Millennials have spent their entire political lives waiting for America to get over the culture wars of the 1970-1990s and deal with our urgent problems. President Obama took a big step in the right direction by addressing America's health care access problem through major reform. Now, the Republican Congress has taken its turn by announcing that it will attempt to avert a crisis through $2.5 trillion in spending cuts with H.R. 408.
Unfortunately, faced with two "crises," the GOP chose theory over reality. On the one hand, the US has a long-term budget problem -- over the next thirty years or so, the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid will cause unprecedented national debt, which will impair growth and stability. On the other hand, the US has an urgent jobs crisis right now. Millions of Americans find themselves out of work and completely strapped. An entire generation of young people trying to start families finds itself without stability and without an outlet for their remarkable energy.
Eighteen percent of Americans aged 16 to 24 were unemployed in December 2010, according to the Labor Department. For a young person to be out of work means more than just lost pay. It means putting life on hold and a permanent downward effect on their future salary. According to Yale scholar Lisa Kahn, graduating college during a recession amounts to a lifetime pay cut of about 2.5% -- and that includes people who are able to get a job. I have friends trying to wait out the recession in law school, coffee shops, even in church apprenticeships.
Sadly, congressional Republicans have chosen to address the theoretical budget crisis instead of this jobs crisis we live and breathe.
Take their proposal to cut $1.15 billion from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Money from CNCS goes straight to programs that not only employ young workers and seniors, but also provide critical services to struggling families in a recession, like after school child care, mobile health services, and rebuilding storm damaged neighborhoods. Instead of cutting funds for the National Service, why not triple its programming? It would go a long way toward getting the lost generation of Millennials back to work and providing the kind of support our struggling communities need. That won't solve the jobs crisis by itself, but it's a start.
Slashing the federal budget sounds like a nice, clean way forward, but in the real world it will send the economy crashing backward, throwing millions out of work. Now is the moment for the Republicans to prove to Americans, young and old, that they are serious about the future of American families by investing in real American jobs.
The Roosevelt Campus Network has developed innovative solutions for America's economic crisis. Visit our website to build the Blueprint for the Millennial America with us.
Zachary Kolodin is the Director of the Future Preparedness Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute.