The young voters were informed
Young adults who voted for President-elect Obama are catching a lot of flak from disappointed Republicans in Carson City. This quote from Conrad Velin in a Nevada Appeal commentary a couple of weeks ago epitomizes what we’re hearing: “I feel a profound sense of sadness for the young people who bought into the Obama hype. They have unknowingly signed their own economic death warrants…”
While it’s interesting to watch members of a party that only a few years ago was, according to Karl Rove, headed for a “permanent majority” try to figure out what went wrong, I don’t think they should lay blame for their defeat at the feet of the young adults who voted for Obama, calling them uninformed. Not only is it unkind, it is also incorrect.
As the mother of two young adults ” one graduating from college next May into the worst economic conditions I can remember, and one, thankfully, a few years away from graduation ” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the economic situation they face. We hear that this generation will be the first to be worse off economically than their parents. Statistics confirm my unease as a parent of two young people about to go out and make their own way in the world.
– Young adults are one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population without health insurance: 13.7 million lacked coverage in 2004, an increase of 2.5 million since 2000.
– Inflation-adjusted tuition at public universities has nearly tripled since 1980.
– Average student loan debt for the class of 2007 is nearly $21,900 (Nevada’s average student debt is much lower than the national average by the way, only $16,448 ” thank you Gov. Guinn and the Millennium scholarship).
– In 1974, a young adult male with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned, on average, $51,223 (in 2004 dollars). In 2004, young male college grads earned $50,700.
I went to Obama’s campaign Web site and found a pretty thorough description of his proposed policies. Among them are increasing the minimum wage, a new tax credit to make tuition more affordable, a health care reform plan that would provide affordable health insurance coverage to all, expansion of the Peace Corps and other opportunities for community service, investment in “next generation” jobs and green jobs ” the list goes on..
If I were 24 years old, working in a tenuous job in a faltering economy built on debt and over-consumption, without health insurance and paying off my student loans, I’d look at those policies and think, this guy gets it: He’s on my side. I figure lots of young voters did that.
Responding to letters calling young Obama voters uninformed, 24-year-old Kimberly Carsten wrote in a recent letter to the Nevada Appeal, “What many of you do not understand is that for the youth of this country, this election would affect the rest of our lives, and my decision was based on what was going to be best for my future, and not what would be best for older generations.”
It seems to me that many of those young Obama voters, besides being enthusiastic and idealistic, also were clearly voting in their own economic self interest. And what’s wrong with that? After all, educated young workers are the ones who are going to keep our economy going through this century, paying off the debts incurred by the previous generation ” and presumably taking care of their parents and grandparents.
So policies to help educate and provide decent jobs for young people are in all our interests. You go, Kimberly!
– Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a 19-year resident of Carson City.