It seems like free markets get a bad rap these days. After being blamed for the financial crisis, rising healthcare costs, and income inequality, free market solutions are being replaced with more and more government intervention. Young people, tending to be altruistic, accept these government interventions, believing they help the poor, protect the weak, and provide services we all depend on. But along with these programs come mandates, taxes, and higher cost of living. They come with an inordinate amount of government control, and my generation tends to be wary of that. Recent scandals in the Obama administration have only served to make the youth more suspicious of government overreach into our lives.
Warrantless wiretaps, IRS abuses of power, and massive data collection by the NSA all beg the question; why should we, as independent youth, accept orders from a government that is increasingly untrustworthy? Young people want two things; we want education, and we want jobs. The current administration has promised both, but has failed to deliver on either in a meaningful way. The cost of a college education is through the roof, despite (because of!) increased government subsidies through low interest Stafford loans. Increasing government involvement in education has led to increased costs and decreased value. Students are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, only to find that the jobs we trained for are no longer there (or never were, Art History majors). We are faced with paying off our debts, working jobs that our degrees don’t apply to, and little room for upward mobility. It has become clear that education policies determined in Washington will not improve our futures.
The mandates and regulations implemented in ObamaCare make our problems worse. Young people tend to agree with the sentiment that we should provide medical care to the poor. Washington’s policies, however, hurt us as we attempt to enter the workforce. Employers are already hesitant to hire as a result of high taxes and red tape. The new healthcare law requires that all full-time employees have insurance coverage provided through their employer. In response to this expensive mandate, companies and school districts across the nation are cutting employees to part-time status. At the same time, costs of individual healthcare plans are expected to increase by up to 146% in some areas of the country, as reported by Forbes. So, the healthcare law will hurt young people disproportionately, in the forms of higher premiums, higher taxes, and lower wages – if you can find a full-time job at all.
Government is good at one thing, however: spending our money. With all of these mandates, programs, and subsidies comes a cost, and that cost is adding up. At $17 trillion, the national debt is 107% of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government would have to tax 100% of earnings for nearly 13 months to fully pay it off, while cutting spending to $0. Or each American citizen would have to write a check for $55,000. And unlike personal debt, this debt does not die with the generation that accumulated it. Government debt falls upon those who were not old enough to vote, or were not even born, when the decisions were made. Young graduates, while paying off our astronomical student loans and record-high insurance premiums, with jobs that don’t apply to our education, will be expected to pay a nearly 70% effective tax rate in order to pay the bills our parents and grandparents have racked up — all while attempting to build a foundation for ourselves and our children. It doesn’t seem fair to ask us to pay for these programs that will never benefit us.
There is a crucial debate to have about the role of government moving forward. Increasing healthcare costs must be addressed. Providing quality education to our youth is necessary to build a brighter future. Instead of more of the same one-size-fits-all policies from Washington, entrepreneurial young people should be allowed to solve these issues. We are the generation that created Facebook, Google, and Napster, completely changing the way we interact, learn, and enjoy our free time. This did not happen as the result of some policy; this happened because young people can see the way forward on a variety of issues. With more of this innovation, it would be a simple matter to solve the most pressing issues of our time. Government’s stale interventionism has had its day. Free markets hold the answers to our problems, and we should let them work.
- Shayne Spence is a summer intern with the Ethan Allen Institute.