Contained within last night’s speech were many examples of how young people lose out in the big-government status quo.
It’s easy to lampoon the State of the Union address. A speech full of pomp and circumstance but relatively devoid of specifics is difficult to take seriously.
Few can see through the charade more clearly than younger generations. Marketers and ad execs know that traditional TV marketing techniques are ineffective with Millennials, so it’s obvious last night’s promises are liable to fall particularly flat with 20-somethings.
Young people today face a government that is more bloated, more invasive, and less efficient than ever. Tuesday night’s speech promised to continue this status quo.
The State of the Union was a study in contrasts and omitted information, and young people can see right through it. The President praised a low unemployment rate – leaving out the fact that the job-seeking numbers are low because many people have given up on finding work. He touted a reduced deficit – while praising the end of the Budget Control Act and sequester that led to the reduction.
The President requested billions of dollars in spending, or “investment,” on programs ranging from new technology “hubs” to a hike in the minimum wage for federal employees and further managing and regulating of Americans’ retirement savings through the new myRA program, as well as the extension of supposedly temporary federal unemployment insurance passed way back in 2008. All the while, he neglected the fact that all of this new spending falls directly on our backs in the form of a massive national debt.
The President pontificated on the need to ensure all Americans, particularly young minorities, are given equal opportunity, neglecting the fact that his Drug War continues to have a disproportionate impact on those very people, recent platitudes aside.
He spoke of NSA reform, as his administration continues to do all in its power to smear and prosecute the person who brought the abuses to national attention, without which it seems obvious no “reforms” would have even been attempted.
Finally, perhaps most offensively to young people, the President defended the same old invasive foreign policy, repeating Bush-era talking points about Iran and terrorism, and – maybe most outrageously of all – attempting to take credit for the Syrian chemical disarmament through “diplomacy,” leaving out the fact that had his administration had its way just a few months ago, young people would be facing another war today.
It’s well-known that our generation is increasingly libertarian-leaning. By and large, we want to be left alone, especially by government. And last night, President Obama called attention to this “rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government.” But he criticized this debate for preventing “us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy,” saying that doing so is “not doing right by the American people.”
Perhaps that’s true. We can argue the merits of certain strategies or the wisdom of so-called budget brinkmanship and shutdowns. What should not be up for debate, however, is that a bipartisan consensus to spend more, meddle more overseas, and invade more of Americans’ daily lives is truly not doing right by the American people, particularly young people. And that’s exactly what this speech promised.
In this President’s world, there is nothing the government can’t do. And, sadly, it looks like he’s taken it a step further, saying “Some [initiatives] require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I.” In other words, there’s little the President can’t do – Congress be damned.
Today, it’s vital that young people, those most affected by these bipartisan failures, take a page from Obama’s book and refuse to stand still. Many policies, from foreign intervention to the so-called Affordable Care Act, and many things in between, categorically disadvantage young people. Why does this continue? Older generations vote. Older generations stay involved.
If we are to stand up for our future, to establish the small-government world that so many of us desire, young people must do the same.