The following op-ed appeared in the Northside Sun (Jackson, MS) on December 5, 2013:
My peers and I who entered the workforce during and after the Great Recession have a unique perspective on American government, especially when we cannot find work or fear losing our jobs. Our greatest hindrance now is not the private sector, which the Economist labeled “the America that works.” Our greatest hindrance is the federal government. Many companies won’t invest and create jobs while Congress refuses to pass a budget. Instead, our Congress has toyed with sequester, shutdowns, and possible credit defaults. We have already waited three years for a budget, and Congress must not wait another year to do its job.
This week, Harvard’s Institute of Politics released their bi-annual report on young Americans aged 18-29 and their attitudes towards politics and public service. The poll they use, conducted after the government shutdown and debt ceiling debacle, asks participants a variety of questions about salient issues and current events. It reveals a number of interesting findings about millennials’ views on the state of the nation and their feelings toward elected leaders.
One question they posed directly mentioned the shutdown and asked respondents how it influenced their likelihood to vote in the 2014 congressional elections. The results showed 30% are now more likely to vote, compared to 9% who said they were less likely to vote. This helps show that unhappiness over the government shutdown might bring more millennials to the polls in November.
Respondents were also asked what issues they found to be the most important. The most common response was the economy (general, jobs, and budget) which was selected 45% of the time. The next closest issue was health care at 18%. Young people care about the economy in overwhelming numbers, meaning it will likely remain the most prevalent national issue for years to come.
The wildly unpopular United States Congress has a long list of important issues to address this month and very little time to do it. Currently, the House and Senate are scheduled to be in Washington at the same time for 5 days before the end of the year. That is not much time for a 113th Congress already on pace to be one of the least productive in history.
The Budget Conference Committee is quickly approaching its December 13th deadline to produce a budget that would replace the sequester with smarter fiscal policy. While discussions are ongoing and some Senators already returning to Washington early to work on an agreement, time is growing short. Hurdles still include revenue increases, entitlement reforms, and how to address defense spending. While both sides have pledged not to allow another government shutdown, there is increased discussion about a continuing resolution that would keep the sequester as a back-up option in case the conference committee fails to reach consensus.
Last week, The Can Kicks Back’s very own co-founder Nick Troiano spoke as part of a panel at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The forum, titled “Generational Equity and the National Debt”, was held on November 20th at the university’s Massachusetts campus. Also invited to speak was Meredith Bagby, founder of the American Education Foundation; Linda Bimes, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy; Robert G. Romasco, President of the American Association of Retired Persons; and Joan Woodward, President of the Travelers Institute.
The event began with a portion of the Travelers Institute’s nonpartisan documentary “Overdraft”. Following the screening, Director Trey Greyson led a thought-provoking, informative discussion delving into the nation’s budget and debt.