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Alan Simpson Doesn't Know What His Grandchildren Are Talking About

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By: Zachary Kolodin, Roosevelt Campus Network

As President Obama's Fiscal Responsibility Commission releases its recommendations, we'll continue to hear how the plan stands up for young people -- people like Alan Simpson's grandchildren: "Erskine and I are in this one for our grandchildren," said Simpson.

I'm 26. Like my fellow Millennials, I could be Alan Simpson's grandkid. And from that perspective, our national debt is not the greatest threat to my future, the future of my generation, or of the country more generally. For the last 9 months, the Roosevelt Campus Network has been holding forums asking Millennials what they want the world to look like in thirty years -- when our generation is in its prime. The first results of this "Think 2040" initiative, were released on December 1st, in the Blueprint for the Millennial America.

According to the Millennial Generation's standpoint, as represented in the Blueprint for the Millennial America, the Bowles-Simpson report looks terribly out of touch. Yes, Millennials want to get our federal debt under control. But they also believe that we have to fix the economy comes first. In fact, they know without a growing economy, our federal deficit will grow dramatically larger.

The Blueprint for the Millennial America offers a holistic vision for America's future. When Millennials think of their future, they worry not only about America's budget deficit, but also about America's growing infrastructure deficit. They want to have a 21st century economy that runs on 21st century infrastructure, and recognize that it's a mistake to continue lagging behind as other countries invest in green technology infrastructure and climate change defense infrastructure more aggressively than the United States. Without a concerted effort to ensure that America leads the world in green infrastructure and technology, Millennials believe that we jeopardize both our economy and our safety.

Furthermore, Millennials notice a deficit of investment in our cities, our public transportation, and our rural economies. Millennials see America's ability to support both thriving urban centers and small towns as essential to preserving both our national character and our economic prowess. An America where highway-powered suburbs are the only prosperity corridors will not succeed.

And yet, we see no "urban-rural prosperity commission." There's no "committee for building America's future". Instead, we see a narrow focus on deficits and debt reduction, as if they were ends unto themselves. The Blueprint for the Millennial America shows that our leaders' grandchildren don't see it that way.

Millennials have felt the recent recession more directly than any other generation, with the highest youth unemployment rate (more than 19 percent) since the statistic was first tracked in 1948. We believe that President Obama should be deeply engaged in both rebuilding America's infrastructure to get the economy back on track, and in creating a more resilient, flexible social safety net, so that we bounce back faster the next time a recession hits. Taking aim at bedrock social programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security through a debt-focused Fiscal Commission without first acting to make our society stronger does a disservice to the generation -- my generation -- that people keep claiming to protect. The truth is, we don't need the fiscal commission to speak for us. Thousands of young people nationwide have come together to vocalize their vision for the future themselves. We need our leaders to act on it.

Through the Think 2040 program, the Roosevelt Campus Network is engaging Millennials across the country not only in reimagining how America's future ought to look, but also in reshaping our communities. Young thinker-activists in the Roosevelt network identify how they can change their communities to better reflect their own core values, and their aspirations for a better country -- and then they organize to make those changes a reality. Join in and read the Blueprint.

Contributors: Hilary Doe, Manpriya Samra, Tarsi Dunlop


Zachary Kolodin is the Director of Future Preparedness Initiatives at the Roosevelt Campus Network. Learn more about the Think 2040 initiative at www.rooseveltcampusnetwork.org and www.think2040.org.