is for Young People
By Randy Schutt
32% of the 26.7 million potential US voters who were age 18
to 24 in 2000 reported that they cast a ballot for president
that year - half the rate of those age 45 to 64 and down markedly
from the 50% of young people who said they voted in 1972.
Is it true that "voting is for old people" as cynically proclaimed
by a T-shirt sold earlier this year by Urban Outfitters?
Voting requires minimal effort and is the very least one
can expect of citizens in a democracy. Each single vote has
little effect in righting social ills - but what can you expect
from an act that requires almost no effort? Still, the votes
of a lot of young people could achieve regime change in the
presidential election on November 2nd. Voting is one small
step in the larger effort to bring about the massive social
change that we need.
This year young people have a greater incentive to vote
and work for change than at any time in decades. Old people
are now implementing policies that will have big effects far
into the future. Consider:
The US is quietly preparing to re-introduce a military
draft, perhaps as soon as the spring of 2005. This new draft
would target both young men and women and would not have exemptions
Clearly, young people would be impacted by this intrusive
In recent years, the United States has renounced
the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, has refused to ratify
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and has refused to support
treaties banning anti-personnel landmines, chemical weapons,
and biological weapons. The US has also refused to sign the
Kyoto Accords on global warming and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child or to support the International Criminal
The long-term consequences of these wrong-headed policies
will fall most heavily on young people and future generations.
The Bush administration is waging wars on false pretenses
in an effort to build and maintain a US empire favorable to
US corporations (and, at best, indifferent to democracy).
Young people are fighting overseas and dying in increasing
numbers for this misguided policy. In the guise of fighting
a "War on Terror", the Bush administration has turned our
country into an aggressor nation, turned our allies against
us, destroyed our respect in the world community, damaged
our economy, invaded our privacy, and spawned more terrorists
in the Middle East who threaten us - decreasing, rather than
increasing, our safety. Young people will bear the brunt of
repairing the damage to our world and restoring the ideals
of democracy, freedom, and liberty in the United States.
Our environment is being decimated. Young people
will be forced to live in a more barren and polluted world
and will eventually have to pay for environmental cleanup
and restoration. Two examples among many: The Bush administration
has eased environmental safeguards and public participation
requirements as a way to promote logging in national forests
and oil and gas drilling on pristine public lands. It has
also rejected tough new mercury standards in favor of a plan
that would allow nearly seven times as much mercury pollution
from coal-fired power plants for nearly 20 more years.
Inadequate federal funding has contributed to the
cost of skyrocketing college tuition. For the 2003-04 academic
year, tuition and fees at 4-year public universities increased
an average of 14.1% over the previous year.
At the same time, student grants and loans are being
cut back, making college less affordable for everyone except
the rich. A study in 2002 found that 400,000 qualified high
school graduates could not afford to attend a four-year college.
Borrowing to pay for college greatly increased during the
1990s. Debts averaged $12,888 in the 1999-2000 academic year
for seniors from low-income families attending public four-year
schools - up 69% from 10 years earlier, even after adjusting
In the 1975-76 academic year, average Pell Grant awards covered
about 48% of the tuition, fees, room, and board at a four-year
public institution, but by the 2000-01 academic year, the
average grant covered only 25% of total costs.
Flawed Bush administration efforts have led the economy
into a jobless recovery. This has been particularly devastating
for young people. An estimated 61% of 2003 college graduates
had to move back in with their parents because of the lack
of jobs. Prospects for the future don't look much better.
Expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq plus massive
tax cuts for the super rich have led to the federal government
running up massive budget deficits. The additional debt between
2002 and 2007 from these tax cuts is projected to total the
equivalent of more than $52,000 per US family of four.
These debts will eventually have to be paid for by young people
or their children through tax hikes, higher interest rates,
or inadequate public services.
The Social Security Fund is being raided to pay for
current expenses (including tax cuts for the super rich).
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has recently proposed
slashing Social Security retirement benefits and using the
savings to help finance a permanent extension of President
Bush's tax cuts.
By the time young people retire, there may not be much left
of this retirement program.
Credit card debt is more burdensome than ever. Between
1989 and 2001, total credit card debt in America almost tripled
to $692 billion, and the average American family experienced
a 53 percent increase in credit card debt to $4,126. US Supreme
Court rulings in 1978 and 1996 have allowed the credit card
industry to charge usurious rates and fees.
