The Obama campaign has pulled out all the stops in pandering to America’s young people, but the candidate himself seems to be running in the other direction.
During multiple high profile appearances in which the president had excellent opportunities to explain his plans for helping young Americans and discuss his vision for the future, President Obama failed to address the issues most meaningful to the demographic.
During the second presidential debate, Jeremy Epstein, a college sophomore, asked the candidates what policies each would implement to increase his chances of employment after graduation.
"I'm representing a whole other group of people my age, people who are facing the exact same problems, who are worried if they're going to be able to move out of their parent's house and support themselves sufficiently," Epstein told Newsday.
Instead of addressing the student’s needs, President Obama focused on his plan for creating more manufacturing jobs--a policy that would have a much larger benefit for union workers, rather than graduating college students like Epstein. In fact, Obama seemed to have missed the question entirely.
A couple weeks later, Obama did an interview on MTV in the White House’s blue room to address the questions most important to young people. Right off the bat, Obama was given an opportunity to discuss unemployment among young Americans. He was asked, “[i]f reelected, what can you realistically accomplish in 2013 to provide urgently needed relief to young, unemployed people knowing the hurdles you’re likely to continue to face in congress?”
Again, Obama pivoted away from the youth angle of the question and touted his success in bailing out the auto industry and saving jobs for teachers and firefighters. Priority number one in the president’s plan involves bringing manufacturing back. Furthermore, instead of explaining a plan to create more jobs and expand opportunities for employment, the president advocated that we “…retrain workers for the jobs that exist right now.”
It’s apparent that President Obama has no clear vision for helping the young people who came out in droves to help him four years ago.
With only 1 day left before the election, Obama isn’t even running away from his record--he’s running away from what he plans to do during the next four years. For a president that was propelled to the White House on the hopes and dreams of America’s youth, his policies have hurt young people the most.
The poor economy has hit young Americans especially hard. The unemployment rate is 12 percent for 18-29 year olds, and 47 percent of Millennials say that the economic policies coming out of Washington are hurting them while only 29 percent said they were helping them.
The president has tried to win over young people with policies like debt forgiveness, however 64% of 18-29 year olds believe the availability of more quality, full-time jobs upon graduation are more important than lower student loan interest rates.
The truth is, young people, like Epstein, just want to sufficiently support themselves. If Obama simply addressed the youth job crisis, he wouldn’t have to promise entitlements and turn policies like loan forgiveness and free birth control into campaign issues.
Young people received a lot of short-term favors over the last four years, but are deeper underwater long-term because of them. The tragedy isn’t the short-term loss in income faced by young Americans, but rather the career-long setbacks they will suffer after a stunted start in the business world. The unemployed and underemployed young people of today will have to compete with a fresh crop of recent college graduates when the job market does return.
If any young Americans are still wondering what would be in store for during the next four years of an Obama presidency, all they have to do is look at the last four years. There are no longer any illusions of “hope and change”--only “forward.”
Michael Moroney is the Director of Communications at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.