What would you do if you were drowning in loans you couldn’t pay? You probably wouldn’t decide to take a vacation from work, right? Unless, of course, you were a member of the United States Congress; representatives are scheduled to take six weeks of vacation over the next five months. As the regional director for The Can Kicks Back, a non-partisan organization committed to informing America’s millennial generation about the National Debt Crisis, deductive reasoning led me to the conclusion that, with $16.4 trillion in debt looming over their heads – Congress should probably cancel their plane tickets.
Earlier this month the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its economic outlook report for 2013-2023 and projections solidify that students should be actively advocating for a comprehensive debt reduction plan. Why, you ask? Check this out:
- If you’re on the job hunt: The CBO identified that the national unemployment rate will remain more than 7.5 percent – at least until 2017 – for the sixth consecutive year. With Congress waiting until the 11th hour to agree on spending and tax rates, the job market is further restrained by uncertainty.
- If you’re a student: It’s highly likely that you’re sitting on at least some student loans; congratulations, you’re officially funding the government’s debt. Depending on classification, Federal Student Aid loan rates can be as high as 7.9 percent. The government pays less than 3 percent on the majority of their loans.
- If you pay taxes: Don’t get too comfortable with your current tax rate. The longer leaders spend standing across from one another, glaring over party lines, the more likely you’ll be depositing a larger chunk of your check into the federal pocket. No sustainable fiscal path means more borrowing, which implies more incurred debt and necessary revenue increases.
National security, the environment, investments, healthcare and entitlement programs are also taking a hit in our current economic state. In 2013, the CBO estimates nearly $43 billion in automatic spending reductions for national defense programs, more than $28 billion in non-defense discretionary spending cuts, $9.9 billion in Medicare spending cuts and $4 billion in cuts to “other” mandatory spending areas. The key word here is “automatic,” it refers to the looming sequestration, which is a dollar amount representing the cap set by the annual budget resolution and the actual approved appropriations. In layman’s terms, if our fearless leaders don’t cut spending before this kicks in – the cuts will be general and, in turn, uncontrolled.
If you’re not sold on the importance of a non-partisan, comprehensive debt solution, maybe this will do the trick: If taxpayers banded together and did the government a solid (paid the debt), each individual would owe more than $146,000. Don’t get too excited, Washington, the average annual income barely breaks $50,000 so its highly unlikely U.S. citizens will be picking up this tab for you.
Young adults, regardless of political affiliation or career aspirations, have a stake in the National Debt Crisis. It is our future, so I urge you to do more than stand by and watch as our leaders squabble. Kick back by telling your congressional representative that he or she should hunker down on Capitol Hill, forget about those six vacation weeks and work toward fixing the debt.
Kirsten Silveira is a senior in the Department of Political Science. She serves on the Campaign to Fix the Debt Colorado Steering Committee and is the Regional Director for The Can Kicks Back. This article was originally printed on 2/18/2013 in The Rocky Mountain Collegian