Meaning of Socialism Shifts for Young American People

by Julia Robbins ’20

 As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “there is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” For all who benefit, capitalism also has resulted in economic disparities in which a privileged few are extremely wealthy and many more suffer in poverty. According to a report from the Federal Reserve, 36.8 percent of wealth in this country is staying with the richest 1 percent of the population. Currently with close to 40 million U.S. citizens living in poverty and 1 in 6 people facing food insecurity, an economy that promotes greater equality is appealing; for many, that new system is socialism.

 According to a poll in late August from Gallup, 51 percent of millennials (ages 18-29) favor socialism, compared to just 45 percent for capitalism. For previous generations, socialism was associated with concepts such as communism in places like Russia and China. Now, one might think of countries like Sweden and Norway, where people report being happy while having subsidized health care and college tuition. Through education in history classes and simply watching the news, teens no longer are living in the shadow of fear from communism and socialism; they see potential and hope for a higher, equal standard of living where the government would distribute the nation’s wealth equally to its citizens.

 The country is seeing a shift in the Democratic party to becoming “Democratic Socialists,” which is how Bernie Sanders identifies himself. Capitalism is looking very red these days, and socialism is being painted bluer. The appeal of “socialism” is moving away from an economic system as it traditionally was defined to a political affiliation, or progressivism; socialist ideas that promote equality from a social standpoint. Most “socialist” ideas are also liberal Democratic visions, and those who strongly identify with capitalism, (Republicans), are more likely to oppose millennials on social issues.

 Obamacare, free college tuition, and LGBTQ+ rights are a few social justice issues that ensure a leveling of the social hierarchy and a closing of the opportunity gap. Progression of these ideas would result in an entirely new political structure for the country, and that is how millennials are starting to think, vote, and legally support–independent from their elders and the capitalist belief that money is everything.

 According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), nationwide the average U.S. college student in the U.S. graduates with 28,650 dollars in student loans, and according to ThinkAdvisor, 83 percent of Americans say they cannot afford college. It’s no wonder millennials are turning to a system where college could be tuition-free, where poverty could be lessened, where they would not have to worry about health insurance or putting food on the table. As millennials will be taking matters into their own hands in the coming future elections, this country may start to see a shift to socialism and a push for equality for all citizens, regardless of sexuality.