Young Americans Under Siege

Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign had one major effect: It exposed what has become known as the “war on women,” the Republican right’s opposition to contraception, family planning and the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. Too bad Santorum decided to suspend his campaign. If he had followed up on calling Obama a “snob” for encouraging students to go to college, he might have exposed the conservative war on the young.

Young people find themselves under siege. Youth unemployment for ages 16 to 24 is at Arab Spring levels — officially 16.5 percent. In public schools, children are being hit with teacher layoffs, bigger class sizes, less bus service, fees for sports and other extracurricular activities and less course offerings.

Colleges are raising tuitions and shorting aid programs. Student debt is greater than credit card debt, with Americans owing more than $1 trillion, with new graduates averaging over $25,000. And these students are graduating into the worst job market since the 1930s. Even if they find work, increasing numbers are forced by economic need to live with their parents.

And even their right to vote is under attack. Voters 18 to 25 turned out in large numbers for Barack Obama in 2008. Republican governors and state legislators — guided by the conservative, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council — have pushed voter ID laws that make it harder for students to vote. The Brennan Center estimates that 5 million voters might be disqualified, many of them young people.

And it’s getting worse. In July, the interest rate on U.S. government-sponsored student loans is scheduled to double to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. This will add thousands to the debt owed by today’s students, and to the cost of repaying that debt over time. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) has prepared legislation that would extend the 3.4 percent rate, paying for it by ending top end tax breaks — including those on corporate jets.

But House Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), seem intent on letting the rate double. Ryan’s budget proposal would force cuts in Pell grants and raise interest rates for students as it seeks to virtually eliminate anything in the government beyond the military, Social Security, Medicare and other health-care plans. Republicans are also intent on repealing health-care reform. The reform enables young people to be covered under their parents’ plans until age 26.

And parents often feel the pain when their children are afflicted. Parents stretch to provide support for their unemployed children, including living space those who can’t afford to live separately. Uninsured calamity often becomes a family sacrifice. Parents guarantee many of their children’s student loans. Americans over 60 owe a staggering $36 billion in student loans.

We can’t afford to lose this war on the young. Providing aid to states and localities to rehire teachers would help fuel the recovery and create about a million jobs. Direct public employment for the young in job corps and green corps would more than pay for itself in reduced crime, increased productivity and reduced incidence of drugs and depression. Providing free tuition for public college would cost an estimated $30 billion a year. A tax on destabilizing financial speculation could cover all of that. We have choices. This is still a rich nation. We can afford to invest in our kids. We simply have to choose.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

More articles by:
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes