Guest Post by Ryan Schoenike
Earlier this year a poll by the Harvard University Institute of Politics found that less than 1 in 4 Millennials under 30 “definitely” plans to vote in this year’s midterm elections. It’s crazy, especially when you consider all the issues facing our generation. Of those issues, none seems to be more overlooked than the economy. While multiple polls have shown it’s our number one concern, we’re clearly not showing up to express that concern at the voting booth.
1 – The Economy Still Doesn’t Work for Us
On the surface things seem good. Unemployment is at its lowest point in 6 years, the stock market is up, and the deficit is down. However, these headline numbers don’t really tell the full story for Millennials or what happens if we continue to stay at home on Election Day. Millennial unemployment is still high at 14.9%, the stock market hasn’t done much to help income, and within ten years deficits will be back up near a trillion dollars.
2 – Federal Investment Levels are Way too Low
Do you like roads, internet, GPS or even the low energy prices caused by natural gas fracking? Well then you like government investment, because none of those would have happened without the support of Uncle Sam. But we are rapidly falling behind. Our national infrastructure has fallen from 5th in 2002 to 21st today. The cost to begin reversing that trend? $3.6 trillion, and what’s worse not making this investment could cost as many as 3.5 million jobs and $28,000 to the average family. Federal investments in research and development are a similar story and have fallen from 11.6% of the budget in 1964 to just 3.4% today. The less we invest in our knowledge and our infrastructure the less competitive our country will be leaving fewer opportunities for Millennials and our children.
3 – There is No More Discretion in the Budget
A simple answer to our investment woes would be to just spend more, but it’s not quite that simple. The federal budget is divided into two categories, mandatory spending (things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, payments on the debt) and discretionary spending, which includes infrastructure and R&D. The problem is that mandatory spending is on autopilot, not subject to the annual review of Congress. Discretionary spending on the other hand is reviewed yearly by Congress and must shrink as mandatory grows. In fact, mandatory spending is growing so much that it will make up 69% of the budget in 2022, essentially taking all the discretion or choice out of the budget.
4 – The Tax Code is a Mess
Our tax code is over 70,000 pages and so complicated that you literally need a team of accountants and lawyers to understand it. The result is an extremely inefficient system that despite having the highest corporate tax and most progressive individual tax in the developed world still does not bring in enough revenue to fund our way of life. We have got to figure out how to simplify our system so that it lowers the marginal rate on businesses and broadens the base on individuals. This doesn’t mean corporate giveaways or taxing those who can least afford it. On the corporate side it means leveling the playing field so that your taxes are set through a thoughtful, logical process, rather than the amount you spend on lobbying Congress. For individuals, it means finding a way to make sure everyone has skin in the game while reducing loopholes and deductions for the top earners who can most afford the change.
5 – It’s Our Future
Millennials and those who come after us are the future of this country. So why are we letting our parents and grandparents determine the priorities of government? The less we vote the less control we have our own future. It’s time we get out and make our voices heard on more than just social issues. We need candidates who have a plan to reform both the tax code and the social safety net as well as making the strategic investments that will help grow our economy. So get out and vote!
Ryan Schoenike is Executive Director of The Can Kicks Back a non-partisan, Millennial-led organization to educate, organize and mobilize young Americans in order to promote a sustainable, generationally balanced federal budget. Follow The Can Kicks Back on Twitter.