Will younger voters turn out for President Obama in 2012 as they did in 2008. According to the Los Angeles Times, the president hopes so. But considering the way that young voters have been repaid for their support, he is asking a lot.
As the Times story says, “many young voters . . . regard the presidential race as a less-than-inspiring choice between two thoroughly conventional candidates.” This doesn’t mean that 20-somethings will be lining up to vote for Mitt Romney. In spite of Huey Lewis’s song, it’s not actually hip to be square, and no candidate embodies square-ness better than a socially-conservative former private equity CEO Republican who is old enough to be their grandfather.
But when the president has to point to his support of Planned Parenthood to find an issue that young people can get behind, he is really scraping the bottom. (Perhaps he could tell them about his plan to send all of them a phone, too.) On the issues that really matter for young people — like entitlements and the economy — Obama’s policies have been decidedly stacked against millennials.
Yes, Obamacare allows millennials to stay on their parents’ insurance until they hit 26 (extending the doldrum state known as “adultescence” for a couple of years), but more important is the fact that by requiring young people to buy health insurance, the bill is set to become a major redistribution of wealth from young people (who are less likely to need health insurance) to the elderly (who depend on it).
It’s hard to say to what extent the president’s economic policies have played in young adult’s unemployment, but the last four years have been disastrous, with millennials who are lucky enough to have a job earning less and owing more.
Helping the young is a common theme in Democratic rhetoric, especially when the president and other Democratic politicians talk about what they will do to help more young people attend college. This has been especially true during the past few weeks, as pressure to curtail tuition costs has risen. The president’s plans to cut the rising fees come off as unquestionably sincere, extremely unrealistic and mostly wrong-headed.
The Democrats’ theme has always pretty much been the same: Get more kids going to college, offer larger subsidies for student loans, increase funding for Pell Grants and other funding mechanisms. But the government shouldn’t be working on providing more opportunities for people to go to college; it should be working on providing more opportunities for people who choose not to go to college.
College degrees are of increasingly dubious value. Even if it does allow young people to get better jobs and earn more money in the long run, employers probably overrate college degrees when they hire. Half a century ago, it wouldn’t have been uncommon at all for someone like my grandfather to become a successful manager at a major utilities company even though he didn’t have a college degree; today, they probably wouldn’t even look at his resume.
The Democrats’ plans for helping young people wouldn’t be so bad if we were still living in the 1940s, but young people can’t expect their needs today to be answered with 20thcentury solutions. This isn’t to say that Republicans are offering a credible alternative. Congressman Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future would have maintained entitlements for Boomers while greatly reducing them for millennials.
There’s a cliché that the first generation starts a business, the second generation makes it big, the third generation squanders the fortune and the fourth generation goes back to the factory. This probably won’t happen to too many millennials (the factory already moved to China, anyway). But there has never been a president who has been more comfortable sending so many of his constituents to their parents’ basement.
The young should probably enjoy their stay while they can. Because the president they support expects that they’ll be picking up the tab for their own generation and his too.