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February 20, 2013

Obama and a Lost Decade for America's Young Adults

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By the time President Obama leaves office in January 2017, the young people who helped catapult him into office will be nearly a decade older. And unless the economy turns around, it will be a lost decade, one of high unemployment and missed opportunities.

In opinion polls, young people typically identify themselves as liberal, and their idealism is understandable. Yet there are few instances where any other group of people has so consistently voted against its self-interest.

Unemployment is devastating America’s young adults. One in every eight Americans aged 18 to 29 years is unemployed. Inflation-adjusted starting wages for college graduates have remained essentially flat since 2008. As the number of college graduates has gone up, the number of jobs has gone down. Vast numbers of highly educated young people are either not utilizing their education or not working at all.

The irony is exquisite. Young people claim to want nothing more than freedom and independence. Yet many now live with their parents because they can’t find a good job. These are the same people Mr. Obama pandered to by insisting they be covered by their parents’ health insurance. They may enjoy that benefit, but the net effect of Obamacare and other liberal policies is high unemployment that only increases their dependence on their parents.

Stuck in their childhood bedrooms decorated with posters about “Hope and Change,” many young people today watch their career-forming years pass by.

They also are seeing their future squandered. As Duke University scholar Christopher J. Conover explains, Obamacare is a “cash cow for older workers.” New health care rules will force insurers to raise rates for 18 to 24 year olds by 45 percent, while dropping them by 13 percent for those over 60. Young people between 20 and 24 will pay 50 percent higher premiums than those 55 to 64, even though they earn far less. Actuaries Kurt Giesa and Chris Carlson conclude that Obamacare’s “age-band compression” will mean a 25-year-old earning $33,510 today will see insurance premiums increase 42 percent.

Young people apparently missed that detail about who is paying for Obamacare. They don’t seem to realize that being forced to get insurance coverage is actually a clever way to make them pay for other people’s health insurance, particularly older people.

They also seem to overlook the fact that their retirement is in deep jeopardy. Hadley Heath, a health-care analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, estimates that, because the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2037, 25-year-old workers today will see their benefits reduced by about 25 percent. Unless something is done about the coming bankruptcy of Medicare, there may be nothing left in that program when that same 25-year-old comes to need it.

Young people may not worry all that much now about a retirement still some 40 years away. But they surely will think differently when they have to work well into their 70s just to make ends meet.

The young’s lost decade means getting a later start in life from a lower economic position. It means marrying and having fewer children much later in life, and possibly never being able to afford a house because of higher interest rates caused by inflation. Young people will have to work at lower wages for many more years to prepare for retirement.

Perhaps the young can be forgiven their idealism that led them to vote for Mr. Obama in such high numbers. But what excuse have their parents who blithely refuse to see how their free-spending selfishness endangers the future of their children?

-Kim R. Holmes is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

First appeared in The Washington Times.

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