We’ve been called the “Lost Generation,” the “Dead-End Kids,” and “Gen U,” as in Generation Unemployed. But it is not who we are. The fact is, we’re the most educated, most diverse and most tech-savvy generation in American history.
Unfortunately, economic and fiscal conditions that we had little hand in creating are what is defining our generation. New census data show that only 55.3 percent of young adults 16-29 are employed, the lowest percentage since the end of World War II. This unemployment causes lasting negative career impacts because we are unable to gather the skills we need to compete and are more apt to take lower-level jobs, thus resulting in lower lifetime wages.
This enormous economic burden is rippling throughout our lives, disrupting nearly every important decision we make. Rather than move across state lines to find our independence or chase the perfect job, a record number of us have been forced to live with our parents. Although marriage is listed as one of our highest priorities, just 44.2 percent of young adults are married — a new low.
The worst statistic of all is America’s $61.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That breaks down to an astounding $528,000 per household, money that will eventually have to be paid off either through higher taxes or reduced government service.
These dual forces of reduced economic opportunities and ever-higher burdens of government debt present a not-so-subtle threat to the American Dream. In other words: Forget hope; it’s time to settle.
But my generation should not be content to settle. Rather than shackle ourselves to the ball and chain of debt and unemployment, we must use our size and talents to remake Washington.
That requires electing leaders who are willing to do more than stop by a few college campuses in the run-up to elections. We need a leader with a bold plan for our economy, not merely recycled versions of the same old tax-and-spend policies that have done little but drown our generation in red ink.
That means fundamental tax reform, not tax hikes; creating an atmosphere of regulatory certainty, not adding to the red tape; and it means making smart cuts to government spending, not haphazardly throwing money at problems. We also need someone who is willing to get their hands dirty and build a new and stronger foundation for our society instead of adding to the failed models of the past.
Polls consistently show that large majorities of young adults don’t believe that either Social Security or Medicare will survive to serve us in our retirement. If there is hope, for these programs or our generation, it will come through reform, not unjustifiable defenses of the status quo.
Alex Schriver is chairman of the College Republican National Committee.