100 HARSHEST FACTS ABOUT YOUR FUTURE:
The Decline of the American Dream (1995)

A generation of whiners. That's the way the national news media often portray younger Americans. In our defense, many of us point out that the brutal facts speak for themselves. The prospects regarding income, home ownership, job skills, tax rates, and long-term economic opportunities are gloomy. We're not whining. We're realistic, and we're mad.

Not all the critics trash us. John Chancellor, the elder statesman of network news, referred to us on NBC as "the most invisible and possibly the most mistreated generation in American history. "Still the debate rages on. Whiners or Realists? You be the judge.

Here are the 100 harshest facts about your future:

1. Children born in 1994 will face lifetime tax rates of more than 80 percent. (Clinton administration 1994 budget.)

2. A teenager in 1990 was less likely to die of an accident, a cardiovascular disease, or pneumonia than his or her peer in 1960, but more than twice as likely to die by suicide or homicide. (Public Health Service of the United States.)

3. Since the first members of our generation were born (1961), America has experienced a 560 percent increase in violent crime, a 400 percent increase in births to unwed mothers, a tripling in teenage suicide, and a drop of almost 80 points in SAT scores. (Index o f Leading Cultural Indicators, William Bennett. )

4. Real wages peaked in 1973 and have been declining ever since, yet we work an average of one month more per year than we did two decades ago. (The Great U-Turn. )

5. Air pollution costs the U.S. as much as $40 billion annually in health care and lost economic productivity. (Worldwatch State of the World Report.)

6. Each year U.S. factories spew 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water. That compounds the over one-half billion tons of solid hazardous wastes-we're not talking about your garbage here-that get dumped across the nation for our generation to one day clean up. (The Gale. Environmental Sourcebook.)

7. Black teenagers are three times more likely to be killed by gun violence than by natural causes. (Children's Defense Fund Adolescent Fact Book.)

8. During the last 30 years the number of children living in poverty has increased by nearly 30 percent-with the greatest increase among white kids. (Vanishing Dreams.)

9. A monthly investment of $50 for 20 years will only provide for one year of tuition at a public college or university. (USA Today.)

10. The total cost to clean up our toxic waste mess is almost three-quarters of a trillion dollars-half the entire U.S. budget for a year. (Worldwatch State of the World Report.)

11. Fifteen percent of all infants born in 1994 will be exposed to illegal drugs while in the womb, and over 100,000 babies are
born- with crack addiction. (Fordham University and the Office of National Drug Control.)

12. Since the mid-1970s, poverty among young adults (18 to 34) has gone up by 50 percent-while the median income of under-30 parents fell by a third. (Vanishing Dreams.)

13. The median wage for an 18- to 24-year-old man dropped nearly 20 percent during the 1980s-and it continues to decline. (Vanishing Dreams.)

14. Half of the nation's uninsured population is under the age of 25. (National Health Survey, 1984.)

15. In 1987, the U.S. released 1.2 million tons of toxic chemicals into our atmosphere, 670,000 tons into our soil, and 250,000 tons into our water. (International Wildlife magazine.)

16. In 1970, the Japanese had none of the world market share in dynamic random access memories, a semiconductor device; by 1988, that share had risen to 80 percent. (Selling Our Security.)

17. In 1993, AIDS was the top killer of young adults in 64 cities and five states. In addition, the number of people with AIDS worldwide is expected to go from 14 million to 30 million by 2000. (USA Today.)

18. Twenty-five percent of all African-American men in their 20s are either in prison, on probation, or on parole. And in the nation's capital, 70 percent of all black men will be arrested at least once before reaching the age of 35. (Two Nations.)

19. Each year, 24,000 Americans--on average, 65 each day-are killed with handguns, and we spend over $1 billion annually to treat firearm injuries. (Handgun Control, Inc.)

20. Almost half of all Americans between the ages of 21 and 25 lack basic literacy skills, and are unable to balance acheck-book or read a_ map. (Children's Defense Fund-State of America's Children 1992.)

21. One in five Philadelphia teenagers misses school every day. (Monitor Radio.)

22. American teenagers ranked number one in the world in saying they were good at math--and last in a simultaneously administered international math proficiency test. (Educational Testing Service.)

23. A young black man in Harlem, New York, is less likely to live until age 40 than a young man in Bangladesh. (The New England Journal of Medicine.)

