Thomas Edison once said that “a good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer’s Disinherited: How Washington is Betraying America’s Young, discusses how while many of Washington’s policies seem to have future generations’ best intentions in mind, some approaches can have adverse consequences for the economy today and for the prospects of those just beginning their careers.
At The Heritage Foundation on Monday, Furchtgott-Roth and Meyer will present their argument that Washington’s policy failures matter most for Millennials. In their book, policy arguments based on theory and data are interwoven with stories of young adults facing markets shaped by poor federal policy.
When tackling the minimum-wage issue, for example, Furchtgott-Roth and Meyer emphasize the importance of entry-level jobs for young people. They cite research estimating how many jobs would be lost if the federal minimum wage was raised to $10.10 per hour: half a million, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). And while the CBO didn’t specifically estimate it, Furchtgott-Roth and Meyer point out that those losses will be disproportionately borne by the young, inexperienced, and poor.
That chapter also includes stories about young people and their experiences. Katya Margolin tells the authors that her second college internship was “intellectually and creatively fulfilling” and influenced her subsequent career. But pseudonymous Sammy Page, a musician and composer, was not able to land the internship he wanted because the company could not legally risk hiring him unless he was receiving school credit. Low-wage or even unpaid jobs are helpful in preparing young workers for fruitful careers.
Despite Disinherited’s solid content and easy flow, the book’s presentation of data is a missed opportunity. To reach Millennials in mass numbers requires viral, visual ideas with personal hooks. Even beer buffs cannot rattle off the number of days it takes a craft brewer to obtain a license (188). And only policy wonks can interpret the $5 trillion in unfunded state pension liabilities. Numbers like these are in almost every paragraph of Disinherited, which might make it daunting for the lay reader.
Perhaps as a follow-up effort, Furchtgott-Roth and Meyer can turn some of their numbers into charts. A more visually oriented version of Disinherited would be a publication accessible to non-DC people who need to know how Washington and their state capitals can make America an opportunity society again.
Kirby Lawrence is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.