Since I graduated from college in 2009, the economy has remained stagnant and the job market has remained weak, with no sign of improvement. Just last week, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the unemployment rate hit 7.5 percent.
While the mainstream media and our leaders in Washington want you to believe that the economy is getting better, thanks to more spending, higher taxes, and more regulation, six million people have dropped out of the work force since the recession began in 2008. Young Americans, especially, have it bad.
About 45 percent of 18 to 34-year olds are unemployed according to a recent poll by Demos, a public policy firm. I still know of college classmates who have yet to find meaningful jobs or are severely underemployed almost four years after graduation. However, a recent poll on young people's views of limited government, free markets, and economic liberty suggests some may be waking up to the conclusion that government, over-regulation, and more spending will not turn our futures around.
In a survey launched by Young America's Foundation and conducted by the polling company, Kellyanne Conway, Inc., more than 60 percent of college-age students feel that government should not take an active role in their day-to-day-lives, and half of respondents believe that the federal government is mostly hurting economic recovery.
President Ronald Reagan said, "Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States." And, as the poll suggests, young people share this belief: 66 percent of the students polled had a positive opinion of "entrepreneurship," 44 percent found "free markets" positive, and 42 percent believe the federal government is an opponent rather than a partner in the pursuit of the American Dream.
It seems every time we turn on the TV or visit our favorite news site, the media is telling us what issues should matter to us, such as gun control and abortion. However, in YAF's study, neither of those issues ranks in the top five for the respondents, who cited the economy (21 percent), jobs (16 percent), education (16 percent), and the national debt (14 percent). We went to college or received an advanced degree in hopes of bettering our situation and having a productive and fruitful life. Isn't that the goal of every generation?
The poll seems to indicate that our leaders in Washington are keeping us from doing that. Six-in-ten young people are displeased with the way that their public officials represent young people. That shouldn't surprise many, judging by the approval rating for Congress. The respondents felt that our leaders have bungled the recovery and are out to score points on each other, rather than solve the problem.
Many in Congress use scare tactics to call for more government spending, higher taxes, and more regulations to "even the playing field." That doesn't sit well with my generation. Seventy-six percent of respondents feel that government spending has to decrease if we are to have any hope of improving our economic situation, nearly 40 percent want less regulation, and nearly 60 percent want lower taxes.
If history teaches us anything, a lower tax rate, less spending, and less regulation is the recipe for success. When President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act in 1981, 20 million jobs were created, inflation plummeted, and net worth of families earning between $20,000 and $50,000 increased by nearly 30 percent. Right now, our government seems content with the unemployment rate hovering around 8% and a drastically reduced work force. That's unsustainable and unacceptable.
As Milton Friedman said, "Governments never learn. Only people learn." It seems like my generation is doing just that.
Editor's Note: Adam serves as director of external relations for Young America's Foundation