Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream.
Once upon a time, achieving the American dream required a bit of consumerism, like owning a home and an automobile. Today, however, an increasing number of youth, confronted as they are with deep economic uncertainty, have stepped back from chasing the seductive illusion.
In what has become something of an American rite of passage, millions of young people each year leave the family nest and head off for university, which is typically followed by starting a career and family of their own. Yet the decades-old tradition has suffered a setback of late as many graduates are scampering back home once they get a taste of the harsh economic realities beyond the sheltered college campus, like affording their own home or apartment.
Not since the aftermath of the Great Depression has the US witnessed anything like it: 45% of all Americans ages 18 to 29 – about 23 million young men and women – are still living with their parents, according to a survey conducted by Harris Polls on behalf of Bloomberg News.
During the financial crisis of 2008, when US consumers were crushed and banking institutions were bailed out, investment firms like BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Capitol One discovered a deviously simple way of enriching themselves at the expense of the 99 percent. They began a nationwide campaign of purchasing hundreds of thousands of medium-priced residential homes and then renting them back to the American people at a handsome premium. In the majority of cases, home sellers could not resist the aggressive tactics of these omnipotent corporations, which involved outbidding their opponents with cold hard cash. This bulk-buying of real estate, aside from turning America into a renter nation, has had the effect of inflating home prices across the country.
“That’s the big downside,” Daniel Immergluck, a professor of urban studies at Georgia State University, told the New York Times. “During one of the greatest recoveries of land value in the history of the country, from 2010 and 2011 at the bottom of the crisis to now, we’ve seen huge gains in property values… and instead of that accruing to many moderate-income and middle-income homeowners, many of whom were pushed out of the homeownership market during the crisis, that land value has accrued to these big companies and their shareholders.”
Incidentally, whether planned or not, all of this sounds suspiciously in sync with the World Economic Forum’s unofficial motto, ‘You will own nothing and be happy,’ a mantra for modern living dreamed up by Ida Auken, a member of the Danish Parliament, which appeared on the WEF website.