Villain Not Vigilante

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S1: The following program may contain language that is explicit and by explicit, I mean implicitly naughty words and.

S2: It’s Wednesday, September 2nd, twenty twenty from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca. And tonight in The New York Times documented the 30 30 ongoing investigations into President Trump’s actions before, during and after the presidential campaign. The result of some of those investigations became impeachment. Others have recently been in the news.

S1: Like just yesterday, the Manhattan DA’s investigation into Trump’s tax returns was put on pause by a federal appeals court. Still, it’s an ongoing investigation. And as of now, the Southern District of New York is looking into the inauguration. The Eastern District is looking into the inauguration with an add on interest in Chairman Thomas Barack’s ties to the Middle East. The FDNY is also looking into unsettled matters regarding Michael Cohen’s admissions in Maryland. A state court state, also with D.C., is investigating the Trump’s administration’s emoluments violations. The attorney general has actually filed suit against the inaugural committee for enriching the Trump family. And of course, there was the arrest of Steve Bannon, which brings it to the following Trump advisors who have either pled, been tried or been convicted of crimes. They are banned. And Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and Rick Gates doesn’t even account for major congressional allies like Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, who are found guilty of corruption. I mention all of this as prologue to point out the area where the president has determined that he has the best chance of positioning himself, and that is as the law and order candidate. And he is also saying that Joe Biden is decidedly not. Biden put out an ad today where he defended his record of not actually approving looting.

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S3: I want to make it absolutely clear rioting is not protest to you. Mm hmm. The Trump campaign had a message of its own.

S4: President Trump is making it stop sending National Guard and federal law enforcement to protect Wisconsin’s families, communities, not criminals, jobs, not mobs.

S3: He’s giving hugs, not drugs on this thing. Jobs, not mobs rhyme time to combat crime, record employment, not National Guard deployment, opportunity, not disunity. But you know what? Let’s not touch qualified immunity. So here’s a rule of thumb. Whoever has the better slogan, especially if they’re really good slogans, vote against them. Any time a government policy is so pithy, so sonorous, follows a rhyme scheme so tightly, watch the hell out like three strikes and you’re out. Terrible policy, but you know baseball. And what did the Democrats have during their convention build back better off? That is clunky, which means it’s probably the right idea. Contrast that, by the way, with Cash for Clunkers. Remember that one? Everyone loves that one. Today, economists say Cash for Clunkers great pithy slogan. It was probably the single part of the Recovery Act that did the least. You probably don’t need this rule of thumb vote for the people with the worst slogans during this particular presidential election. But, you know, if there’s a local race where one candidate is working off a classic Abebe rhyme scheme and his or her opponent just has a bunch of ideas and policies, go with the ideas. But I probably don’t need to warn you off slogans. What in an America that again has yet to be made great on the show today, I spiel about the defense, moral and legal of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. But first, the millennial generation is a lot of things addicted to Instagram and insta Corot and instant gratification. But on that last score, they’ve actually been denied because the economic situation for millennials is provably worse than for prior generations. In her new book, OK, Boomer, Jill Filipovic says millennials have it bad and we have it wrong when we dismiss them as entitled.

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S2: If anything, every American generation should be entitled to a piece of the American dream. And for millennials, that entitlement has been denied. Jill Filipovic up next.

S5: The writer, lawyer, columnist, thinker, New York Times contributor, CNN columnist Joe Filipovic is out with a new book called OK, Boomer, Let’s Talk How My Generation Got Left Behind. Hello, Joe. Thanks for coming on the gist.

S6: Hi, thanks so much for having me.

S5: So I want to do in this conversation, let me lay out the parameters that I want to have. I want to get to the empirical evidence that the millennial generation absolutely has it worse, because I think in many ways it’s there. But I also want to tease out what is subjective about this, because I think that there are some subjective measures of the millennial experience that perhaps are elevated and treated as if they are factual. And then I want to also get into the emotional, which isn’t the same as subjective. You know, emotions are real, but I think they also have an impact on how the millennial generation sees itself. So this is one of those interviews I thought laying out the contours might help. But let’s start with the empirical. So many good facts. Give me one to make my listeners mouths fall on the floor about how much less wealthy, successful, happy millennials are.

