The kids don’t stand a chance

The pin-striped men of morning
Are coming for to dance
Forty million dollars
The kids don’t stand a chance
— Vampire Weekend

Make that $14 trillion instead of $40 million and Vampire Weekend has the American debt-ceiling situation nailed. While the pin-striped men in Washington fiddle with the trimmings on spending extravaganzas only government could call “budgets,” the kids will eventually get stuck with the bill.

And the kids are increasingly not okay with that prospect.

When not discussing current events in light of indie rock lyrics, I work as director of communications for Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), one of the fastest-growing nonpartisan college political organizations in the country. At the beginning of April, 78 YAL chapters in 32 states joined in a national activism event called “Visualize the Debt.” Each chapter constructed a 40-foot-long national debt clock and placed it in their campus quad, affording plenty of opportunity to discuss the debt with fellow students.

I should pause to note that YAL does activism on a lot of topics. We raise awareness about the Bill of Rights, protest the TSA (you may have seen our Pedobear flyer), collect petitions to end the wars and more. None of our activism has been met with the near-unanimous response the Visualize the Debt project received: Students agreed that spending must be reduced to get the national debt under control, and that nothing — including military spending and entitlements, sacred cows of the right and left respectively — should be off the table for cuts.

This isn’t scientific data, of course, but as one of the kids myself (I’m 23), I entirely agree — and so, it seems, do many Americans across the political spectrum. According to a recent Gallup poll, 51% of adults are more worried about raising the debt ceiling “without plans for major cuts in future spending” than they are about the financial crisis that could result from a default. Given the apocalyptic language used to describe what would happen if the government defaulted, this preference indicates a strong political will for significant reform of our spending habits.

“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt,” said Herbert Hoover, and the young are increasingly aware of what a backhanded blessing it is. Yet spending isn’t the only problem. Also at issue is the recklessness evident in the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve.

Since the dollar was taken off the gold standard in 1971, the national debt has begun a steep, unprecedented climb upward. Backed by only the “full faith and credit of the U.S. government,” new dollars can be created with a click of a button. Though a new round of quantitative easing is currently on hold, this third inflationary event in the last five years is likely to follow in the footsteps of its bipartisan forebears, as Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has indicated that he will consider it until the markets are trending toward full employment, which they currently aren’t.

Whenever it happens, QE3 will certainly stimulate some parts of the economy — primarily the big banks on Wall Street whose former employees populate the Fed’s hallowed halls — but it will do so at the expense of the money in your pocket, continuing a century-long trend of the dollar’s decline into near-worthlessness.

  • bobby seaweed

    So called Democrats and Republicans are both to blame for this situation. Obama campaigned as fiscally responsible and then proceeded to increase the debt with terrifying speed. Just as George W Bush did, before him. The truth is that NONe of the a-holes cares about the problems of future generations. If I were in my 20’s, I would balk at paying taxes to support his nonsense. I’m coming to think that only a massive taxpayer revolt will get the attention of our fearless leaders.
    It is distressing to watch the United States toy with defaulting on it’s debt while the dollar sinks and the price of gold climbs. We have been transformed from the worlds richest country to it’s most irresponsible in just 50 years. The men and women who sacrificed their lives in WWII would be completely ashamed. Our leaders SHOULD! – but amazingly, they are so narcissistic that can’t see past the next soundbite.
    Spending indeed need to be cut. Starting with defense and ending with entitlements. And along the way, the perks of Congress should be cut, along with their exemption from all the labor laws. Stay organized young people. You are expected to pay for all of this nonsense. Start registering your refusal to play the game NOW.!

  • Gridmark

    Spending is not the only problem. Perhaps the most important area to be concerned about is globalization. We have never had this phenomenon before. And that is after the fall of communism, we have added some 2 billion cheap laborers into the free market system. Add to that automation and more loss of jobs, lean principles and more loss of jobs, and mergers and consolidation and more loss of jobs. And yet, after all these years on free trade, the politicians on both the right and left still keep going on with free trade and we keep losing the jobs.

    So we see the democrats spending in the wrong areas to create jobs, the republicans want more tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts for jobs, the fed is printing money for low interest rates and a low dollar so that we can export more goods with 1/3 less manufacturing, and the states wants casinos for jobs. We have seen all the ideologies and they do not work, at least when we have globalization. It is all too hilarious to watch. What we haven’t done through the years was to invest in our country, in our people, and in the future. Unfortunately, it will take many years to get out of this mess, all of the stimulus has been used and we lost a lot of jobs and we cannot make up those lost jobs.

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