Youth not served by the presidentJuly 9, 2012
By: George P. Bush & Brad Dayspring
President Barack Obama spoke inspirational words at his Jan. 21, 2009 Inauguration:
“… greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things … who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”
A record number of young Americans had been inspired by Obama’s promises during the 2008 presidential campaign. Nearly 2 million more young Americans under age 30 voted that year than in 2004, 11 percentage points higher than 1996. Sixty-six percent of them voted for Obama, propelling him to a historic victory. At that time, the unemployment rate was about 7.5 percent.
What’s happened since? Young Americans have been hurt disproportionally in the Obama economy. Unemployment now hovers above 8 percent, but unemployment for college graduatesunder age 25 has averaged 9.4 percent over the past year. Close to 40 percent of employed graduates with a bachelor’s degree were “mal-employed,” according to researchers at Northeastern University, working in jobs that don’t require the degree they earned. Young women still earn less than young men — regardless of their educational background.
And it’s not about to get better for the class of 2012. The Associated Press recently reported, “a weak labor market already has left half of young college grads either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.”
Young adults confront this sobering reality. Tough economic times have put their lives on seemingly permanent hold. Half of Americans age 18 to 34 say they’ve taken a job they did not want just to pay the bills, according to the Pew Research Center, and 1 in 3 has postponed getting married or having a baby. One in 4 young Americans has moved back in with their parents after living on their own.
Despite these austerity measures, credit-card debt held by those ages 25 to 34 has risen 81 percent since 1989.
The president hasn’t governed like the man who spoke on that January day in 2009. His policies have stifled entrepreneurial risk-taking — making it more costly, difficult and bureaucratic. His words and now his campaign ads have pitted Americans against one another and criticized businessmen and women for being successful.
Roughly 58 percent of 18- to-29-year-olds said they disapproved of how Obama has handled the economy, in a recent survey by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that young people are far less enthusiastic about this election than 2008.
Our message, however, is that they shouldn’t be. Though Obama’s policies of change have failed, hope in America shouldn’t fail with it.
More than a 100 million people age 18 to 40 will be eligible to vote in November. Most of us are asking what the future holds. Many are frustrated by the belief that the same opportunities that our parents had no longer seem to exist today.
We stand at a pivotal moment. The choices made over the next year or two will determine what kind of country the United States is going to be for the better part of our lives. With so much at stake, it’s critical for our generation to be a game-changer in this election.
One choice is to keep heading down the current path. Economic growth is flat-lining and participation in the workforce is the lowest since the Carter administration. This reflects not only worker disillusionment but that businesses and entire industries aren’t hiring.
Why? For starters, the constant threat of higher taxes, “Obamacare” and government regulation prevents risk-taking and expanding. The national debt — now approaching $16 trillion — has been put on our tab. We are paying into entitlement programs that we’re unlikely to benefit from, and the cost of higher education is not just prohibitive but could prove a poor investment considering the post-graduate reality.
Or we can choose another path — reflecting the fresh approach and vision of our generation. That means renewing our commitment to the first principles and ideals that make America unique: innovation, entrepreneurship, liberty and economic freedom. But it also means working to be more diverse and improve the inequities in our system — replacing what no longer works so that each of us has a fair shot to earn success.
That is the dream that has been passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, generation to generation. Do we really want that to end with us?
It’s incumbent on young voters to fight for a vision that will allow a birth of the next great generation. Look within yourselves and rediscover your hope. If you disagree with the direction of change — be heard in November.
George P. Bush is a national co-chairman of Maverick PAC. Brad Dayspring is a senior adviser to the YG Action Fund. Tuesday, the two groups are set to announce a partnership to help mobilize the next generation of conservatives.