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Our Generation and the Impact of America's...
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Essay by:Mallory Livingston
Emporia State University
Our generation views government spending much like we view credit cards – unlimited. But much like credit card debt, most of us do not understand that transferring our balance (or deficit spending, where the government is concerned) does not correct the problem. We are spending ourselves into poverty, and we’ve got to put a stop to it.
So why is it that we don’t know how to make fiscal responsibility a true priority? Perhaps it’s because many of us have never actually felt the effects of government overspending – we don’t understand the true impact of a growing national debt.
In fact, U.S. government spending has been growing since the 1980s, when Reagan reduced taxes at the end of the Cold War believing that less government interference would lead to more entrepreneurial spending by the people.
But if there’s one lesson we’ve learned throughout history, it’s that more spending doesn’t always equal less debt. In Reagan’s eight years as president, the national debt tripled. And although consumer spending certainly stimulates a suffering economy, the same cannot necessarily be said for government spending.
This is especially true when it comes to deficit spending. The growing national debt is largely due to the fact that the government issues a new debt each year to make up for the debt from the year before. The result? More debt.
Our generation also has a problem interpreting the large amount of information with which we are presented at all times, especially due to the power of convergence media. The Internet provides us instant access to so much information that we often lack the motivation or education it would take to interpret said information correctly. After all, the Internet is much like television – it’s often entertaining, but not always factual.
Because of this, we have to learn to question what we’re being told. How many times have we heard a politician say, “this situation is under control,” or “America is not in a financial crisis”? Unfortunately, from the point of view of many twenty-something Americans, this sure feels like a crisis.
This is why we must be able to take responsibility not only for our future, but also for our present. Right now is the time when our generation has the power to affect, demand, and implement change. So what are we waiting for?
For many of us, the problem lies in the fact that we don’t understand the power we truly have. After all, a democracy is supposed to be about the people, so why don’t we take strides to make our government more accountable for its actions? If we are to find a solution to the national debt, we have got to learn to become actively involved in the process. This means writing our congresspersons, becoming educated about financial trends and the consequences of government spending, and, perhaps most importantly, helping our peers to understand the impact of today’s financial decisions.
Maybe we don’t feel the impact of a financial crisis today. Perhaps, for some of us, nothing has changed at all. But we will certainly see the error of our ways when we’re 45 and paying outrageous taxes to make up for today’s tax cuts to the rich – when we turn 70 and realize we have no Social Security – when our life savings are being used to pay for the mistakes of today’s government.
Today’s national debt is over $10 trillion. While it’s clear that many of us cannot possibly comprehend the magnitude of that amount of money, we have got to realize that numbers like those will only become more real to us over time. In fact, in 1980, when many of our parents were in their twenties, the United States national debt was $1 trillion. Clearly they didn’t anticipate a $9 trillion national debt increase in their lifetime.
Yet here we are. If anything, this has to serve as a signal that national spending is completely out of control. Frankly, our generation cannot afford to be faced with a $19 trillion debt when we’re in our forties and fifties.
So now is the time for us to stop denying the problem and start confronting it – to take control of the decisions that will determine our generation’s financial future. Because it’s not just about the failure of large financial institutions, the fluctuation of gas prices, or potential tax hikes – it’s about the country that we live in, and how it interacts with the rest of the world. It’s about our retirement, the education of our children, and the standard of living for all future generations in America.
The first thing we must do to create a solution for the national debt crisis is to realize that instant gratification will not apply in this situation, especially since our tendency to want immediate results is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. We’ve got to put our proverbial foot down and demand that the government implement solutions that will still be beneficial in the long-term sense, not only for a year or two. This means that deficit spending must be curbed.
The second step toward financial improvement is to keep a closer eye on government proceedings when it comes to finances. In today’s day and age, it simply isn’t acceptable to unquestionably trust the actions of our government – we’ve got to become involved in the process. This means interacting fully with the process, whether through media coverage, the formation of groups of concerned and active citizens, or the participation in legislation at the local level that will promote fiscal responsibility at the national level.
It’s not as if our government is composed only of self-seeking politicians who don’t care about our generation. But if we don’t make our voices heard, can we honestly complain when we’re ignored? Historically, young people have neglected to become involved in the political process – this is not a mistake our generation can afford to make. If we don’t hold them accountable for our future, who will?
»A new report finds the main problem in getting the public to deal with our fiscal problems isn't opposition to tax increases or spending cuts -- it's their lack of trust in the government to spend their money wisely.