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S6: Sure. So the one that probably stands out the most to me is that millennials are now the largest adult generation in the US. We are twenty two percent of the population and yet we only hold three percent of America’s wealth. And when you compare that to when boomers were about our age, when boomers were an average age of 35, they held more like twenty one percent of America’s wealth. And in that time, American GDP has grown. We work more hours, we’ve become more productive. And yet only three percent of that wealth is landing in millennials pockets.

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S5: So the millennials wealth will rise based on a couple of things. One, generational wealth rises as generations age up to a point where they age out of the workforce. Also, some of the boomers generation boomers will die and then they’ll bequeath to their often millennial offspring some of their wealth. So that’s going to change. But what you’re pointing to is the starting place is so disparate, it’ll never catch up.

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S6: Exactly. And, you know, it simply hasn’t been the case historically that the primary way in which people gained wealth was through inheritance and primarily inheritance. And what you see happening for millennials, we are about to see the largest familial wealth transfer in American history when boomers die and leave their money and their assets to their millennial children. But we’re really only going to see that benefit. A pretty discrete group of millennials, millennials who are disproportionately white, who are disproportionately college educated and already middle and upper middle class or wealthy. And only fifty six percent of millennials are white or the most racially diverse adult generation as well. So you’re going to see a huge number of millennials who aren’t going to benefit from this massive wealth transfer and who are starting at such a low point that they’re just never going to catch up to where their parents were.

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S5: Right, right. Generational wealth transfers is an organizing economic principle is not the sign of a functional economy. Picardy might be congratulating himself for getting it right, but our country shouldn’t. But I do want to ask you about this, this racial, ethnic and immigration part of the equation. So it is true that millennials right now aren’t making as much forget wealth, just aren’t making as much in real purchasing power or inflation adjusted incomes as their forbearers. So millennials aren’t going to be wealthy, we all think, as much as previous generations. But what about black millennials? What about millennials whose previous generations weren’t even Americans? Is that still true for them?

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S6: Yeah. So this is actually one of the more shocking and frankly depressing findings of the book is that black millennials are, by many measures, doing worse than their parents and their grandparents. So a black millennial today is less likely to own their home than a young black adult was in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement. There’s been a decline in black homeownership. Part of what to me also really stood out is that this is very much a political choice, right? Yes, we have a long history of racism, particularly around housing that has barred black families from owning homes and from seeing those home values. Appreciate. And that is obviously having huge ripple effects for millennials. But we also did see homeownership rates among black families going up in the 90s and particularly in the early 2000s. And then we saw a real drop off. And with Donald Trump in office, we’ve seen that decline grow ever steeper. So this isn’t just baked in. There are ways to change these trajectories in either direction. And unfortunately, they’re currently going the wrong way because of political choices we’ve made.

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S7: So if you graduate. College are of working age, which increasingly means college in the teeth of a recession, you’re going to have lower lifetime earnings and this is true even of generations. You know, there are certain cohorts within the baby boom generation. It wasn’t all good times. And certainly when stagflation hit in the 70s, some of the older baby boomers would have graduated into that Gen X. I graduated college in 94. It turns out that it was just beginning to turn around. But I remember in college, people were talking about this is the worst economic time in 20 years. And it is true that people who graduated maybe three years before I did would never see their lifetime wages return. So to what extent? I think college debt is a huge part. But to what extent of the poor outlook for millennials is the fact that they not only graduated in the teeth or started working in the teeth of a recession, but in the teeth of the Great Recession, which dragged on for so many years. I mean, you take that out of the equation, how much better would millennials have it?

