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Obama's 'red menace' debt is the problem. Can Republicans sell the solution in 2012?

President Obama's $3.7 trillion budget would derail the American Dream. Conservatives must frame the debt issue in a way that engages young people without scaring older voters or neglecting social conservatives. Yet most of the 2012 Republican hopefuls at last weekend's CPAC don't get it.

By Ron Meyer / February 15, 2011



Washington

President Obama wants to “win the future.” Yet the $3.7 trillion budget he proposed yesterday would “con the future.”

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Even as our national debt is about to surpass the size of the economy, the proposed budget comes with a record $1.6 trillion deficit.

Kicking the can of fiscal integrity down the road does more than make us a procrasti-nation – it derails the American Dream for young adults (Millennials) like me.

In the next decade, as Millennials are trying to build their own businesses, the cost to service just the interest on the national debt could swell to nearly $1 trillion, crippling their efforts.

The American Dream is being morphed into the American Burden.

Some Republicans say they have a one-point plan for getting America back on track: replacing Obama as president. But to do that, they’ll have to frame the debt issue in a way that engages young people without scaring older voters or neglecting social conservatives.

That’s a tall order, but it can be done – if the GOP hopefuls take a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook and embrace the concept of New Federalism.

GOP hopefuls don't get it

Unfortunately, if this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was any indication, the 2012 Republican presidential field doesn’t get it.

After three days of speeches and talks with a delegates and potential candidates, it was clear that conservatives are neither united behind a message nor a messenger for 2012. While everyone in the Republican base agrees on the need to cut spending, the CPAC VIPs were rather mixed on how to sell this mantra to the American people, especially to younger voters, who overwhelmingly favored Obama in 2008.

The clearest message on cutting the size of government came from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. In his speech, he called debt the next “red menace.” Beforehand, my radio show co-host asked him what his message is to young people. “Tell your elders you deserve a better break then they are giving you,” Governor Daniels told her, “and join us in shaping America up so you can have the kind of life that they had.”

Mr. Daniels understands that the debt should be a youth issue, maybe even a cause for young people to fight for.

One the other hand, when I asked Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi about his message to young people, he said, “Hey, stay involved, learn about government, and make ya’ conservative.”

Like Governor Barbour, most of the GOP field has no idea how to talk to young people. The good news is that they don’t have to start listening to Justin Bieber or appear on Comedy Central. Instead, they can both excite younger voters and unite the conservative base by preaching the virtues of New Federalism.

New Federalism is not just an idea. It’s a fundamental policy orientation that decentralizes the Washington establishment and returns power back to the people and their state and local governments.

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