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Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty images

The U.S. is headed for a potentially dangerous new social rift, this time between millennials and baby boomers, each wrestling for diminishing jobs and shrinking government assistance, according to a new paper.

Quick take: In the next decade or so, automation and demographics will become a new dimension to the economic and social pressures already roiling the U.S. and societies around the world, according to the study released today by Bain. This new conflict will pit millennial workers displaced by machines against boomers living on Social Security and Medicare. "Who votes, who wins, and who goes to the polls become a highly politicized issue potentially," says Karen Harris, managing director of Bain's Macro Trends Group.

Bain paints the following picture of the years up to around 2030:

  • The U.S. population is aging fast, and many older workers are staying on the job longer.
  • With the labor force shrinking and needed skills hard to find, companies will rapidly automate.
  • 20%-25% of current jobs will be wiped out, adding up to some 40 million workers, many in the least-advanced positions, often millennials.

This will set up generational conflicts, says Bain. Chiefly, it will pit millennials against boomers for jobs, and for differing government assistance: millennials will require job retraining and perhaps a basic income to compensate for low or no wages; and older Americans will demand the Social Security and health care that are bedrocks of current society. This will all be set against the backdrop of a government strapped by enormous deficits racked up since the start of the century.

"The question is what decisions are made on who gets the first call" on the government budget, Harris tells Axios. "That will bring tension between the working-age population and retirees."

Go deeper

Top general: Calls to China were "perfectly within the duties" of job

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the Associated Press on Friday that calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job.

Why it matters: In his first public comments on the calls that have prompted critics to question whether the general went too far, Milley maintained that such conversations are "routine," per AP.

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.

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