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S6: Economists are have already found that millennials have not yet recovered from the Great Recession and we are not projected to ever fully recover from the Great Recession. But another thing happened with the 2008 2009 recession as well, which is that it also marks something of a turning point in terms of the kind of what’s expected from employers, what employees expect and what employers offer. We had been on course to decreasing union power, increasing employee obligations, increasing employer surveillance over employees. But for millennials, it meant that we were entering a workforce that was not only tenuous in terms of whether or not we could even get a job, but was tenuous in terms of what obligations employers increasingly did not have to offer their employees. And millennials were essentially so desperate that we were willing to take really any scraps and to compromise quite a bit on what a whole employment package looked like. It also meant that a lot of us took on good work and second jobs and freelance work and kind of anything to make ends meet, you know, which in turn, I think solidified a culture of work is kind of an individual endeavor. And you have to put together whatever your financial life is going to look like, which is a really different perspective on employment than, say, my parents had.

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S5: I think that a huge part of this is the college experience, the promise of college, the advisability of taking on college debt. And in a nutshell, the argument was you need a good college education to have a prosperous life. And that became more than a suggestion. It became a necessity. And so now people of the millennial generation have so much debt and it’s just to try to get the toehold into the middle class. Let’s say a factory worker would have gotten 20 years before. How much of that is that? A bill of goods was sold to millennials or someone like the boomer generation taking advantage of a situation? And how much of that was well-intentioned people giving the advice that was true for generations, hey, go to college. It’ll be better for you. And then the economic realities of the world shift under your feet. So there you are with, you know, very heavily degreed, but not heavily compensated.

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S6: I think it’s definitely the latter. You know, I don’t think there was some secret cabal of people trying to trick millennials into taking on student loan debt. Millennials with college degrees do better than millennials without college degrees. But by every measure, in terms of wealth and income and homeownership, even in terms of things like personal happiness and marital stability, what has really changed is that the bottom fell out of working class wages. And so having a college degree is now the new bottom for baby boomers. You could get a blue collar job and still make enough money not to live, not to live large and have a yacht, but to be able to at least support yourself in basic middle class comfort that doesn’t exist for millennials. And so you need to have a college degree just to get a toehold into that middle class. And so it wasn’t a bill of goods that you need a college degree. What was not true is that a college degree is going to propel you up. But for the most part, a college degree is just what millennials needed to hang on. And in the process of getting those degrees, as you said, we took out tremendous debt and there’s a lot of coverage of, you know, people like me who went to law school and graduated with six figure student loan debt. But actually, those are the folks that are doing more or less OK. The millennials were really in trouble, you know, are the ones we didn’t have that kind of like Animal House college experience where you live on campus and you’re a part of a fraternity or whatever, they’re the folks who lived at home and went to a state school or went to school part time while they were working, many of whom went to these very predatory for profit institutions who took out, you know, what doesn’t sound like on its face a tremendous amount of student loan debt. But, you know, who often didn’t graduate, weren’t able to graduate because they were also trying to work and support families and so don’t have the credentials but do have even a few thousand dollars in debt and are not able to get the kind of jobs that allow them to pay that off. Those are the folks who are really particularly struggling and whose stories I think we don’t often hear in the midst of these conversations about college and debt.

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S8: Right.

S5: So the reason I framed it in terms of the bill of goods idea is that it seems to me your book is OK, Boomer. And, you know, it seems to be a dialogue with boomers. And it seems to me that there is a lot of blame, both directions. And certainly the millennials hear the stereotype about avocado toast, which is, by the way, delicious and cheap if you make it home. But the blame sometimes goes in this direction. The older generation, the boomer generation, sold us a bill of goods or promised us something, and that turned out to be a lie. Another example of this is sometimes I even hear younger people, Generation Z, saying the world you left for us is full of global warming and climate change. And we’re going to have to pick up the pieces that you so wantonly and carelessly left behind. And I feel I’m not a boomer, but I feel sympathy because, you know, global warming wasn’t even detected until the early 1980s. So when some boomers are in their 30s, what are they supposed to do about it? They were just living their lives. They were told to live. And it seemed to boomers good advice. They look around to their peers and only a third of boomers have a college degree. And those that do are successful. So they give the advice to their children or grandchildren, go to college, do anything you could get to go to college. There’s so much that the boomers just reflected their lived experience and the best advice and they tried to pass it on to the millennials and it just didn’t work out. But it’s not really the fault of the boomers, is it?

