CHARLOTTE — A former chief of staff in the U.S. Labor Department takes issue with former President Bill Clinton’s assertion that Americans are better off now than they were four years ago, especially when it comes to younger adults.
“If the message is that American young adults are better off than they were four years ago, then the facts say they absolutely are not,” said Paul Conway, who was chief of staff to President George W. Bush’s labor secretary, Elaine Chao.
Clinton, during his Wednesday night address to the Democratic National Convention, made the case that in many statistical terms, Americans were definitely better off than when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.
Conway now is president of an nonpartisan organization called Generation Opportunity, which seeks to mobilize 18 to 29 year olds on challenges facing the nation, such as the lack of job opportunities, the national debt, and federal spending.
Conway noted that the unemployment rate for young adults now stands at 12.7 percent, which is higher than the overall jobless rate of 8.3 percent.
“In addition to that, there are 1.7 million young adults who are no longer counted in that 12.7 percent because they’ve been out of work so long,” Conway said. If they’re included, Conway added, the young adult unemployment rate would be 16.7 percent.
“That number represents the highest sustained level of unemployment for young adults since World War II,” Conway said.
He gives other statistics for younger Americans.
“Unemployment for the Latino community of young adults is 14 percent,” Conway said. “For African-American young adults, it’s 22.3 percent.”
Conway noted a recent survey commissioned by Generation Opportunity from the inc./WomanTrend polling company which found 88 percent of North Carolina’s young adults have changed some aspect of their day-to-day lives because of the current state of the economy, such as skipping a vacation, reducing their grocery budget or skipping a major family event.
The survey said that 22 percent of young adults had changed their living condition, such as moving in with their parents, taking in extra roommates or downgraded their apartment.
The survey also said that 79 percent of young adults in the state have delayed or might not do at least one major live event because of the economy. These include buy their own place, get married or start a family.
Conway said only 38 percent of young adults nationally believe their elected officials represent their concerns.
He said a high percentage of them plan to vote and questions why Clinton would make the claim that people are better off today.
“In whose interest is it to try to say that things are better off than they were four years ago, because for young adults, the answer is, it’s simply not true,” Conway said.
Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.