Every time I see the news, I hear people talking about reducing the deficit and the dangers of the growing debt. Clearly, our debt is an issue and the president, Congress, and all the numbers-people agree the country is on an unsustainable fiscal path.
Many House Republicans act as if there is a public mandate to reduce spending and, consequently, the debt. Their approach: Cut taxes and cut spending on everything but the military.
"His (Obama's) administration has been burying our kids and grandkids in new debt and offered no plan to rein in spending," Mr. Boehner said in a statement.
The speaker reiterated his opposition to tax increases and said Mr. Obama was "sorely mistaken" if he believed tax increases would pass in the House. He vowed House Republicans would block anything that includes increased taxes.
Since the younger generation is being used as the poster child for debt reduction, I would like to use the occasion of my fast approaching 25th birthday to respond.
“No @#$%-ing thank you!” Why the hell now, when we are in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, would we want to cut off the federal dollar spigot? Now that my father’s generation has gotten its cheap education, good paying jobs, Social Security, Medicare, and good environment, you want to eliminate all that so that you can…what? Fix the debt? Excuse me while I laugh and choke at the same time.
Let me count the ways why this approach is ridiculous.
1. Where are our jobs? While private sector jobs have been growing a bit, public sector jobs have been shrinking, often at a rate that erases the private sector job gains. The Wall Street fiasco (not of my generation’s making) has ruined retirement funds, causing people who should be retiring to work longer, which means those in my age cohort lucky enough to have a job are not moving up. If you don’t believe Washington’s own unemployment numbers of 22 percent unemployment for 18 to 25 year olds compared to 10 percent for the rest of the working age population, use the tried and true anecdotal approach. How many people do you know between 18 and 25 who are gainfully, full-time employed, and how many do you know who are not? How many of them have college degrees and are not working in their field? Don’t forget me! With my Western Washington bachelor’s degree, I consider myself lucky to have a half time, professional job and I work a variety of contract jobs on top of that to make ends meet. I apply for the few jobs that are open in my field and so far, I’ve lost out to older and more experienced people who have themselves struggled to stay employed.
2. Work Experience. So in the absence of real jobs out there, how about work opportunities, on-the-job training, internships…anything that would allow young people to experience work, learn a few skills, and build their resume. Well, the private sector hasn’t increased paid internship opportunities and our friends in Washington D.C. believe cutting federal spending is more important. The summer jobs programs that the President’s stimulus act funded in 2009 and which provided 5,600 young people in our state work experience ran for one summer and then was not refunded by Congress. Other youth employment programs have either been cut or flat lined.
3. Tax policies. Interestingly, House Republicans who believe it's so damn important to reduce our deficit, have rejected any attempt to increase revenues (some arguing for even lower taxes) despite tax bills being the lowest since around the time my grandfather was my age. Well, guess what? If you’re in my age group, taxes are not an issue. If the economy is holding you down and you’re not working full time, you earn just enough to get by and income taxes (not to mention capital gains taxes) are not an issue. The biggest tax we confront is our state’s incredibly high sales tax. A tax that is high because we have no income tax in this state. If you really want to help our generation, PAY YOUR BILLS NOW! Raise taxes on your income while you’re still working the jobs that we can’t have because you’re not retiring.
4. Education. This one kills me. If you really want to reduce the debt for my generation, then why are you cutting funding to education, raising tuition, and making it hard to find genuine scholarships? You are taking the large public debt, and handing it to the poorest and most vulnerable through college loans. Even assuming debt reduction happens (a huge ‘if,”) we all will be saddled with so much college debt, it won’t freaking matter.
Let’s face it. The Republicans are using the U.S. debt (a problem that they were neck deep in making—admittedly with Democrat's help) as an excuse to tear down the government institutions that have made this country great. It’s been government institutions that have made it possible to get an education, it's been government infrastructure or subsidized infrastructure that has fueled our industry, and it's been government research and services that have taken care of us when we’ve been hurt or sick. It’s 10 years of war, a nasty recession, and some of the lowest income and corporate taxes in the industrialized world that are creating this debt. (Don’t give me that low tax rate/good economy crap. Germany with its 45 percent marginal tax rate has a rocking economy right now.)
Rather than using the deficit and debt as an excuse to demagogue against government spending, let’s talk about the issues that will build a strong economy: a good education system, a clean environment, a healthy population, and a progressive tax rate structure.