Paul Ryan: Can the GOP leader make fiscal responsibility sexy for the iPod generation?
The growing burdens of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Seurity are threatening my generation’s future. But Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s bold plan for entitlement reform leads the way out. Young people just need to follow. As Ryan told me, “It’s their future.”
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According to Congress's watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), entitlements – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – will consume all tax revenue by 2040, leaving defense, education, and all other programs to be financed with debt.
To save the future, we need change now.
Youth activism presents a catalyst for entitlement reform. As Washington continues to rack up record deficits on the dime of future taxpayers, no voice would be more powerful in this debate than future taxpayers themselves.
Republican Paul Ryan gets this. He’s the Wisconsin congressman with the bold plan for entitlement reform called the “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which continues to gain momentum across the country. His challenge is selling actuarial analysis to my younger generation.
Wake up, it's your future
In a phone interview a few weeks ago, Mr. Ryan confirmed to me that youth support is vital to the passage of these reforms. We should give it to him.
Ryan hopes to stop my generation from hitting the snooze button every time a politician mentions the looming debt crisis. The Roadmap enthralls us to “[l]ook at what the government is doing to you and your future, look at where we’re headed, and know it can be avoided if we turn this around.”
On the surface, the Roadmap looks like a boring policy document. Ryan’s most formidable challenge is communicating terms like Medical Savings Accounts [MSAs] and unfunded liabilities to the iPod generation. Let’s face it, we college students don’t have the longest attention spans.
Young people like to organize for ostentatious issues like legalizing marijuana, protecting the environment, or stopping a war. They don’t rally behind such un-sexy causes as fiscal responsibility.
The sky-high future taxes my generation will have to pay in service to the debt should shock them into action. But Ryan’s communication strategy goes beyond appealing to logical self-interest. He follows the examples of other politicians who inspired youth action by appealing to their larger cultural ideals.
Look at the candidates younger voters supported in 2008: Barack Obama and Ron Paul. Young people love ideals and a flashy cause. We embrace broad principles simple enough for us to understand in our distracted lives.
Obama ran an attractive campaign with catchy slogans promising to bring his signature platitudes, “hope” and “change,” to Washington. The youth supported him because they believed he would bring fresh ideas to the political scene.
Beyond rhetoric and flashy ideals
The campaign rhetoric turned out to be fresher than the policies. As Obama allowed Congress to control the agenda, he lost his idealism and along with it, his youthful base.
Ryan’s Roadmap picks up where Obama’s rhetoric left off, offering new solutions based in provocative, timeless principles. Before speaking to Ryan, I knew he had detailed solutions, but still thought his message lacked the simple idealism needed to spark youth interest.
Wrong. Matching “hope” and “change,” Ryan’s Roadmap champions “freedom, liberty, and choice.”