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GOP Pledge: Life, liberty, and steak! But where are the young Americans?

The photos in the House Republicans' new Pledge to America booklet show what conservatives love about America – and reveal a huge hole in their agenda.

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Take health-care reform. The sweeping changes passed by President Obama and congressional Democrats this year arguably affect young people most. Yet almost everyone who showed up for last year's town-hall meetings about health-care reform was already on Medicare. That's a major disconnect in democracy.

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The elephant in the room

The elephant in the room, of course, is the coming fiscal crisis of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Yet the GOP Pledge didn't really address this issue. In fact, at yesterday's event, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, the leading Republican voice on entitlement reform, was conspicuously absent. As Monitor reporter Linda Feldmann wrote:

Notably missing from the pledge was much discussion about the future of government entitlements, namely Social Security and Medicare, which are major drivers of a looming fiscal crisis. In his own plan, called the Roadmap for America’s Future, Ryan has been a strong advocate for the use of the free market in reforming entitlements, proposing introduction of private investment accounts into Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program.

When President Bush proposed partial privatization of Social Security after his reelection in 2004, the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t even take it up. Ryan is now the leading congressional champion of the concept.

Get involved

Tackling entitlement reform will take tremendous political courage. It will also take the support and engagement of America's young voters. By not even attempting to frame their governing agenda in terms appealing to the under-40 crowd, Republicans don't appear to be much interested in wholesale reform.

That's not a slight at the GOP. Until young voters get more involved, neither major political party will have much incentive to consider the future as heavily as the present.

So here's a memo to younger voters across America. If you want to have a prominent place in a future party "Pledge," start riding horses, put a flag on your front porch, and most important, show up at town-hall meeting.

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