It’s been said many, many times, from George Bush to Barack Obama. “We owe it to the children…”, “our children deserve better…” Americans in their twenties like me, often rhetorically known as “the children,” are the figure of speech used to seal arguments and inspire charitable acts.
But in reality, “the children” are being neglected, or at the very least, held hostage for political gain -- we have become cheap talking points for our budget, health care system, tax code, and just about every other societal quandary.
Currently, one-in-six Americans my age are unemployed; millions more are looking for full-time work. In this recession, workers under age 30 accounted for 70 percent of the net reduction in employment. Though lay-offs have decreased from their 2009 -10 levels, young workers are not getting hired and remain disproportionately jobless. Even more worrisome are the studies that show early unemployment being linked to lower income, broken families, and decreased happiness later in life.
On top of this, 43 states have cut higher education funding, the average student loan debt from college is over $20,000 per person (I might add several of my friends owe much more), and we are saddled with a bill of $1.4 trillion dollars (in federal debt), even though we had no say in selecting the menu.
Our government spends approximately $8 on every senior for every 1 dollar spent on “the children.” A few decades ago, America’s investment in young people was much greater; our economy was stronger; our standard of living was higher; and the economic prospects for future generations were more promising.
It would seem that Jonathan Swift’s "A Modest Proposal" (a satirical essay from 1729, where the author suggests that the Irish eat their own children) is becoming immodest; we are all but eating our children.
Yet when my generation speaks out, we are labeled as spoiled or egocentric and in search of a government handout. We are also accused of being “anti-senior.” It’s quite the contrary.
We would never want to take away opportunities from our mom and dad, and we realize that if they had more money, we would probably not need to take out as many student loans!
My peers and I expect to sacrifice and are willing to do so for the greater good: three-fourths of Americans my age do not anticipate retirement benefits like Social Security, more than 1 in 4 volunteer, and applications for public service positions that pay less than the poverty level are at record numbers. Ironically, these statistics have barely scratched the surface in our news cycle.
Clearly, America needs a wake-up call -- we are leaving our next generation behind.
And Americans my age need a reality check, too, because no one is coming to bail us out. That is why my friends and I founded OUR TIME, a membership organization that assembles Americans under 30 to fight for our economic interests and build stronger voting power.
OUR TIME is currently running a campaign called “F#%K, I need a Job!” to highlight what millions of us are saying but not obtaining! For every 10,000 people that sign up, we are giving away a free month of rent to help an ambitious young person move out of their parent’s home.
Later this month, OUR TIME will unveil an online marketplace called “Buy Young,” where 30 companies founded by entrepreneurs under 30 will offer 30 percent discounts or more on their products for 30 days. We’re encouraging our peers to support these companies and help them grow, which will create jobs within our generation and a greater emphasis on becoming self-starters.
In the months ahead, OUR TIME and its members will work with corporations to tailor health insurance, credit cards, and other products that meet our unique needs. We will use our combined buying power to negotiate lower premiums, discounts on gym memberships, preventive health incentives, better rewards packages, simpler contracts, and credit score transparency.
We are the most highly educated, tech savvy, socially connected generation in American history.
Instead of waiting for corporations and politicians to ask us our opinions or for the next election to come around, we are confronting our collective challenges head-on --jobs, consumer education, debt, and the affordability of necessities to name a few. We understand that economic engagement leads to greater civic engagement.
In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, neglect of “the children” has turned to social unrest. We aren’t calling for revolution in the Untied States; however, we need to start a new conversation about our national priorities and the investment in future generations. Vice President Biden frequently says, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget.” Respectfully sir, the numbers speak for themselves.
Matthew Segal is the co-founder of OUR TIME – an organization dedicated to standing up for the more than 50 million Americans under 30 years of age. Follow OurTimeOrg on Facebook or Twitter @OURTIMEORG.