When Younger Voters Were a Decisive Factor in Getting Elected, You Might Want to Help Them

One of the constant sources of frustration with the Democratic Party apparatchiks is the inability to directly help the people who support them. To the Democrats’ credit, there is a significant fraction of its elected officials who believe in helping the poor and the destitute. But what the so-called leadership often seems to not get is that the near-poor and the middle class (basically, the second quartile from the bottom) has been getting hammered. Life isn’t easy at all. Given how salaries work in the U.S., that quartile has a lot of younger voters in it*.

That’s why this post about the difficulties in getting younger voters involved in the 2012 elections resonated with me (boldface mine; emphasis original):

Let’s keep in mind what this says about our federal budget: out of a $3.5 trillion budget, $1.135 trillion of that goes to social services programs that benefit only people over the age of 65. $875 billion of the remaining $2.36 trillion goes into the military–not including black ops or veterans benefits. Include the 7% (approximately $245 billion) spent on veterans’ benefits, and military spending is $1.12 trillion. Now you’re down to $1.24 trillion.

Safety net programs for the poor, such as SSI and food stamps, account for about $490 billion–which, important as they are, assist less than 1 in 7 Americans. Children’s health insurance and Medicaid come to another $280 billion. Now we’re down to just $630 billion for everything else.

But wait, we’re not done. We still have to pay interest on the debt now. That comes to about 6% of the budget, or about $210 billion a year.

Which leaves a whopping total of $420 billion federal dollars for every other expenditure and investment in America: education, jobs programs, technology, NASA, medicine, federal law enforcement, the whole deal.

Just $420 billion. Just over a third of what is spent on programs for the elderly alone–money which, thanks to the caterwauling of the establishment press, most young people think won’t be there for them when they reach that age.

Like I mentioned, a saving grace of the Democrats is that they don’t believe in devil take the hindmost as public policy:

None of this is to say that Medicare or Social Security should be cut. On the contrary. If anything, they should be expanded. But programs for the the poor and elderly don’t constitute an investment in society, so much as societal maintenance. These are the things we as a caring and just people do for groups who would otherwise be left behind in poverty and misery.

(An aside: these programs also allow younger people to spend their money on something other than taking care of their parents)

But this is the key point:

But as important as these things are, they don’t propel society forward in the way that investment in public works, education, jobs, and advances in technology and medicine do. Those are also the sort of investments visibly and immediately aid the working population between the ages of 18-65, 85% of whom don’t directly receive safety net benefits.

The failure of the nation to make greater direct investments in jobs and education even as our citizens suffer the burden of high unemployment and massive student loans, is simply unconscionable. It’s the sign of a sick society that has forgotten what made it great in the first place, and is just hanging on for dear life.

On grounds of enlightened self-interest (or perhaps even just naked, raw self-interest), Democrats should be pushing much harder for the discretionary items Atkins mentions. But the failure to fight for these things is also demoralizing. There are so many opportunities to make the country better, but our obsession with deficit reduction**, which is absolutely unnecessary, is limiting our vision of the future.

I would like to think that I’m still young enough (at heart, anyway) to understand this: idealistic young people want to fight for something, not against something. They want to build and create things–standing athwart the pile of history yelling “Stop” standing on the Overpass of History lobbing cinder blocks into oncoming traffic isn’t how you get their interest. In my own neck of the woods, we are on the verge of some amazing breakthroughs in science, and so…budget cuts due to cries for ‘fiscal responsibility.’ This is neither hope nor change, but fearful tittering. Definitely not inspiring.

And as Atkins notes (and I’ve argued this point too), younger voters need the work and the opportunity.

Fight for them if you want their votes.

*It wasn’t that long ago that I was a solid, and seemingly not temporary member of that quartile.

**It seems obvious to me that movement conservatives don’t give a shit about deficit reduction, they just want to cut social spending and taxes on the wealthy. The problem is the many Democrats, independents, and members of the chattering class who earnestly believe in deficit reduction as a goal, and not a possible means to an end.

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