Several Supreme Court judges are likely to retire in the next
few years and the next president will appoint their successors.
These few examples show how much the government affects
our lives and how important it is for us all to be informed
and engaged citizens. Young people have an especially strong
incentive to set things right so that the rest of their lives
will not be severely impacted.
Fortunately, there are many groups working to increase the
number of young people involved in the political process.
Project Democracy http://www.projectdemocracy2004.org
Rock The Vote http://www.rockthevote.com
Music for America http://www.musicforamerica.org
Bands Against Bush http://www.bandsagainstbush.org
Punk Voter http://www.punkvoter.com
America Coming Together (ACT) http://www.act4victory.org/
Voting is for young people. Get informed, get involved,
and work for change.
"Table A-1. Reported Voting and Registration by Race, Hispanic
Origin, Sex and Age Groups: November 1964 to 2000", US Census
"'Voting Is For Old People': Urban Outfitters Peddles Political
Irony", MTV.com, February 18, 2004 http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1485150/20040218/index.jhtml?headlines=true
"Beware of Attempts to Revive Military Draft", by Bob Keeler,
Newsday, December 22, 2003 http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1222-02.htm
Draft: A Sleeping Giant Stirs", Center on Conscience & War,
December 9th, 2003 http://www.nisbco.org/uaa12-9-03.htm
Up the Draft Machine?", by David Lindorff, Salon.com, Nov.
3, 2003 http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2003/11/03/draft/
the Draft????", Cleveland Peace Action http://www.peaceactioncleveland.org/Legislation.htm#DRAFT
on S.89, Friends Committee on National Legislation http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/bills/?billnum=S.89&congress=108
"Rogue States? America Ought to Know: The Hyperpower Sets
Its Own Rules", by Phyllis Bennis, TomPaine.com, March 1,
"The President's Real Goal in Iraq", by Jay Bookman, The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, 29 September 2002 http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/bookman/2002/092902.html
National Security Strategy of the United States of America",
The White House, September 2002 http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/secstrat.htm
America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New
Century", Project for the New American Century, September
in Open, 'Empire' Talk Unsettling", by Jay Bookman, The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, 08 May 2003
"Report Documents Bush Administration's Accelerated Assault
on America's Environment: NRDC Details How White House 'Rewriting
Rules' for Industry" National Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
April 15, 2004. http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressReleases/040415.asp
Sierra Club "W" Watch http://www.sierraclub.org/wwatch/
Green Watch http://www.bushgreenwatch.org
"Trends in College Pricing 2003" Press Release, The College
Board, October 21, 2003 http://www.collegeboard.com/press/article/0,3183,29541,00.html
"Fund Gap Bars Way to College: 400,000 Qualified Students
Can't Enter in Fall, Study Says" by Mary Leonard, Boston Globe,
June 27, 2002 http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0627-06.htm
"College Further From Poor's Grasp, Study Shows", by Stuart
Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2002 http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0502-02.htm
"Trends in Student Aid, 2003", Table 7, The College Board,
October 27, 2003 http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/press/cost03/cb_trends_aid_2003.pdf
"$100k on a Degree -- Now What? With Jobs Scarce, More than
Half of this Year's College Graduates will Head Home to Mom
and Dad", by Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money, June 4, 2003
"Shifty Tax Cuts: How They Move the Tax Burden off the Rich
and onto Everyone Else", United for a Fair Economy, April
7, 2004 http://www.ufenet.org/press/2004/ShiftyTaxCuts_pr.html
"Joker in Chief: The President Proposes Sham Spending Cuts
and Still Can't Get Near Fiscal Balance. It's Dangerous Baloney."
by Robert S. McIntyre, The American Prospect, March 2004 http://www.prospect.org/web/view-print.ww?id=7252
"Social Security's Zealous Raider", by Robert S. McIntyre,
The American Prospect, April 2004 http://www.prospect.org/web/view-print.ww?id=7508
"Borrowing to Make Ends Meet: The Growth of Credit Card Debt
in the '90s",by Tamara Draut and Javier Silva, Demos: A Network
for Ideas and Action, September 8, 2003 http://www.demos-usa.org/pub1.cfm