24. Nearly half of all the new full-time jobs created in the 1980s paid less than $250 a week, or $13,000 a year, below the poverty line for a family of four. (Fortune magazine.)

25. According to "moderate projections," between 1995 and 2005 there will be almost half a million more new college graduates a year entering the job market than there will be new jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

26. Every day, over 2,500 American children witness the divorce or separation of their parents. Every day, 90 kids are taken from their parents' custody and committed to foster homes. Every day, 13 Americans age 15 to 24 commit suicide, and another 16 are murdered. (Thirteenth Generation.)

27. In the last ten years, the number of functionally illiterate 17year-olds has more than doubled. Today, 7 million teenagers are functionally illiterate. (Children's Defense Fund.)

28. In 1974, the U.S. government declared a health care crisis because we spent 7.5 percent of our gross national product on medical costs. Today we spend twice that much. (State o f the Union, 1994.)

29. U.S. health care spending has risen from $121 billion in 1961 to a projected $1.3 trillion by 2000. (Congressional Budget Office.)

30. In 1991 the U.S. trailed most industrialized countries in spending on social programs and led in defense spending. (The World Bank.)

31. In an early 1990s report, the government's own accountants found that if current trends continue, federal expenditures will grow from 23 percent of the GNP to 42 percent by 2020, pushing up taxes. (U.S. General Accounting Office.)

32. The elderly (age 65 and up) population will grow 153 percent between now and 2040. (Social Security Administration.)

33. American firms pay twice as much to borrow money and make new investments as do their foreign counterparts. (U.S. News & World Report.)

34. The collapse of America's savings and loans will cost taxpayers at least $180 billion. (Congressional Budget Office.)

35. Ninety-five percent of our solid waste is disposed of in almost-filled landfills-and one out of every two of those landfills desperately needs repair so it won't leak. (National Urban League.)

36. Almost two-thirds of the nation's roads need repair. More than 41 percent of our bridges are structurally unsound. (National Urban League.)

37. According to Vice President Al Gore, we are losing species of animals and plants 1000 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years. (Earth in the Balance.)

38. "Federal judges have ordered jails closed and new ones built because the conditions violated the rights of the prisoner. Some of our schools wouldn't pass such scrutiny." (Rep. Dale Kildee, member of the House Education Committee.)

39. America has the largest number of functional illiterates in the industrial world. (Richard Lamm, Uncompetitive Society.)

40. The average murderer serves less than seven years because of prison crowding. (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

41. Since 1970, arrests for violent crimes by youths have jumped 91 percent. (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.)

42. The number of guns in America increased from 54 million in 1950 to 201 -million in 1990. (Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

43. The Fortune 500 industrial companies employed 3.7 million fewer workers in 1991 than in 1981-a loss of about one job in four. That trend will only worsen into the next century. (Fortune.)

44. Today's average, married senior citizen paid $83,852 in Social Security and Medicare taxes. The average senior gets back $308,328. (The Ways and Means Committee.)

45. Only 2.8 percent of German children live in poverty. Over 20 percent of all American kids do. (Pete Peterson, Facing Up.)

46. In the last twenty years, income for parents under the age of 30 dropped 28.6 percent, while it rose 28.4 percent for seniors. (1992 census survey.)

47. In the next 35 years, health care spending is expected to eat up twice as much of our economy as it does today. (U.S. Health Care Financing Administration.)

48. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than that of 18 other major industrialized countries. (State of the World's Children, UNICEF.)

49. We're behind every major country except Hong Kong in average science test scores for 14-year-olds. (International Association for the Evolution of Educational Achievement, 1988.)

50. The U.S. is 17th in public spending on education. (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.)

51. "Vital parts of the military equipment that helped win the Gulf War were made in Germany, Japan and other foreign countries," write Martin and Susan Tolchin. "The need to beg foreign embassies for essential parts was chilling." (Selling Our Security.)

52. There are 3 million homeless people in America-the same number as in all of Europe. (Coalition for the Homeless, 1992.)

53. The current average skill level of 21- to 25-year-olds is 40 percent lower than the skill level that will be required of new workers in the year 2000-only six years from today. (The Hudson Institute.)

54. The median home price, adjusted for inflation, has jumped 78 percent since the early 1960s, making ownership out of the reach of many young families. (Forbes.)

55. In 1975, the U.S. planned on having a high-level nuclear waste disposal site operating by 1985. It will not be ready until 2010 at best. (Vital Statistics; Worldwatch Institute.)

