Obama: Why I’m betting on you to fix the economy

By Bethel Habte / Columnist

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Growing up as a millennial, it’s always seemed like the U.S. government approached economic reform like a never-ending game of peekaboo. “Where’s the money? There it is!” Someone claims to have found a solution, and then there begins another round of heated debates and lackluster suggestions — we have become all too used to this while coming of age during the recession.

And now the government has invited us to play along. 

Obama recently took to Medium, a blog publishing platform, to share a post addressed to millennials titled “Why I’m Betting on You to Help Shape the New American Economy.”

I think it would be more fitting if it was instead titled “Why I Think Calling It a New Economy Will Make Up for the Fact That I’ve Given Up on Economic Reform.” 

Obama’s sentiments, though well-intentioned, do more harm than good when it comes to easing the millennial burden.  

The president’s effort to “Shape the New American Economy” centers around several key facets of millennial behavior: our ties to technology, determination to receive an education and entrepreneurial spirit. 

His assertions fail to acknowledge, however, that these aspects of millennial behavior arose not out of a desire to transform the economic system, but as a desperate measure to infiltrate the system in place.

While he alludes to the challenges millennials have faced integrating into the workforce, his solutions do little to address the root of the issue. 

He writes, “And we know that when we invest in your potential, rather than stack the deck in favor of the folks who are already at the top, our entire economy does better,” to herald his administration’s efforts in making education and healthcare more accessible to millennials. 

But if the government is confident that economic equality is the answer, why does it continue to treat economic reform as such a baffling endeavor?

Economists have already determined, time after time, that income inequality has a detrimental effect on job creation and economic growth. 

Politicians have yet to determine the direct cause of economic inequality. Debates range from faults in our tax system, government policies, job creation, corporations, greed, wage gaps, the opportunities and powers of the rich, recessions and government assistance programs.

Yet, as heated debates on inequality’s roots have occupied our time, the inequality gap has continued to steadily grow, with talk taking precedence over action. In 2013, Obama admitted that 95 percent of income gains were going to the top 1 percent. Even at its lowest, the income gap is alarmingly high. Hawaii has the lowest gap between the highest 1 and lower 99 percent of its population, but with the 1 percent still earning 12.1 times the income of that of the average 99 percenter.

It is commendable that the Obama administration has expressed a desire to tackle the issue of economic inequality. However, Obama must realize that, before he begins betting on millennials to “Shape the New American Economy,” he must first bet on himself to “Fix the American Economy” that is already in place. 

While we millennials may be a more educated, technologically savvy and independent generation than our predecessors, that potential means nothing without the opportunity to actively progress in the economy. 

It’s a realization that can tend to generate bitter sentiment toward Obama’s heartfelt plea for millennial aid. 

It appears as if Obama has passed along generations’ worth of piling economic struggles under the pretense of an opportunity to revamp the American economy. 

In reality, there is no new American economy, and there will never be an old American economy. There has only been and will only ever be one American economy. 

If our government is so excited to see what the American economy will look like under millennial control, it might look to Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll, which revealed the issues most important to millennials are the economy, debt, spending and terrorism heading into the midterm elections.

But they might want to do more than simply acknowledge what millennials want. Currently, we are the largest generation coming of voting age — what we lack in economic power, we make up for in political power. 

And we’re not looking to play any games. 

Write to Bethel at beh56@pitt.edu

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