Politics and Governance

The Boom Is Over

After the Super Committee’s failure to reach a deal today on managing U.S. debt, I can’t help but wonder: Is this what passes for leadership from my parents’ generation?

The Baby Boomers have lived some of the most privileged lives in the history of the world. They created a country unprecedented in its wealth, diversity, equality and hopefulness.  Yet in the moments that Americans look toward their leadership, they falter.

Our parents did a wonderful job of raising the millennial generation. According to the Pew Center, my generation is the most educated in U.S. history, we are far more accepting of those who are different from us, and we trust and respect our elders.

Despite our parents’ wonderful examples, their parenting and their politicians rarely teach the same lessons.  Looking at what our parents’ generation of leaders has failed to accomplish, I cannot help but question if our trust and respect for our parents’ generation has been misplaced.

The Super Committee was founded on the hope that if 12 politicians removed themselves from the greater Congressional zoo, they would create a bipartisan solution to reduce our nation’s debt.  We trusted them to create a plan that overcame the differences that separated Democrats and Republicans to lower the budget deficit.

They failed. I feel like a fool for thinking that they might be able to place national interests above their local constituents and political party’s platform.

In yesterday’s Super Committee statement, they cited their “months of hard work and intense deliberations.” However, until yesterday, the Super Committee hadn’t met in person for three months.

All negotiations are hard work. However, successful negotiations require face-to-face conversation and compromise.  Most Americans know hard work when they see it, and the Super Committee’s negotiations were not a process that was built on hard work or intense deliberations.

The Super Committee is the product of a wholly unsatisfying lack of compromise from the Debt Ceiling debate in July. After failing to reach a deal, the men and women serving in Congress committed themselves to empowering 12 members to reach a deal or face austere cuts to the budget.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the July talks showcased Congressional leaders choosing their ideology over a compromise, but I think my generation hoped for more from their leaders.  Only three years ago, the millennials were giddy with hope for a political debate that elevated itself above partisanship.

On November 4, 2008, the millennials voted in mass for Barack Obama, not to impose a new leftist agenda, but because he aimed to elevate politics beyond ideology.  He spoke of the hope my generation had for a government that was able to resolve the differences between the two parties.

Over the next three years, my hopes for a government that resolved its differences in a dignified and civil way have evaporated in brawls over health care, bank bailouts and banking reform.

I realize that President Obama does not deserve all of the blame.  He has negotiated and compromised often without a partner across the table and both the left and the right have ridiculed the final product of negotiation.

However, President Obama must now force Congress to accept the punishment that the failure of the Super Committee imposes.  Governing in the new and somewhat unnecessary austerity will create difficult challenges that will likely affect young people more than our parents.

No doubt that in the next few weeks, Congressional leaders and the White House will spar over who deserves the blame for the Super Committee’s failure. The debate will likely divert attention from the loss of services and most likely jobs across the federal government.

Regardless of which side wins the debate, the real losers are the young Americans who will spend their lives paying for our Baby Boomers’ entitlements because Congress lacks the leadership to make the truly painful cuts in federal spending that could actually alter the future budget deficit.

Maybe it was naïve of the millennials to hope for a government that could work together to solve the problems that the nation faces. For the first time, I look into the future of the United States and I lose faith in the future that the Baby Boomers created for us.

The most upsetting part of what is going on the halls of Congress is that there is no hope for compromise on the horizon. Looking ahead, I can’t help but wonder if the future my generation is as bright as it was for the Baby Boomers?

This article was also published on November 30, 2011 in the Austin-American Statesman.

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