With student loan debt now exceeding credit card balances, and a weak employment picture for graduates, many young people feel that the American Dream is out of reach.
Nick Troiano and Ryan Schoenike are co-founders of The Can Kicks Back, the Millennial outreach partner of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. They recently offered their critique of the “fiscal cliff” and Washington DC’s handling of other economic issues today in USA Today.
Our country is fixated on the fiscal cliff. Rightly so. Unless Washington gets its act together by the end of this month, huge tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts are set to take effect – amounting to an economic shock that could cause another recession. But beyond this fiscal cliff lies something far more treacherous, which we should not ignore.
Call it the fiscal canyon. It’s not the $1.1 trillion projected deficit for this fiscal year, nor is it our $16.3 trillion national debt. The fiscal canyon is $71.7 trillion worth of liabilities, unfunded obligations and other long-term commitments of the federal government. It’s the massive tab that is being handed down to future generations— like ours.
We are both “Millennials,” part of the largest generation ever, 80 million strong, now age 32 and younger. While the fiscal cliff threatens an economic recession, the fiscal canyon threatens our entire American Dream. As young Americans who plan on being here for a while, we have the most at stake in this debate.
Three primary factors are fueling our fiscal imbalance.
First, health care costs are growing faster than the rest of the economy; more people are using more services that are becoming more expensive. This year, 23% of the budget ($803 billion) will go to Medicare and Medicaid alone. Ten years from now, Medicare costs are projected to consume 33% of the budget.
Second, our tax system is overly complicated and antiquated. Too few people pay too little into a system that does not collect enough revenue to support the needs and desires of our society. We lose over $1.1 trillion in tax revenue each year through special provisions and deductions, two thirds of which benefit taxpayers making over six-figures in income.
Third, the defense budget is out of control and out of touch with what’s needed for 21st Century military readiness. The United States spends more on defense than the next 16 countries combined.
As these and other factors drive our debt higher, Millennials will experience serious consequences that will undermine the promise that every generation will be better off than the last.
Troiano and Schoenike conclude:
Every time Washington kicks the can down the road, they’re really kicking our American Dream. We cannot afford to procrastinate any longer. It’s time for Millennials to kick back and demand a bold, balanced and bipartisan solution to the fiscal canyon.