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S6: I think it is the fault of the boomers. Here’s here’s what I’ll say. I, I think we have to distinguish between the individual advice and decisions that boomers offered and made and then the political choices that boomers as a generation made. Individual boomers, I think we see pretty clearly tried to do right by their own kids, certainly invested significant amounts of time, resources, energy and making sure that their kids did well. But while we had this sort of hyper individualization of opportunity when boomers were young adults and raising their millennial children, but we also saw was a retreat politically from this sense that there was a social obligation to provide things like a ladder up to the middle class. You know, we saw boomers went to college in record numbers when they were young adults, and that was because there was a really clear and intentional investment on the federal and state levels to make sure that college was affordable and accessible to a new generation of young people. And millennials, of course, continued that trend. But what we saw was this a real pullback from federal and state funding of public education and a move toward this privatization of student loans and eventually, by the 90s, sort of separation from the student loan industry, from the government, all of which has had pretty disastrous financial impacts on millennials. So I agree with you. I don’t think that we were intentionally misled, but I do think what happened is that as boomers were investing quite a bit in their own children, there was a broader retreat from investing in everyone’s children. And that has had pretty disastrous generational effects for millennials.

S2: Jill Filipovic is the author of OK, Boomer, Let’s Talk How My Generation Got Left Behind. Thanks so much, Jill. Thanks so much, Mike.

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S3: And now the spiel, Erin Dekker, the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was on Fox and Friends talking about support for the 17 year old who killed two people in Kenosha and badly injured a third.

S9: I believe they’re the same people that support Earl Rittenhouse. He it looks like it was self-defense. And talking to people around the area, I would say about 80 percent of the people support what Kyle did. And 20 percent is probably the people that can’t stand Donald Trump and can’t stand anything conservative or Republicans among Rittenhouse, his supporters is judging by the following words, Donald Trump.

S10: We’re we’re looking at all of it. That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them, I guess it looks like. And he fell and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been he probably would have been killed.

S8: But let’s go back for a second to the framing provided by Dekker, putting aside the accuracy of her sense of what percent of the community supports Rittenhouse. Let’s think about how she said that 80 percent support what Kyle Rittenhouse did and 20 percent just can’t stand anything Republican or conservative. So falling on your ass and shooting people and killing them, that’s now something that’s Republican or conservative. If the people against it are just against those things, that’s a great way to frame it for a conservative. Great way to expand the brand. But the more troubling is that she didn’t say they support Kyle Rittenhouse, his claim of self-defense, she didn’t say that people around there didn’t feel that it was sad or unfortunate or tragic, which would be a good word that Rittenhouse was put in the position to have to take two lives. She said they support what he did. Now, I don’t want to just pick on the truly egregious, in fact, ghoulish framing of this one county chairwoman. Let’s talk about how we should think about Kyle Rittenhouse in a saner country than our own. Not flat out sane, but saner, somewhat less bloodthirsty. The debate we’d be having would be different. It wouldn’t be between those who support what he did and those who have opinions on an ideology, conservatism that, by the way, once stood for caution and suspicion of unintended consequences and, of course, a right to life and this imagined saner country. One side would still think that Rittenhouse is a flat out murderer because that’s what you call it when you bring a gun to town, announce yourself as a danger and then kill those who wind up being proved right to be concerned that you’re likely to kill people. All right. So that’s one side of the debate in the saner country and in our own country. But what the other side of the debate would be in the saner country would be those who support Kyle Rittenhouse, avoiding the harshest penalty for the most serious crime in our society. But they would still acknowledge that Rittenhouse made some terrible decisions. But by letter of the law, they would say he should not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I won’t even tell you what side I agree with. Maybe you could figure it out because it doesn’t matter to my point, which is that Kyle Rittenhouse as a killer, is a sign of society in trouble. Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero is a sign of society and deep decay. I guess the best I can hope for maybe the heroism of Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t a sign of a society in deep decay, just a subculture, a subculture that, say, promotes the McCluskey’s as other avatars and heroes. You know, there are lots of arguments in defense of Kyle Rittenhouse using a self-defense argument and went on YouTube today. There are these defense attorneys who do very well produced videos where the camera, not the jury, is intended to be convinced that it was an act of self-defense. And one of them took video of the witness killing and took audio and matched him up and really presented his case to us, the jury.

