is a trend mirrored by our schools, hospitals and military. Once-proud public institutions are being privatized, with many unintended consequences.”

Catholics should care about restricting cigarettes by Stephen McNulty: “A society that properly values all human life in turn ought to respect our collective commitment to protecting and preserving life. How can we claim to have a culture of life when entire industries make billions of dollars through a business model that depends on getting people addicted to a deadly carcinogen?”

The Rotten Core of Our Political System by George Packer: “Step back from the page-by-page account of congressional Republicans’ desperate grasping for Donald Trump’s favor or the Biden administration’s struggle to pass its legislative agenda: You’re confronted with a world of almost unrelieved cowardice, cynicism, myopia, narcissism, and ineptitude, where the overriding motive is the pursuit of power for its own sake. It’s rare that a politician thinks about any cause higher than self-interest.”

Democrats must return to being the party of the factory floor, not the faculty lounge by Daniel Lipinski: “Paul Begala, best known for being an adviser to Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, recently made some waves when he told late-night show host Bill Maher, “The Democrats have gone from being the party of the factory floor to being the party of the faculty lounge.” He joked that Democrats have two secret labs, “One in Berkeley and one in Brooklyn, where we come up with ideas to completely piss off the working class.” He added, “It’s working wonderfully.” Sadly, I agree.


Whole Life Responses to the Overturning of Roe

Tish Harrison Warren writes:

The Dobbs Supreme Court decision recognized that there is no inherent right to abortion that flows from a commitment to liberty or autonomy, in part because “abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called ‘fetal life’ and what the law now before us describes as an ‘unborn human being.’”

Here are three ways that I find abortion rights arguments that appeal to bodily autonomy unpersuasive and ultimately harmful to our understanding of freedom and what it means to be human:

    1. Bodily autonomy is limited by our obligation to not harm others. We already recognize in law that there are limits to physical autonomy….Twice, Justice Clarence Thomas brought up a case where a woman was convicted of child neglect for ingesting harmful illegal drugs while pregnant. The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Dobbs addresses this as well, saying that an appeal to autonomy, “at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like.” Our desires to do as we wish with our bodies must be respected but they also must be limited by the needs and rights of others, including those who live inside our own bodies.
    2. The term “autonomy” denies the deep interdependence and limitations of every human body. One definition of autonomy is “independence.” But no human has complete bodily autonomy from birth to death. The natural state of human beings is to be deeply and irrevocably interdependent on one another. The only reason any of us is alive today is that someone cared for us as children in the womb and then as infants and toddlers. Almost all of us, through age or disability or both, will eventually depend on other human beings — other human bodies — to bathe, dress, feed and otherwise care for us….A 1-year-old baby is dependent on adults for nourishment, protection and care in ways that can be profoundly burdensome, yet we cannot claim “bodily autonomy” as a reason to neglect the needs of a 1-year-old….Covid threw into sharp relief ways that our bodies and our bodily health depend on the choices of other people….
    3. The pressing issue when it comes to abortion is whether championing bodily autonomy requires us to override or undo biological realities….Except in the horrible circumstances of rape or incest, which account for 1 percent of abortions, women and men both have bodily agency and choices about whether they will have sex and therefore if they are willing to accept the risk of new life inherent in it.

Our bodies undeniably place a disproportional burden on women in reproduction. There is an inescapable asymmetry in male and female bodies when it comes to making and carrying life. To address the particular difficulty that pregnancy places on women, we need to hold fathers more responsible through child support laws. And we need to create a culture that does not shame women for unintended pregnancies but supports them through pro-women policies like paid parental leave, access to affordable child care, free health care and other measures. Yet, the state, in the end, cannot and ought not entirely rescue us from the known realities of human biology….

This is the heart of the question about abortion: What are our obligations to one another? We have an obligation to unborn children. We have an obligation to seek women’s safety and flourishing. For too long these obligations have been pitted against each other, but they need not be and, to move forward, we must create a world where they never are.

Elaine Godfrey writes:

Nathan Berning is one of many abortion opponents who wants, more than anything, to see a substantial expansion of the social safety net. I talked with a dozen others like him—people who said that advocating for things like universal child care and a higher minimum wage should be the logical next step for the movement. But theirs are minority voices in the broader anti-abortion tent. For decades, most abortion opponents have hitched their wagon to a party that has fought tirelessly against state expansion. That alliance is going to constrain any progress toward improving outcomes for women and families….

“The same energy that inspired many to stand for hours on hot pavements with signs, make numerous calls to their congressmen, march, and selflessly give countless funds must be the same energy implored to now demand early education, food assistance, and childcare relief,” Kori Porter, the CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide—USA, told me in an email, adding that activists should prepare for a rise in need for domestic-abuse centers, foster care, and low-income housing….

