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Youth are Clueless on the Debt

The number of young people voting for Barrack Obama dropped from 2008 to 2012 (from 66 percent in '08 to 60 percent in '12), but it still was a large enough majority to get him elected. But that doesn't mean the young generation is very happy about the election or anything else.

I sat in on a gathering of young people a few days ago where the theme was generational discouragement. As one speaker after another gave his opinion (part of the current ethic is that everyone's opinion counts, and about as much as anyone else's). Some said that they have discovered that the United States does not have a very brighr future and, for that matter, did not have a very bright past. "History books" covered up the truth, they said, not describing where they learned the real "truth" about what a blighted history America endures.

Maybe their generation's job, they indicated, was to manage the coming decline as graciously as possible. Other parts of the world are about to get their turn. America's day is past. I think I recall this line of discussion from older people in the Carter Era.

Meanwhile, several speakers described in passing the terrible school debts that many college students bear and cannot pay off. They descry the difficulty finding jobs out of college or getting promotions later on.

Asked if they had any specific policy recommendations, one fellow from an Ivy League school said that he was getting involved in a project to demand that university administrations divest themselves of stock investments in fossil fuel companies. Well, that will help! At least he will feel virtuous as the economy tanks.

What the students did not discuss was the possible connection between their generation's financial and career distress and the current Administration's economic policies. No wonder. We just had a campaign where the Republicans failed to help young voters understand that the huge and growing federal debt is weakening investments in new production and jobs--jobs for young people getting out of college and job promotions for their older siblings. Because of artificially low interest rates, retirees are finding that they cannot hope to live off their savings accounts. Knowing that, many older workers are handing onto their existing jobs as long as possible--at least in some cases contributing further to the paucity of opportunities for workers coming behind them.

In other words, the debt problem is almost always described as a theoretical threat and a national one, not a personal and immediate one. "The debt" issue usually is full of big, imcomprehensible numbers that young people find off-putting. It doesn't seem relevant to their problems today.

Yet it is. Too bad it is not really being explained that to them.

UPDATE: Young workers also are surprised to find out that their taxes just went up, too. President Obama didn't say anything about that in the campaign.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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