56. Nearly one in three college graduates between 1990 and 2005 is expected to take a job that doesn't require a college' degree-up from 1 in 10 in the 1960s. (Wall Street journal.)

57. "It's hard to see why someone age 68 should automatically pay lower taxes than someone age 28 with the same income. Yet, that happens." (Robert Samuelson, Newsweek.)

58. A 30-year-old man in the early 1970s earned 15 percent more than his father did at that age. Today's 30-year-old can expect to bring in 25 percent less than his dad did. (Forbes.)

59. By 2002, Uncle Sam will have stolen over $1 trillion from the Social Security trust fund. (OASDHI 1993.)

60. Poverty affected 11'.1 percent of Americans in 1973 and 14 percent by the early 1990s. (1992 Census.)

61. "The Great American Job Machine . . . is shifting gears downward. Solid middle-class jobs ... have been disappearing in record numbers and are being replaced more often than not by lower wage jobs." (Fortune.)

62. Since the early 1970s, the poverty rate among under-30 households has doubled. (The Economic Policy Institute.)

63. From 1929 to 1933 (the years of the Great Depression), real income fell by 25 percent. For couples with kids in our generation, it's dropped 30 percent. (Thirteenth Generation)

64. Estimated costs of cleaning up the 24,000 contaminated federal nuclear facilities range from $100 billion to $400 billion. (The Environmental Protection Agency.)

65. In 1948, a family of four earning the median income would have paid no income tax and a mere 1 percent to Social Security. By 1955, income tax and Social Security would require 9 percent, and by 1990 the combined tax burden was 25 to 28 percent. (Boiling Point.)

66. Baby boomers are saving only about one-third as much as they need. This means their kids will have to finance their retirements. (Merrill Lynch.)

67. From 1981 to 1989, the number of American home-owners between the ages of 25 and 29 declined, by 11 percent, while the number of renters in that same age group rose by 16 percent. ("Housing in America," U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992.)

68. Today's 63-year-old will get back roughly $200 for every $100 he or she pays into Social Security. Today's 25-yearold. will lose over $100 for every $450 paid into Social Security. (The Wyatt Company.)

69. As a share of workers' payroll, the total cost of Social Security and Medicare could climb from 17 percent today to over 50 percent by 2040. (OASDHI, 1992.)

70. Twenty-five percent of full-time workers do not earn enough to rise out of poverty. (U.S. Census Bureau.)

71. The U.S. spends 6 percent of the GNP on the military; Japan spends less than 1 percent. Seventy percent of all U.S. research and development testing and evaluation goes to the military. (Uncompetitive Society Report.)

72. From 1971 to 1988, only 50 percent of all eligible voters turned out on election day-the worst record of any major democracy.- (World Values Survey, January 1987.)

73. America spends more money on health care than any other country-but American males rank 15th in world life expectancy, and females are eighth. (Uncompetitive Society Report.)

74. "There are two kinds of U.S. electronics companies," explains the . chairman of the American Electronics Association, "those that are screaming in pain from the Japanese and those that will be screaming in pain."

75. When the national debt hits $6.5 trillion, interest on the debt will gobble up 85 percent of all personal taxes. (Bankruptcy 1995.)

76. The average cost in 1990 dollars of attending a private four year college more than doubled from 1965 to 1990. (U.S. Department of Education.)

77. From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, the average tuition at a private college as a part of an average family income rose in ratio almost 50 percent. (USA Today.)

78. The U.S. spends nearly $1 trillion annually on health care, yet nearly 75 million Americans are either underinsured or completely uninsured. Both Canada and Germany spend 30 to 40 percent less on health care per capita, and both provide universal health care. (The Washington Monthly.)

79. Every day, the typical 14-year-old watches three hours of TV and does one hour of homework. Every day, over 2,200 kids drop out of school. Every day, 3,610 teenagers are assaulted, 630 are robbed, and 80 are raped. Every day, 500 adolescents begin using illegal drugs and 1,000 begin drinking alcohol. Every day, 1,000 unwed teenage girls become mothers. (Thirteenth Generation.)

80. The president of American Express, Louis Gerstner, Jr., stated, "Forty percent of high school seniors can't name three South American countries. . . . One-third of today's ninth graders can't write a brief summary of a newspaper story. Will [these people] be able to take phone messages from important clients?"

81. Only 66 percent of eighth graders and 77 percent of twelfth graders correctly totaled the cost of soup, burger, fries, and cola on a restaurant menu. (USA Today.)

