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Generational Equity Tour Recap

The Generational Equity Tour has come to an end after five successful weeks. We are proud of all we accomplished and hope that Washington listens to what young people have to say. 

Georgetown University

Our final campus stop of the tour was Georgetown University on Tuesday evening. Stanley Druckenmiller, philanthropist and former president of Duquesne Capital, gave the keynote presentation, titled, “Breaking Promises: The Young’s Declining Share of the Economic Pie.” He also participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Stephanie Ruhle, anchor at Bloomberg News, and included David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP. 

During his keynote presentation, Druckenmiller made clear that politicians are balancing the budget on the backs’ of kids, not seniors. Seniors are getting an increasing share of the pie and this is the first time your generation’s net worth is less than those previous, he said. Druckenmiller has a track record of being able to predict future events and he said, “this is the scariest, most unsustainable imbalance I’ve seen.” Druckenmiller said the good thing is that there are solutions, but he disagrees with anyone who says we have 20 years to wait and solve this. 

Novelli said there is no intergenerational strife because he believes generations are closely tied together with similar values. Everyone is losing and he doesn’t think the focus should be on getting kids mad, but in solving the problems. Walker countered this by saying he does not think the political climate is conduce to solving problems, even when they know that the younger generations are going to face more challenges and competitiveness in an interconnected world. 

Ruhle asked why politicians that keep kicking the can down the road keep getting re-elected. Walker gave the example that in the 2014 mid-term elections, only 35 seats in the 435 seat House are competitive. Gerrymandering has created many safe seats that ensure politicians’ re-elections. Druckenmiller moved away from Congress and expressed the need for the right leader to take on this issue. Novelli blamed the partisan nature of the media. He said we have had leadership, but the problem is with public opinion and how the public is getting its information.

The panel discussion ended by bringing the conversation back to the unfair burden millennials will have to bear if this issue continues to be kicked down the road. “Every day we wait, the burden shifts to kids. The longer we wait, the greater the burden,” said Druckenmiller. Walker said we must first build the burning platform and show the true stakes and then make sure that young people raise hell. Novelli added that we must build a burning platform among all generations, not just young people. Druckenmiller echoed this by saying he believes that if you showed seniors these numbers there is no way they would want to put this on their grandkids, and they would make some sacrifices.   

University of Virginia

The first stop on our last week of the tour was the University of Virginia. We were honored to be joined by David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General, who participated in a panel discussion with TCKB co-founder Nick Troiano, moderated by Mary Margaret Frank, associate professor of business administration. 

Walker has traveled to all 50 states and engaged with the public more than anyone else on this issue. Frank first asked about the reaction most people have when they learn the numbers and magnitude of the problem. Walker said that first people are shocked, but once they understand the problem and what’s at stake they are willing to accept tough choices, especially the older generation. “We don’t want intergenerational conflicts, we want to solve this problem in an equitable, responsible and sustainable fashion.” Troiano added that during the tour most young people were refreshed that our campaign is non-partisan because young people are tired of the partisanship in Washington. 

Walker iterated that it is not a stimulus versus austerity issue, we need more investments now in programs that can grow the economy and improve our competitive posture, but that we also must address some programs to ensure that they are put on a path of sustainable spending for the future. 

Walker then transitioned into talking about political reforms and the fact that we have a republic that is no longer responsive to or representative of the public. He joked that if politicians were paid for performance they would owe us money. Troiano talked about the need for a group large enough and powerful enough, similar to AARP, that can say when it comes to fiscal reforms everything needs to be on the table. Millennials need to make this their number one issue. They need to vote, contact their elected officials about important issues, and even start running for office. 

In order to solve this problem, Walker said we need to reform social insurance programs, rationalize our health care promises, reform the tax code to generate more revenue, and spend more on investment and less on consumption. He said we need to restructure spending in a way that is intergenerationally equitable. He said that even though this is a serious problem it is a solvable problem, which is what makes it so frustrating. He said young people need to be involved, but not only through social media, they also need boots on the ground and in the faces of elected officials. Troiano added that young people shouldn’t let their frustration with Washington politics to be a reason to disengage; it should be more of a reason to re-engage. 

Media Coverage

The Hoya
A New Game of Kick the Can
An op-ed written by Alex Cave, chair of the Georgetown College Republicans and Trevor Tezel, chair of the Georgetown College Democrats. 

