Recently released statistics show that the percentage of adults under age 30 who own a business is the lowest in 30 years. Today, only 3.6 percent own a stake in a private company, compared with 6.1 percent in 2010. Even more troubling: This number was 10.6 percent in 1989.
This trend toward a lost generation of entrepreneurs has profound implications for the growth of our economy.
We have raised kids averse to risk and hard work. More Americans want a government job or a disability check. Forty years ago, we rode dirt bikes and bumper cars, our popular rides of choice, at the county fair. Today, the most popular rides are those motorized shopping carts at Wal-Mart.
It was once a source of Puritan pride to own a business. Now many people prefer to collect food stamps, unemployment and disability benefits.
Why is the younger generation not starting businesses? The media, colleges and populist leftist Democrats begrudge and demean "terrible" free-market capitalists. Obama's "You didn't build that" speech made palpable his disdain for business owners. The populist socialist rhetoric of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, which is resonating with the young and dumb, tells you all you need to know.
Maybe this generation has been raised as bubble-wrapped kids. No bike riding (certainly not without a helmet and shin guards), no dodge ball in school, no playing outside in the neighborhood, no drinking from garden hoses and no talking to strangers. We give ribbons for ninth place, and everyone gets to play. Are we raising a generation of wimps?
If we have something to fear, it is that we fear too much. Risk is good. Risk teaches lessons. Risk provides good things. Failure is necessary; it's a byproduct of risk and should not be ridiculed. What deserves ridicule is not trying.
The massive student loan debt carried by kids coming out of liberal colleges might also impede their risk taking. They are told that capitalism is evil and that, somehow, "making a difference in the world" involves some lame government bureaucracy job.
I've got news for you, kids: It's hard to change the world when you are making $35,000 a year working in a cubicle at the IRS. Go start a business, provide a product or service that people willingly buy, employ lots of people and enhance their lives. Create other millionaires in your wake. Then start a huge foundation that, in retirement, you can use to really change the world.
We have been importing many entrepreneurs who value the opportunity our country once represented. A comedian said his immigrant father came to America from India 10 years ago with only $35 in his pocket. Then he paused and said, "He had $4.6 million in stocks and bonds, so I guess what I am saying is that he was not big on carrying cash."
With the highest corporate tax rate in the world, the U.S. now looks less inviting to the world's risk-taking immigrants. If we lose them, we are really in trouble. It is critically important to our economy that we have people starting businesses — not only for employment, taxes and growth, but also for the new ideas they generate. Think Apple, Google, Uber, oil fracking technologies and pharmaceutical companies.
Instead of Henry Ford, who mass-produced automobiles and whose family ran his company for decades, the new American dreamer is a retired (after 20 years) public-sector union worker who also gets a full pension from his inner-city public school teaching job, whose father cashed in on the tobacco class-action settlement, whose son faked an injury to qualify for disability, whose uncle got some of that sweet asbestos settlement money and whose daughter works at a cushy Parks Department job. And she's the go-getter in the family!
By executive action, President Obama legalizes 6 million illegal immigrants, drawing accolades from the Left. These people now can stay in America and realize the new American Dream: getting a lawyer who advertises on the side of a bus and who will help them qualify for some of that sweet disability money.
Contact Ron Hart at Ron@RonaldHart.com or @RonaldHart on Twitter.