Obama has let my generation down

Alex Schriver Chairman, College Republican National Committee
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Labor Day has come and gone, football is back, the weather is cooler and college students are returning to campus. For many of those students, though, the excitement that should come with the start of a new school year has given way to anxiety over what comes next.

This is President Obama’s legacy and this is what college students, and all young adults, must work to change in 2012.

In 2008, Obama won the millennial demographic — 18- to 29-year-olds — by a stunning 66-to-32 percent margin. But by any measure, young adults are worse off today than they were prior to his election.

Unemployment is perhaps the most glaring problem facing millennials. While the recession has been difficult for everyone, workers aged 16-24 have been hit disproportionately hard. Though young adults represent a mere 13.5 percent of the workforce, they account for 26.4 percent of all unemployed workers. And since workers’ first jobs are crucial training grounds and resume-builders, growing unemployment among young adults will have long-lasting consequences on millennials’ skills and earning power.

Moreover, President Obama has buried millennials beneath a mountain of debt. Even if we set aside costly and ill-conceived policy “one-offs” such as the $787 billion stimulus package, the president has consistently defended the indefensible — the ever-rising level of baseline federal spending. The rising tide of federal spending will ultimately necessitate massive tax hikes, which my generation will bear.

But don’t take it from me. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s recently released Long-Term Budget Outlook lays out two possible long-term budget scenarios. Under the so-called “extended baseline scenario,” which assumes that current laws remain unchanged, revenues (that is to say, taxes) would soar to 23 percent of GDP, well above the 18 percent post-World War II average, while the federal debt would reach 84 percent of GDP by 2035, more than double what it was just three years ago.

Under the more plausible “alternative fiscal scenario,” the debt-to-GDP ratio would soar to nearly 190 percent of GDP by 2035, a level that the CBO can only describe as “unsustainable.”

This is the future a second Obama term would relegate us to: reduced prosperity and opportunity and increased taxes and debt.

Despite the grim path they have walked us down, many liberals are attempting to woo millennial voters with promises eerily reminiscent of the ones we heard in 2008. “The 2012 election provides millennials with the opportunity to take control of this debate, pick up where they left off in 2008, and place the country firmly on a path aligned with their own liberal, Democratic beliefs,” write Michael Hais and Morley Winograd in The Huffington Post.

To hear these authors (neither of whom is a millennial) tell it, the 2012 election is about “competing visions” for America — one a hopeful vision in which the federal government plays “a central role in guiding the economy and providing opportunity,” the other dominated by pessimistic “doomsayers and doubters of America’s future.”

But what is “hopeful” about staying on an economic and fiscal course that is so clearly headed towards failure? What is so “pessimistic” about putting forth positive reforms to ensure that our social institutions aren’t destroyed by debt?

To be sure, all of us, Republicans and Democrats, share in our hearts a vision for this world. But Republicans’ hope doesn’t lie in present institutions, it lies in a future in which young adults, unshackled from the weight of Washington, can actually achieve what our social compact has promised for generations: the American dream.

So Mr. Hais and Mr. Winograd were right to say that millennials have the opportunity to take control of this debate. The question should be, given what we know about liberals’ backward-looking vision, do we really want to pick up where we left off in 2008? With the past three years as our guide, it is safe to say that the Democratic Party is no longer the party of hope and change.

Alex Schriver is the national chairman of the College Republican National Committee.