During the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections the Democratic Party effectively mobilized a new coalition of voters to elect Barack Obama as President. Minorities, single women, and youth voters showed up to the polls in record numbers to vote Democrat. These groups of voters see the Democratic Party as far more in touch with social issues that are important to them such as government provided social programs, reproductive rights, and gay rights. This shaky coalition has proven effective at electing Democrats during the last two elections because of incredibly high turnout. In 2012 “half of all eligible people ages 18-29 voted … roughly the same level as 2008”. This is a drastic increase in youth voting compared to the 1990’s when youth turnout was less than 40%. During the next presidential election however, youth voter turnout may be drastically lowered, or worse, more evenly balanced between the Democratic and Republican nominee, than the current 67/30 split. The reason that youth voters might leave the Democratic Party is Obamacare, and whether the jobs that Obamacare is currently costing the millennial generation outweighs the social issue liberalism that they current vote for.
The reason that Obamacare affects the millennial generation so greatly is due to the still downturned economy. Many in the millennial generation see Obamacare as having it’s upside, many of whom can now be under their parents health insurance coverage until age 26, yet it as a limited one. Most millennial’s are young and reasonably healthy; they don’t feel they need anything but the most rudimentary health care coverage for years to come. Meanwhile the Great Recession has hit youth voters, especially recent college graduates, incredibly hard. In 2009 as little as 46% of people between the ages of 16-24 had jobs. That is “the lowest since the government began counting in 1948” and three years later, “53% of recent college grads were either jobless or underemployed.”
Unlike previous generations, millenial’s do not have the luxury of waiting for long to search the market and find the right job. College debt, which previously has not been a determining factor, is now averaging roughly 25,000 for a college graduate. As a result, of those who have graduated during the Great Recession, only about 20% of these graduates “described their first job as a “career’. More college graduates have found themselves finding work in jobs that are not in their field – like restaurants and retail – many in jobs that do not require a college degree, nor are these jobs generally well paying.
Few would doubt that for many of America’s youth, times have been tough. Unfortunately however, under Obamacare things may have gotten much more financially tougher. “Employers with 50 or more workers who put in 30 hours a week will be required to provide health care coverage or pay a fine, under the Affordable Care Act, also called the ACA or Obamacare.” While liberals have mocked several high profile rants against the President from conservative business owners; for many restaurants, retail stores, and intermediate sized businesses, the numbers just don’t add up. They cannot afford to provide health care coverage to all of their full time employees, and remain in business. No amount of wishful thinking or number crunching will allow the businesses to afford to cover non-essential staff with health insurance without a drastic increase in profitability or revenue.
We have heard the CEO’s of Whole Foods, and Papa Johns go on rants about the administration, but for many companies it is not a matter of politics but simple math: providing health insurance to employees working more than 30 hours a week would cost more than they bring in, and would bankrupt the company. As a result, restaurants like Taco Bell, Friendly’s, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, and Darden restaurants, (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Longhorn Steakhouse) as well as many others are drastically reducing employees hours from around 40 hours a week, to 28. It is impossible to understate the economic impact this will have. Darden restaurants employ 45 thousand people in their restaurants, Applebee’s another 32 thousand. Overall 20% of America’s workforce is in either the restaurant or retail industry, and about half of those workers are under the age of 30.
When millennial’s question why their paycheck is being drastically slashed, they will most likely get a one-word response: Obamacare. The argument can continue forever about whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and whether President Obama could have fought for some different style of health care reform, but to America’s young voters it might not matter. To our countries youth voters however, this might be more than they can bear. It will not be hard for them to make the simple connection between the law that cost them a decent job, and the president who they had voted for, during the last two presidential elections. How they will respond to this, remains to be seen.