By U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi
During his re-election campaign, President Barack Obama paid many visits to Ohio State University and other colleges around the country. The reason was obvious: He knew it was easy pickings for votes among throngs of adoring students, who as a group cast more than 60 percent of their votes for him in 2008.
But Obama's policies hurt the young more than perhaps any other segment. His resistance to any change to entitlements, including modest ones such as gradually raising the age for Medicare eligibility to 67 from 65, means that young people essentially will be working to support an entitlement system that won't be there for them. The trustees of Social Security and Medicare say those programs are on track to become insolvent -- in 2033 for the former and 2024 for the latter.
The $5.8 trillion that Obama has piled on to the national debt since taking office also will be an enormous burden to today's youth. It is their generation, not their parents', which will face the greatest consequences from America's $16.5 trillion-and-growing debt, which translates to more than $52,000 per capita.
Then there's the so-called Affordable Care Act, which requires young, healthy people to buy insurance that's been made much more costly since they are subsidizing older, less-healthy people. College students lulled by the law's mandate that they may be covered under Mom and Dad's insurance until age 26 will be in for a rude awakening when they hit 27.
Obama likes to talk about "opportunity" for young people, promising easy money for college and forgiveness of student loans. The biggest problem today, though, is not access to college, but its escalating cost -- which many experts say has been made worse by government largesse -- combined with the lack of good job opportunities for many graduates in a stagnant economy.
There were signs that some young people were starting to catch on ahead of last year's presidential election, though their perceptions of government's role and its cost appear muddied by the pervasive pro-government liberal messages in schools and the media. Republicans' own ineptitude at appealing to young people didn't help.
In a nationwide survey conducted last summer for the youth advocacy group Generation Opportunity, just 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that "generally speaking, things in the United States are heading in the right direction"; 72 percent said they would decrease federal spending. Also last year, the Pew Research Center reported that under-30 voters supported seeing Social Security and Medicare overhauled so they would be intact when they reach retirement age, but also showed strong overall support for government intervention to "fix problems."
Still, under-30 voters nationwide went for Obama by 60 percent in November, with 36 percent voting for Mitt Romney.
Anyone with teenagers knows it's hard to impress upon them the virtues of saving and planning for retirement. It's doubly hard today because Americans have become lulled by the promise of big-government goodies without cost for their entire lives.
Those who understand the looming debt bomb and care about the future prospects of the United States and its young citizens need to appreciate the urgency of getting the message through to those most endangered by government's spending problem.