Even though you would have us believe otherwise on the campaign trail, the drivers of our debt are not solely taxes or non-defense discretionary spending — that is, investments in education, science and technology. Whether you are the candidate who embraced or libeled Paul Ryan, the math remains. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will go up in smoke and consume federal spending long before anyone from my generation is able to collect. The hard truth is that the retirement age will have to be raised significantly, and Medicare and Social Security will need to be means tested.
There, Mr. President-elect, in four sentences I have laid out honest prescriptions to fix our social welfare programs that you and your opponent were too timid to address. Upon taking office, you will be met immediately with a potentially recession-inducing crisis. Way back in May, the Congressional Budget Office warned that Washington must prevent the Bush-era tax cuts from expiring and repeal previously agreed-upon spending cuts, both of which are set to occur at the beginning of 2013. Otherwise, the nonpartisan government agency reported the economy would shrink by 1.3 percent in 2013. Mr. President-elect, you must see through a deal reminiscent of what the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission recommended, with tax increases and budget cuts triggered in several years.
In addition to a grand budget compromise, you must address the social plight of a huge subset of the population. Approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants must live and work in constant fear of expulsion from the country to which they contribute. If I write to President Obama, in spirit we agree, but you must deliver on a promise for immigration reform you failed to fulfill in your first term. However, if our new leader is Gov. Romney, I have a clear warning: The United States is in danger of cementing a subclass. In exchange for a demonstrated commitment of education or service — coupled with a thorough purge of the violent few among them — citizenship must be given to those who are American in all but title.
Now, a word on education. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed. What’s more, the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma was a staggering 19.1 percent last year. All the while, there are hundreds of thousands of highly skilled jobs around the country — in everything from manufacturing to IT — that employers are unable to fill. Mr. President-elect, America’s youngest professionals and future laborers need a firm commitment from you to bolster community colleges and trade schools. These are avenues to stable jobs and a life in the middle class, which is evaporating before our eyes.
I am one who believes that the American Century does not need to have ended, and most Americans desire a president who shares their faith that our greatest days are still ahead. It’s a cliche, no doubt, but every day we don’t move forward with these kinds of reforms, it moves closer to becoming a fantasy. There are real steps we can take, ones I believe we are capable of agreeing on, to prevent my generation from inheriting a dimmer future. Whether you are the man for whom I cast my vote or not, Mr. President-elect, it is my hope that you muster the grit and pragmatism necessary to lead this country back to what we all know it can be.
David Will is a sociology major from Chevy Chase, Md. He can be reached at email@example.com.