Cavalier Daily
Brightwell: Debt Valley
An op-ed written by Elizabeth Brigthwell, a student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVA, arguing why the national debt is the most pressing issue facing young people. 

The Hoya
Students Focus on US Debt
This article previews the Georgetown event on Tuesday, October 29th, the tour’s final college campus stop.

Media Coverage

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
The chaos in Washington, D.C., is a call to action in Cleveland: Nick Troiano
Op-ed by co-founder Nick Troiano about the need for millennials to get involved in the political process, because we have the most to lose.

The Sentinel
KSU Hosts Generational Equity Tour to Educate Students About National Debt
This article is about our event at Kennesaw State University, including student feedback from the “Debt Busters” activity facilitated by the Concord Coalition. 

The Florida Times-Union
Guest column: Younger generation calling for equity in federal budget
Op-ed by co-founder Ryan Schoenike about the opportunity for change in Washington, D.C. and the three things millennials should be looking for Congress to achieve.

Local Leaders: Bryce and Satin

Bryce Christensen and Satin Tashnizi are leaders of the College Republicans and College Democrats, respectively, at the University of Utah. They joined together to co-sponsor our tour event at the University of Utah and serve as an example for how leaders in Washington should collaborate and work together. 

University of North Florida Day 2

Due to some vehicle troubles we are stuck in Florida for a few more days. On Wednesday we decided to head back to the University of North Florida to engage with more students during the day. We focused on collecting as many messages as we could for Washington. 

University of North Florida

We had a very successful evening at the University of North Florida yesterday. At one point over 200 students were in the room for the screening of Overdraft and panel discussion with Bob Bixby, Executive Director of the Concord Coalition; Rev. John Allen Newman, Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary at Mount Calvary; and Paul Stebbins, Chairman of World Fuel Services, and moderated by The Can Kicks Back co-founder, Ryan Schoenike. 

Paul Stebbins kicked off the panel by talking about the business community and how they must be thought leaders, and that having K Street lobbyists is not good policy. He then switched to talking about our generation and how we aren’t at the table, but we must be. He said Twitter started a revolution in Egypt so it’s capable of creating change. He said we need to use Twitter because our generation has the tools to get involved in this debate. 

The Rev. John Allen Newman started his remarks by joking about how desperate the situation must be if we brought a man to pray about the national debt. He said it takes grassroots leadership to build a movement and that people don’t get involved until they see a threat to themselves. He said this threat is real. He used an example of a college freshman studying architecture. If there’s no money for infrastructure, why be an architect? There’s no use for you, and when you graduate there won’t be a job for you. He said all of this comes from the debt and lack of funds for critical investments. He said, “the debt is a killer for your future. That’s why it’s real.” 

Bob Bixby reiterated the point that it all comes down to arithmetic and basic math. He said we know the demographic trends and we know that health care costs are increasing. The math shows this will only be a greater problem in the future. He said waiting 10 to 15 years to address these programs means we lose the opportunity to make small changes now that would result in bigger savings over time. 

The panelists then moved to talking about the political system and how it seems unable to have a civil discourse. Paul Stebbins said the political system can’t even have a conversation about this issue or reforming entitlements because you get attacked on both sides. He said they only think about the next election, which is why more people, especially our generation, must get involved in the political process, to create political cover for elected officials to stand up on these issues and make tough choices. “This is the single most important thing affecting our country. It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a citizenship issue,” Stebbins said. 

Rev. Newman said the fact that there are political factions willing to go off the cliff and see what happens is insane. That’s why young people need to get involved. Stebbins said it all comes down to being a confidence issue and that as the greatest economy in the world we can’t have a government shutdown be the topic of conversation on CNN every night. He said it’s insane, reckless and shameful. He said the focus for politicians is all ideological and not about solving problems. He closed his remarks and the panel by saying, “We did this. That’s what’s so amazing. We did this to ourselves. Shameful.”

University of Miami

On Monday we visited the University of Miami to engage with students during the day. We were located near the central part of campus so we talked to a steady stream of students all day. We signed up over 130 supporters for our campaign!

We explained the difference between debt and deficits to many students, but most were actually more interested in talking about political system reforms. Many students talked about reforming the primary process and campaign finance reform. Many view the political system as one of the barriers to progress on all issues, including the national debt.