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Politico - Millennials Fight for Future with Own War on Debt


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Last week, in one of the liveliest and most thought-provoking conversations we've had in this Capitol, we sat around the table with a group of young people who care deeply about solving our nation's debt crisis. These "millennials" -- representing myriad socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, college campuses and political persuasions -- all want the same things: a solution to our national debt. A reduction in the out-of-control spending they'll be forced to pay back one day. And an acknowledgment that if Congress keeps kicking the can down the road, then they will kick right back.

And that is exactly what they have done. They came to Capitol Hill with suggestions, solutions and an eagerness to get involved in an issue that disproportionately affects their generation. Representing several organizations -- The Can Kicks Back/Fix the Debt, National Campus Leadership Council, Common Sense Action, Concerned Youth of America, and Public Notice/Bankrupting America -- they addressed the impact of the national debt on their generation and how Washington's spending problem today will hurt America's youth tomorrow.

We heard from one woman who recently graduated from college -- eager and excited about the opportunities before her -- only to be told that she should expect no less than five years of unemployment. A young man with a 2-year-old daughter told us that he is already afraid he won't be able to put her through college. And a University of Maryland sophomore said she can't afford to go to graduate school for fear of being saddled with even more debt than she is right now.

Unfortunately, their challenges are not unique and their experiences are not uncommon. These young people are the next generation of American leaders -- they're college students, campus leaders, budding entrepreneurs, future economists, innovators, scientists, nurses, business leaders and doctors. But a major obstacle stands in their way: the national debt. It's more than just a $16 trillion price tag. It's more than just a number that continues to rise under President Barack Obama. It's a threat to the future of our children and grandchildren. In fact, when asked recently to identify the greatest threat to our national security, Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited our national debt.

The debt has increased by $6 trillion under this president -- and it is now larger than the entire U.S. economy. When these millennials reach retirement age, the public debt will be 247 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This trajectory is unacceptable and unsustainable. But it is also the most avoidable crisis in history -- if Washington starts getting serious about spending.

Right now, each young person's share of the national debt is $52,000 -- and it will grow to nearly $70,000 per child by 2016. That is enough to put a down payment on a house, pay for a college education or start a new business. It's not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it's a math issue. Washington is spending money it doesn't have --$3 for every $2 we take in -- and we're giving the next generation a diminished future because of it. For our millennial generation, the national debt threatens their ability to go to college, find a job and start a family. They deserve smarter spending cuts, pro-growth tax reform and an economy in which they are afforded opportunities, not deprived of them.

As members of Congress, we are committed to making this happen. We are committed to making college more affordable, ensuring graduates find jobs and equipping our millennial generation with the tools and resources they need to make America more competitive than ever . We will continue to urge the president and Senate Democrats to submit a budget and get the federal government on a path toward fiscal sanity.

It's time to stop kicking the can down the road. It's time to give our millennials their futures back. And it's time -- once and for all -- to tackle this problem before it tackles us.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, and Jaime Herrera Beutler are Republican House members from Washington; Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock are Republican House members from Illinois.

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