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Why the 'free to be' agenda is key for Republicans who want to win youth vote

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A college freshman leans into the voting booth while filling up his ballot. (REUTERS)

Can the Republican Party win the youth vote in 2014? I believe it can – but it has to transform itself first.

For generations, the strength of America has been this simple concept: no matter where you start from, you are free to be anything you want.

Unfortunately, those born after 1980 – sometimes known as the Millennial Generation – are at risk of losing out on the opportunities that prior generations of Americans enjoyed. Indeed, Millennials may face a future where they are anything but ‘free to be.’

I’m challenging Millennials to get involved and not wait for Washington politicians in either political party to solve their problems.

Washington politicians have run up trillions in debt – and are making it harder for individuals to get the basic support services and job opportunities to make ends meet, let alone achieve the American Dream.

It’s time to take on both political parties and demand change. Both parties have failed us. Both parties have policies that are a big turnoff to younger voters.

In San Diego, we are not ignoring college students anymore. We are urging Millennials to get actively involved in demanding change at a national, state and local level. 

With that in mind, we created the “Free to Be” Agenda for Millennials which will help restore freedoms for young Americans in five areas of life.

First, Millennials should be Free to Be in the job of their dreams. Bad policies and burdensome regulations have stifled investment, favored big business over small business, and created obstacles to innovation and entrepreneurship. By focusing on job creation, we provide opportunities for Millennials to have economic freedom and the satisfaction of being in a job in their desired career path.

Second, Millennials should be Free to Be who they are, with full and equal rights.
Like a supermajority of Millennials, I personally support marriage equality, medical marijuana, a woman’s right to choose and oppose government spying on its own citizens without due process. We should commit to respecting individual personal freedoms, not limiting them.

It is time to put an end to the bitter fights and division on social issues brought on by the extremes in both political parties, and trust in individuals to solve these issues on their own in the context of their own faith, their own family and their own personal circumstance.

Third, Millennials should be Free to Be able to afford their tuition. I’m concerned about the skyrocketing costs of college tuition – especially the emerging crisis in the student loan market where too many college graduates cannot afford the debt service on their loans. My Free to Be Initiative outlines reforms to reduce pension costs in the UC and CSU systems, as well as a number of ways to make it easier to refinance and repay student loans.

Fourth, Millennials should be Free to Be in control of their health care. It is true that we face a health care crisis, but ObamaCare only makes it worse. Some studies peg wasteful spending in health care as high as 30% of every dollar spent. Instead of fixing the cost crisis, ObamaCare focuses on pumping more revenue into a broken system.

Where will a lot of that extra revenue come from? Those that can least afford to pay – in particular the Millennials. A recent study by the American Academy of Actuaries revealed that 80% of those aged 20 to 30 will face higher health care costs – primarily to subsidize health care for those over 40 .

We should demand Washington enact a series of common-sense reforms to control costs and make health care more affordable – tort reform, for instance, can help reduce frivolous lawsuits. 

Let’s also provide consumers with more information, expanded choices, and more competition by allowing them to buy insurance across state lines, or by harnessing online technologies to disclose to consumers the lowest rate charged by their health care provider and allow them to compare it with rates from other providers in their area.

Let’s also expand the use of Health Savings Accounts – which are perhaps the best health insurance option for many college students and those 20 to 30 years old.

Finally, Millennials should be Free to Be not stuck paying off debts that aren’t theirs.
With the current fiscal mess in Washington, we are witnessing one generation robbing another – running up big debts that the Millennial generation will have to pay off through fewer services and higher taxes.

In San Diego, I was proud to write the plan and secure bipartisan support for reforms to save the city from bankruptcy. 

We can balance the budget, but do it in a way that makes government work better without sacrificing the important programs and services many rely upon. 

I led the citizens’ initiative to make San Diego’s pension system financially sustainable and fair again, wiping away billions in liabilities and costs for future generations while providing retirees with retirement security. 

We can do the same to strengthen and preserve Social Security and Medicare, and ensure Millenials also have a secure retirement.

More than outlining an agenda, I’m challenging Millennials to get involved and not wait for Washington politicians in either political party to solve their problems.

Republicans should let Millennials “Free to Be” themselves and stop writing off college campuses to the progressive party. 

The politician that does it will find they have a lot of support from college age voters.

Carl DeMaio is a candidate for California's 52nd Congressional District.