In fact, in 2008 President Obama convinced 66 percent of 18-29 year olds who actually voted to pull the lever for him. The “Hope and Change” campaign was sleek and connected. That ultra cool cat candidate had a cool name, cool poster, cool vision. It seemed on university campuses, everyone liked Barrack. A lot of professors still do. President Obama does, after all, have a lot in common with them.
But now I wonder about those students.
On August 21, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics released a summary of employment trends among American youth. This demographic is defined as men and women between 16 and 24 years of age. The percentage of unemployed is calculated upon the number of these who are seeking a job and can’t find one. Many of these young adults were eligible to vote in 2008, and now the wave of hope they rode then has crashed real change over a lot of their lives with not nice consequences.
Consider, in July 2012, the average youth unemployment rate was 17.1 percent.
To break those numbers down further, a higher percentage of young men today are unemployed than a percentage of young women. White youth registered a 14.9 percent unemployment rate; Asians were at 14.4 percent, and Hispanics reached 18.5 percent. Black youth suffer the most under a 28.6 percent unemployment rate, which is by any definition crushing. Remember, the highest average unemployment figure during the Great Depression was 24.9 percent in 1933.
So it is no wonder NPR recently reported the youth vote feels less energized in 2012. Who feels energized when living in their parents’ basement?
As we kick around debates about how to preserve retirement entitlements, it’s also useful to remember a 2010 CNN poll found seventy percent of people under the age of fifty do not even believe Social Security will be around by the time they retire, so it’s not a youth issue.
Medicare is also not a sure thing, and while Obamacare has allowed kids to stay dependent on their parents longer, it looks to them as a “healthy group” to pay more premiums rather than capitalize upon their youth and save money.
I haven’t even mentioned the burden of that monster called the national debt. (Since our current youth can’t find jobs, maybe their children will pay it?)
So President Obama has talked a lot lately about lowering tuition costs, forgiving student loans, and adding Pell Grants. But these are great examples of pandering to the college set he thinks might actually get registered and show up to vote for him in November. They don’t address the real problem of today’s youth, which is unemployment.
After all, I remember when I was a young undergraduate. I wasn’t eligible for a Pell Grant, but I consistently worked two jobs to pay for my BA, as my middle class parents simply couldn’t afford to help a lot with school.
If I was an undergraduate in the same circumstance today, I would still not be eligible for a Pell Grant. Would I be able to find even one of those two jobs I depended upon to pay my tuition? And if I could get a lot of President Obama’s student loans instead, how would I pay those loans back after graduation with no job market?
The truth of the matter is that President Obama’s economy has been a disaster for young men and women.
Keep in mind, with a kid of my own in college, and as a graduate student still paying ever-increasing tuition costs, I do understand why President Obama’s efforts to stop short-term hikes in student loans and to tout student loan forgiveness programs, gets the youth vote’s attention. I also understand that young voters tend to trend more to the left on social issues than their stodgy, old parents.
But this time around, young men and women must consider more than just the poster-sized picture of politics that might fit into a dorm room.
In 2012, whose policies will get companies hiring again? How will a president kick-start the financial engine that will get unemployed youth out of their parents’ basement and into careers that promise independence? Whose vision is best suited to tackle current problems of finance?
If we’re going by records—and the real unemployment numbers he has not fixed—I think President Obama has already had—and missed—his chance to make a difference.
I mean, at this point, wouldn’t getting a job be the coolest change?