Originally published by TheHill.com here.
by Jeb Bush, Jr. and Justin Vélez-Hagan
Baby boomers in Congress, we have a bit of a bone to pick with you. In light of the debate surrounding our national debt, we’ve taken a closer look at our country’s state of affairs and have noticed an uncomfortable inevitability: Your kids’ generation, the group of us now known as Millennials, will be left with the worst inheritance in our nation’s history.
Despite our disappointment in learning this, we realize that you still run the country. Before you decide to bequeath us your inheritance, and the reins to the country, we are hoping to try to convince you to make a few changes so we can at least have something to look forward to.
First, the whole “debt crisis” is pretty frustrating to those of us who will be left paying the nation’s bills. It is especially so when some of your leaders expect us to believe that “raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt,” as the president recently said. Listen, we have some experience with debt – in fact, too many of us have a problem with it – so, we know that you only ask for more credit in order to use it. Every single time Congress has asked to raise the debt ceiling, our spending has increased to match it. (And you wonder where we get our financial acuity from?)
When you were born, somewhere between the mid-1940s and 60s, our national debt was between $250 and $300 billion. When you started entering the workforce in the 70s and 80s, around the time we starting coming into this world, our debt barely reached three times that. From that time until now – just when we are starting careers and families of our own – our debt has doubled four times, reaching a number none of us ever thought we would see: $17,000,000,000,000.
We may still be naïve, but we’re just old enough to realize the undeniable fact that you are not going to pay the country’s bills. Irresponsible spending will be our lifelong burden to bear. Yet, now that many of us are trying to make our own living, it’s hard to swallow the idea that our country is spending nearly $3 billion every single day, nearly half of which just goes to pay the interest on our debt. It’s tough to get out of a hole that keeps getting deeper.
For those of us who have studied economics we know that incessant printing devalues our money. Since our generation tends to have more debt, the results might help us out (well, at least on paper), but the value of your retirement savings will undoubtedly fall. On top of our daily spending, it’s probably going to be difficult to bail out your 401(k) as well.
There are very few of us who believe we are going to have the same Social Security and other benefits when we are your age, yet we won’t complain that we are paying for yours. The least you can do is help us by slowing the spending and putting us on the path towards some good jobs. Throughout most of your working life the unemployment rate stayed well below what it is today. When it came close, it was a temporary glitch that our economy quickly recovered from. Today the advertised unemployment rate has been slowly falling since the Great Recession, but we are now in the midst of the longest period of high unemployment in our history, while the percentage of Americans in the labor force is the lowest it has been since, well, right before you started contributing to the economy.
Starting in the 1970s, again coincidentally when most of you began your careers, the income gap started spreading drastically. The problem isn’t that the rich make too much money – we would all love to be in their shoes. The problems are that we have fewer opportunities to become wealthy and the current generation of political leaders has increased the red tape and tax burden on new entrepreneurs while simultaneously offering loopholes to only those that can afford to take advantage of them. It’s hard to make money (and get out of your basements) with so much stacked against us.
All we ask is a little relief from the bureaucratic processes that we have to navigate to start a business and we’ll start more of them. Increasing licensing and compliance costs, such as those legislated by the “Affordable” Care Act, really hurt our chances of growing the successful businesses needed to hire those who will help pay our debt (and support you in your old age).
We would love to have the help of some of our talented peers from overseas who, for some reason, still beg for their own piece of the debt pie, but we continue to implement policies that either keep them out or kick them out after we educate them. We can use all of the help we can get. You don’t have to leave all of our doors open, just answer the right ones when you know it’s a friendly neighbor.
We know there is no way that your generation can ever pay the bills you will inevitably leave behind, but at least give us the opportunity to try. We still have faith that you want to change America so that your grandsons and granddaughters don’t have the same burden, so this is our challenge to you: Get the ball rolling towards economic prosperity by limiting our future financial burden and give us greater freedom to succeed today – it’s not too late.
Bush, Jr. is managing partner at Jeb Bush and Associates (“JBA”) and is also the co-founder and chairman of National Hispanic Outreach, Inc. Vélez-Hagan is executive director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, economic policy researcher at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and former adjunct professor of economics within the University System of Maryland.