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Blog: Stop Mortgaging Young Americans' Futures

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By Senator John Thune

What if I told you that if you graduated from college in the last 10 years, in addition to your student loan debt, you might owe the federal government over $300,000? If you're in your 20s and 30s, that is unfortunately your reality.

For too long, politicians in Washington have focused on passing bills that put a Band-Aid over fiscal problems in the short term, while ignoring the long-term consequences for future generations. The result is a massive fiscal gap that will place crippling financial burdens on today's young people.

From a personal standpoint, I worry about how the rising debt burden will affect my two daughters, who recently graduated college and entered the workforce. The record levels of debt we're amassing could lead to a fiscal crisis in the coming decade, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has warned. This would harm economic growth, destroy jobs, and drive up interest rates, which would make it more expensive for young people to borrow money for college or buy their first home.

That is why I recently introduced a bill along with Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to bring more transparency to the budget process and ensure that members of Congress and the administration have the information they need to prepare for future budget realities.

The Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform (INFORM) Act would provide for detailed, long-term analysis of how major legislative policies, economic advancements, and congressional budget decisions would impact future generations. This approach, which is known as a generational accounting and fiscal gap analysis, would examine the full scope of the government's obligations, present and future, and then analyze the effects those obligations will have on current and future generations. It would also require the president to provide a detailed accounting of how the administration's budget and policy recommendations would affect young people down the line.

Under current practice, Congress is typically only provided with information about the budgetary impacts of spending and policy decisions over the next 10 years. Our bill would allow Congress and the administration to look at the effects that changes in the economy, spending, or taxes would have on Americans 20, 50, or even 75 years down the road.

Fortunately, if we act now, we can stop this spiral of spending and debt and start building a more stable financial future. Politicians in Washington have spent enough time kicking the can down the road. It's time to stop mortgaging young Americans' futures and start being accountable for our actions.


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