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An Open Letter to My Fellow Young Americans: We're Getting Screwed

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Ben Brown
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We've read all the articles about our generation, the ever-entitled 18-36 year olds of the USA. We're the Me Me Me Generation; lazy, needy, selfish, ruining the workplace because we received too many participation trophies in middle school. Yet somehow we're also the most optimistic and innovative, and prioritize our values above paychecks. We are the most diverse and most educated American generation ever--not to mention at 83 million we are now the largest American generation, and the largest one in the US workforce. We distrust institutions--probably because in 2007 we saw what happens when you believe they have your best interests at heart. And yet, we are excited for the future, with a larger portion of Millennials saying America's best years are ahead of it compared to other generations. Curious.

Young Americans are fighting an uphill battle against a huge list of social, financial, and political issues that must be solved. We're struggling with unemployment, mass incarceration, institutionalized racism, a rigged election system favoring wealthy donors; we must unite a nation divided on gun laws and abortion rights; and we are tied down by $1.2T in student debt and shouldering the burden of social security payments (which we, ourselves, probably won't receive). This is the first American generation expected to be worse off economically than previous generations. 7 in 10 Americans across all generations agree that today's young Americans face more economic challenges than other generations did when they were young. But the largest challenge we face might just be the system itself.

While we struggle to find jobs and pay off student debt, millionaires and billionaires continue to pour money into elections, skewing the entire political apparatus towards their needs and desires. It's so bad that experts have actually proved that the US has become an Oligarchy in terms of how consistently government policy reflects the desires of rich donors, not everyday citizens.. As of October, 2015, 154 families had already spent $174M on the first phase of the 2016 election. The US Chamber of Commerce--the lobby group that represents corporate interests--spent $124M in lobbying in 2014 alone, more than the next four largest lobby groups combined. In 2014, billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg contributed $75M and $28M, respectively, to campaigns and other political groups. Charles and David Koch, the industrialist brothers worth a combined $100 Billion, have pledged to spend almost one billion dollars on the 2016 election cycle.
My bet, neither the Koch brothers nor the Chamber of Commerce--certainly not the AARP--is petitioning the candidates it supports to refinance student loans at lower interest rates, limit lobbying, restore balance to campaign finance or address high unemployment among young Americans.
As a result, Young Americans have given up on politics. Perhaps because of our distrust of institutions, Millennials have largely opted-out of the political process. In the 2014 Midterm elections, only 23.1% of people aged 18-34 voted. Of those eligible to vote, that is more than 50 million young Americans who did not vote.

Our voices have been eliminated from a process we so desperately need to work on our behalf. And our disillusionment, though fully warranted, is amplifying the system's abandonment of our needs and rights. When we don't vote, not only do we lay down the power to elect candidates who will work for our concerns, we also signal to candidates that our interests aren't worth pandering to, because our votes are illusory--they never actually get cast.

So, my young American friends, what can we do? Yes, sure, voting helps--but it's clear that some power has been stripped from the vote, and now lives before we cast our ballot with campaign contributors who prop up candidates for us to choose from, or after we vote with lobbyists who control the political agenda.

But what if the 80 million Americans between 18 and 35 had full time lobbyists, working around the clock to advance policies that benefit them now and in the future, restoring their voice in the process? What if we played the game?

That is exactly what we are going to do. The Association of Young Americans is a membership-based organization that negotiates discounts and lobbies government bodies on behalf of the 80 million Americans between 18 and 35. We are just getting started, but here's the plan:
1) AYA is going to help young Americans save some coin by getting them discounts. We've already got some great discounts lined up for members, and as we get more and more members, we'll work hard to get more and more discounts.
2) AYA, with the guidance of our members is going to identify what is really holding young Americans back, and then lobby Congress to solve those issues. Members are asked to take a survey that will help us prioritize as we grow.

At this stage, we're focused on a few key issues: solving the $1.2T student debt crisis and skyrocketing cost of higher education, curbing massive campaign contributions from billionaires, and reforming the criminal justice system.

It is just getting started, so go to joinaya.com, or follow AYA on Facebook and Twitter to join countless young Americans who are ready to be heard.

Welcome to the future.
Welcome to the Association of Young Americans.
This post originally appeared in the Association of Young Americans' Blog

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