Last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged lawmakers to address child poverty by extending the expanded child tax credit. Dioceses in California, Maryland, and Washington State have started programs to offer pregnant women free baby supplies and health services. In anticipation of Roe being overturned, the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame kicked off a new social-science project to research best practices for addressing poverty that its leaders hope will inform public policy. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah recently released a new version of his child-tax-credit legislation that a handful of anti-abortion groups have already signed on to, and this week, Senator Marco Rubio released a slate of proposals to support pregnant women and families. A few red states also extended Medicaid coverage to postpartum women….

Abortion opponents who oppose a social safety net may come around to the idea that more social spending is the best way to reduce abortions. Restricting the supply of abortion doesn’t stop the demand for it, as studies have shown. “I would hope after a few years, [when] they realize that these laws didn’t have as much of an effect as they imagined they would, they would see a need for more,” Daniel K. Williams, a history professor at the University of West Georgia, told me. Roe’s downfall, in other words, will probably not be the moment that sends the movement in a new direction. If that moment comes, it will be further down the line.

Brian Fraga and Katie Collins Scott write:

Also through a prepared statement, the Society of Jesus in the United States said it welcomed the court’s ruling, adding that abortion “is a massive injustice in our society, and today’s ruling is a critical step toward the legal protection of all unborn children.”…

The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life also issued a statement praising the Court’s decision, but notably also called for “developing political choices that promote conditions of existence in favor of life without falling into a priori ideological positions.”

“This also means ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures to protect the family and motherhood, overcoming existing inequalities,” the academy said….

Catholic Charities USA said in a statement it “remains committed to walking in solidarity with all those who come to our doors, whether they are girls or women in crisis pregnancies or families facing challenging social, economic or housing circumstances.”

Democrats for Life, a political advocacy organization that has sought to help elect anti-abortion Democrats to Congress, said they were grateful for the Court’s ruling and hope it will help pro-life Democrats nationally.

Kristen Day, the group’s executive director, told NCR she hoped Democrats “can take a more moderate approach and that both parties can come together and do what they can to support women, particularly low-income and minority women.”…

Gloria Purvis, a longtime Catholic pro-life activist and podcast host for America Media, said: “We have a lot of work ahead of us. This is just the beginning.”

Purvis told NCR she hopes that activists who have pushed for an end to abortion also focus their efforts now on advocating for family-friendly public policies that will support young mothers and women facing crisis pregnancies.

She mentioned paid family leave and stricter enforcement of anti-pregnancy discrimination laws as helpful measures, and suggested that anti-abortion activists can work with those who support abortion rights to lobby for those kind of policies.

Cardinal Blase Cupich writes:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturns the court’s tragic 1973 decision that removed legal protection for unborn children. We welcome this important ruling and the opportunity it creates for a national conversation on protecting human life in the womb and promoting human dignity at all stages of life. This moment should serve as a turning point in our dialogue about the place an unborn child holds in our nation, about our responsibility to listen to women and support them through pregnancies and after the birth of their children, and about the need to refocus our national priorities to support families, particularly those in need.

The Catholic Church brings to such a conversation the conviction that every human life is sacred, that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of reverence and protection. That belief is the reason the Catholic Church is the country’s largest provider of social services, many aimed at eliminating the systemic poverty and health care insecurity that trap families in a cycle of hopelessness and limit authentic choice.

We also come to this dialogue as Americans, knowing that the principle that all human beings are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and that first among these is the right to life.

Anticipating the ruling, Jessica Keating wrote:

Contrary to popular belief, America’s abortion laws are among the most permissive in the world. The United States, as reported in a Washington Post factcheck, is included among the 30% of countries that allow abortion for any reason, and while the vast majority of these countries have gestational limits for elective abortion (usually 12 weeks), the United States is not one of them. Along with China, North Korea, and Canada, the U.S. is 1 of only 7 countries which has no federal ban on gestational limits. The United States Senate repeatedly failed to pass the “Pain Capable Act,” which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks (five months) gestation, more than halfway through pregnancy.

While we know that views on abortion are incredibly complex and vary significantly based on a cross-section of demographic markers, including race, gender, socio-economic status, etc., the majority of Americans do favor restrictions like the those passed in Mississippi. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 70% of Americans either oppose abortion or favor limits on abortion, particularly during the second and third trimesters. The general approbation for abortion plummets after the first trimester. A reported 65% believe abortion should be restricted in the second trimester, and this number goes up to 81% by the third trimester….

In our time politicians, jurists, and journalists need to euphemize abortion because it is a process far too violent for most people to face, because it requires a brutality that is not easily reconciled with the professed aims of a political party or organization. This is what we have to admit to ourselves if we are going to be thoroughly realist about the consequences of abortion and its legality.