82. Contrast the very different television experiences of a typical boomer born in the late 1940s with a typical 13er born two decades later. By age five, the boomer had seen little or no television; the 13er had seen 5,000 hours' worth, thanks to a parent who probably used TV as a baby-sitter. (Thirteenth Generation.)

83. Since 1969, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker has risen by 80 percent. Meanwhile, the inflation-adjusted average AFDC benefit for a child in poverty has declined by over 10 percent. (Social Security Administration.)

84. Some 3 million attempted or completed street crimes (assault, rape, robbery, theft) take place on school property annually. One in 20 teachers is assaulted each year. One in five of today's high school students has at one time carried a gun or other weapon to school. That amounts to 32 percent of all boys, 8 percent of all girls. (U.S. Public Health Service.)

85. In his book Powernomics: Economics and Strategy After the Cold War, former U.S. trade negotiator Clyde Prestowitz stated, "On a national basis, about 25 percent of our students drop out of high school, consigned to a social and economic scrap heap before they even begin their adult lives.The U.S. is the only major nation of the world that tolerates such human waste."

86. Each year through the 1980s, 5,000 youths between the ages of 15 and 25 killed themselves. Surveys show that 10 percent of adolescent boys and 18 percent of adolescent girls are willing to admit that they have attempted suicide. "What can one say about a generation 1,000,000 of whom have tried (or will try) to kill themselves before age 30-and 100,000 of whom have succeeded (or will succeed) in their final effort?" (Thirteenth Generation.)'

87. In 1992, the U.S. spent $24.9 billion to jail 1.3 million prisoners-a per-prisoner cost of $20,072-while we spent $4,000 per public school student. (Washington Monthly.)

88. From 1973 to 1990, real median income of U.S. families aged 65 and over went up 39 percent, while it dropped 16 percent for families headed by someone aged 30 or under. (U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

89. In 1979, 74 percent of working Americans under age 25 were earning an hourly wage which-if received full-time and year-round-exceeded the cash poverty level for a family of three. By 1991, that share had fallen to 47 percent. (The Children's Defense Fund.)

90. In the early 1970s, for a typical married couple under age 30, the after-tax cost of owning a first home consumed just 12 percent of income. By the 1990s, the after-tax cost of owning the same house had risen to 29 percent of income. (Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.)

91. In 1990,a couple in their twenties with one worker, a baby, and $30,000 in income had to pay five times as much tax to the government ($5,055) as the typical retired couple in their late sixties with the same incomes from public and private pensions ($1,073). (Congressional Ways and Means Committee.)

92. Since 1965, juvenile violent-crime arrest rates have tripled. (U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.)

93. Among Americans age 25 to 29, the number of homeowners declined by 11 percent from 1981 to 1989, while the number of renters rose by 16 percent. (Housing in America Report.)

94. Given the way things are, it will be much harder for people in our generation to live as comfortably as those in previous generations. Agree: 65 Disagree: 33 (Time magazine poll of Americans under 30.)

95. In 1987, Colgate-Palmolive started a program to groom recent college graduates for overseas managerial careers. By the early 1990s, more than 15,000 young people were vying for the 15 slots available each year. (The Wall Street journal.)

96. Number and proportions of persons not covered by health insurance at any time during 1990, by age bracket.

Under Age 18 8.4 million (24.3%)
Age 18 to 34 14.8 million (42.8%,)
Age 35 to 64 11.1 million (32.1%)
Age 65 and over 0.3 million (0.8%)

(U.S. Bureau of the Census)

97. The average 30-year-old home-owner in the 1950s could make the monthly mortgage payment using 14 percent of his income. Today it would take 40 percent. (Frank Levy.)

98. In 1900, the U.S. government consumed less than 9 percent of the gross national product (the nation's total economic output). By 1990, the government was costing almost 40 percent of the gross national product. On a per-capita basis the growth in the cost of government was even greater, going from $1,651 per person in 1900 to over $23,000 in 1990. These statistics are based on real 1990 dollars. (institute for Policy Innovation.)

99. During every 100 hours on our inner-city streets, three times more young American men lose their lives in gunfire than were young American men killed during 100 hours of Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

100. In 1992, handguns were used in the murders of 33 people in Britain, 36 in Sweden, 97 in Switzerland, 128 in Canada, 13 in Australia, 60 in Japan, and 13,220 in the United States. (The New York Times.)