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S11: So you can see here on my screen that we have the video, but I also have the audio spliced underneath it. So we’re going to be able to run through this and really kind of see where the shots are happening because we’re going to be able to see the spike in the audio. So a lot of the other analysis that I have seen has not done this. You can hear the shots, but they are fired in rapid succession and you can’t really tell where they’re coming from because the video is so grainy. So what I want to do is actually spend some time and talk about where those spikes are in the audio to see if we can see something that correlates to that sound, to the gunshots in the video. And we can just go frame by frame and see whether this new evidence or whether this new video footage supports a lot of what we talked about yesterday.

S8: And maybe under the law as it is written, Rittenhouse will not be convicted of murder. And for Rittenhouse, his defenders or Rittenhouse, this champions, I guess, people like Erin Decker, that’s what they want. They want the self-defense defense to work. Then they could call what he did justified. Then they could spin it into a bigger tale of law and order and they will think a good has been committed. But let’s take a step back and ask what is actually worse? What says a worst thing about America, the Kyle Rittenhouse, a screwed up, overmatched, kind of discarded, seemingly deluded wastrel, made his way across state lines to commit a crime, or that Kyle Rittenhouse, this dangerous loser, could kill two people and have that not be considered a crime. The second one is more troubling to say that it’s not a crime for a 17 year old to have a modified war weapon to inject himself into a volatile situation. That is not of his concern to conduct himself so disastrously in this setting, a setting he never should have been in.

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S3: And for people to die as a result, for us to say that’s not a crime is a horrible thing. And for it to actually literally and maybe plausibly be adjudicated to not be a crime, a fair minded jury could interpret it as not a crime.

S8: What is the message? What does a society stand for? What are our priorities? If you look at this case and look at the tape and look at the evidence and we’re a fair minded jury to interpret the law as saying, yeah, that actually is self-defense. And by the way, I do think that is a plausible outcome, so this is not a situation where there are laws on the books, laws that are meant to be enforced, laws like laws against the lynching of black men in the South, but then the criminal justice system conspires to ignore certain laws. I’m not talking about a case where the defendant goes free because of a misapplication of the law. I mean, what happens if all those lawyers who I watched on YouTube, what if they’re right? What if a jury should return a verdict of not guilty, if they strictly follow the law as it is intended to be applied? I think that means those laws are illegitimate. Or if they’re not illegitimate, they’re legitimately designed to induce some extremely illegitimate outcomes.

S3: We will be saying that it is OK for a bumbling young non prefrontal cortex developed police enthusiast to inject himself into a situation with a weapon that shouldn’t even be legal for any civilian, let alone a 17 year old to carry and for said enthusiast to badly bungled the interactions he has once injected into that situation and to reduce all that context to nothingness and only to look at the question if in a moment of taking another life, if the shooter fears for his life, that should be the only determinant of culpability. That is a failure. So the Rittenhouse defenders say, see, that would mean he’s not guilty. That would mean the prosecutors are wrong. And I’ve said it a few times here, that argument may indeed be proved correct. But if Rittenhouse is not guilty of something like murder, then the architects of the rules that got him off are probably guilty of something even worse.

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S2: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist, she has this stance on jobs, not mobs. She supports workplace satisfaction, not a smashed face and a leg in traction. Daniel Shrader, just producer, disagrees with mend it. Don’t end it on affirmative action. But I’m wearing seatbelts. Click it or ticket seems to get a lot right. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate podcasts. To her, the message jobs, not mobs. It’s probably best coming from parties other than slobs who channel Lou Dobbs The Jest. And watch for my sequel to OK Boomer, get Ben Gen X. And after that, something like to use humor. See mostly OK, except for this whole Takashi’s six nine fellow. Keep an eye on that one. Upper Adepero do you. And thanks for listening.