October 20, 2014

Passing on a Burden That Future Generations Don't Deserve

As the chair of The Concord Coalition’s Youth Advisory Board, I am always looking for opportunities to highlight why issues of fiscal sustainability and entitlement reform most significantly impact today’s young Americans and future generations. So when Sara Imhof, Concord’s Midwest field director, asked me to speak on a panel with Congressman Paul Ryan and former SEIU President Andy Stern, two members of the President Obama’s fiscal commission, I jumped at the chance.

Prior to the Oct. 12 event, I was fortunate to share a ride with Mr. Stern, and had a few minutes with both him and Congressman Ryan, hearing their perspectives and sharing some of my own. That includes my hope that the commission will use the opportunity in December, when it releases its findings, at least in part as a teaching moment -- an opportunity to shine a light on our nation’s unsustainable fiscal path, the facts of which are undisputed by both major political parties.

I was encouraged to hear Congressman Ryan and Mr. Stern acknowledge not only the gravity of the situation we face, but also the critical need for an “adult” conversation about our policy options going forward.

During the event, I noted how, as a nation, we are passing an enormous debt burden onto young people and future generations of Americans who had no choice in the decision to incur the debt and no ability to oppose it. This country was founded over 200 years ago by individuals who stood up and declared that there were inalienable rights every American had, and set forth principles for how a just government functions. The Declaration of Independence states:  “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Ask yourself: Have young Americans and future generations consented to roughly 20 percent and perhaps more of their budget, their resources, being taken every year to pay for the debts of prior generations? What right do we have to allocate the resources of Americans 20 or 30 years from now?

I also took the opportunity to highlight the great work many young Americans have done and are doing around issues of fiscal responsibility and civic engagement, including uomegame.com (a free web-based video game that challenges players to pay off their share of the national debt), WeCantPayThatTab.org, Concerned Youth of America and Mobilize.org.

After the event, I was fortunate enough to meet members of the Wisconsin Fiscal Advisory Council and hear about the great programming and work they have been doing and have planned for the new year. These are citizens, in the best, most honorable meaning of the word, coming together to educate others about the current state of our republic.

While it was a quick trip in and out of Milwaukee, it left me energized, particularly for the upcoming Fiscal Solutions Tour stop in Philadelphia.

Thanks again to my Milwaukee hosts and I hope to see some of you at the Fiscal Solutions Tour stop in Philadelphia this week!