Jobs, Not Loan Rates, the Top Issue Facing Young Adults

Doing his best to reignite the constituency that carried him into the White House President Obama has been travelling to college campuses in three swing states to pander to youth voters.

It’s a good political strategy. There are several things that could derail Obama’s reelection bid and the failure to rouse the youth vote is certainly one of them. Today’s college students not only vote in larger numbers than recent generations of young adults, but they are the free labor, the boots on the ground that keeps a campaign going.

Knowing that, Obama is trying to paper over four years spent largely ignoring the interests of young adults in one last-ditch attempt to reestablish the cult of personality that developed in 2008. Namely, the president is pushing Congress to pass legislation that would prevent student loan interest rates from returning to their pre-stimulus levels.

It is worthwhile to note that Mitt Romney is pushing the same goal, with one very important tweak.

Whereas Obama’s plan would increase the deficit, thereby shifting the debt burden of today’s students onto future generations, Governor Romney would search for an offset among the myriad wasteful programs in Washington. This is the difference between pandering and a plan. While Obama looks for ways to capture the youth vote, Romney and Republicans are focused on creating good, sustainable policy.

Regardless of the dispute over pay-fors, young adults would be wise not to lose sight of the real crisis among the members of our generation: the lack of jobs in the Obama economy. No student loan plan, regardless of how well it was crafted or how much it reduces interest rates, matters if half of the demographic has no job that allows them to repay the debt.

That’s no exaggeration. A new report by the Associated Press finds that more than half of young adults with a college degree – totaling 1.5 million Americans – are unemployed or underemployed.  Incredibly, only 54 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 have a job. That’s the lowest rate since the government started keeping the records in 1948. That’s not just bad, it’s historically bad.

But it’s more than just statistics, it’s lives. Lives that are being fundamentally changed by the inability to find work. The Obama economy has forced new graduates to move back home, because their dead end job doesn’t cover rent, much less a mortgage. It’s caused them to put off getting married, because they can’t afford the cost of a wedding. And it’s led them to put off beginning families, because there is no room in the budget for formula and diapers.

This isn’t the American Dream, it’s a young adult’s worst nightmare.

And it’s one being made worse by President Obama. While young adults are struggling to figure out how to pay their mortgage, Obama has had no problem mortgaging our future.

In just over three years President Obama has increased the national debt by $4.94 trillion. At his current profligate pace he is on track to borrow and spend in one term what it took 43 presidents over 200 years to accumulate.

Perhaps worse, Obama has done nothing to address the crumbling fiscal foundation that he’s asked our generation to build upon. Indeed he’s refused to do anything but recklessly expand the largest drivers of our national debt – Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security – programs that without reform will not be around to serve young adults.

College students need help. But as the slick Obama messaging machine ramps up to distract young-adults with his whiz-bang “plan” to ease student loan rates, let’s not forget what we really need – a job.