As the end of the 2015 Up to Us competition approaches, the Up to UMiami team finally has a second to reflect on what the competition has meant for UM. After this long yet rewarding uphill endeavor, what we need to focus on has become clear. Up to UMiami seeks to address one central issue: the lack of millennial involvement in America’s fiscal future.
Regardless of your politics, facts are facts. America is currently accruing a debt that we can’t possibly sustain over the long term. In fact, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the best-case scenario entails that the debt owned by the public (you and I) will grow to 106 percent of GDP in the next 25 years.
Okay, we can agree that spending more than you make is generally a bad thing, right? The next step becomes a dilemma of action, or in many cases, inaction.
Creating a real solution is a two-step process. Step one: determine who needs to act. Step two: agree on action.
The first answer is central to the goal of Up to UMiami. Fiscal policies are made without considering their impact on young Americans. Congress is essentially racking up a bill they know they won’t have to pay. It’s always nice to have free things, but not on our dime. As millennials, it’s our job to act. But we have to get people invested. No student is going to care about our national debt if they’re busy paying off college, trying to find a job, financing a house or car, or doing any of the things “adults” do.
The solution is to emphasize the relationship between the things millennials care about to the larger picture. Instead of talking about vague issues, organize the conversations around those central to students.
Student debt and unemployment are two of the things students worry about the most, and they inexorably link to the national debt. Some might argue that this is a dangerous comparison, but it would be irresponsible not to show how such a large issue was impacted by the accumulation of many smaller actions.
The second step is more complicated.
After we’ve established that the millennial is a target population, the work really starts. Now we have to figure out how to act. If gridlocked Congress is any indicator, the blame-game seems to be in style.
While accountability is definitely necessary, we won’t get anywhere by pointing fingers. It’s time to put aside ideology and get to work. By “work,” I mean setting our sights towards solutions as diverse as the problem.
The issue started with Congress, but has slowly begun to weigh us down. We see this as an increasing number of students graduate from college unable to find a job.
The effects of this phenomenon are paramount – unemployment among the millennial generation is an economic nightmare. It seriously challenges the United States’ position in the global arena as an economic powerhouse.
It seems like common sense to have solutions rooted in and representative of the people they affect. We need to have more millennials finding solutions to these issues.
Unfortunately, this starts with compromise – something we aren’t too good at.
I’m not here to tell you how to best reduce the national debt. I’m in no way an economist.
What I can offer is experience in uniting people behind this cause, without using ineffective scare tactics.
Essentially, what this boils down to is showing people that they have a stake in the issue, whether they know it or not.
We challenged the students at UM to gauge their understanding and level of commitment to the issue. Getting over 500 students to sign the pledge signifying they care about fiscal responsibility and raising awareness about the debt indicate at least a cursory demonstrative effort.
Afterward, we invited everyone out to “take the plunge” with us at our pool party to speak with us about their concerns about the national debt.
After all of these events and talking to numerous students, I’ve gathered that the students at UM care a lot about the fiscal future of America. They aren’t without their concerns about the dangerous path we’re on, but I have yet to encounter a student who indicated hopelessness.
After running this campaign, I see why older generations are hopeful about us. We’re full of passion, ideas, energy and dedication.
So, while the entire campaign concerns itself with millennials, I’m inclined to close this year’s Up to Us competition with a call to action not to my peers, but to current policy makers: If you truly believe that the future of America is bright because we have the potential to create change, why not offer us a seat at the table and let us prove it?
Ryan Durga is a junior majoring in political science.