Have the youth given up on Obama?
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December 30th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

Have the youth given up on Obama?

Editor's Note: Brad Chase is a partner with Capitol Media Partners, a Los Angeles-based communications and public affairs consultancy.

By Brad Chase - Special to CNN

In 2008, the youth vote helped sweep Barack Obama into office.  Americans 18-29 spread the word on social media, energized fundraising and went to the polls.

In 2012, the youth vote is moving on and throwing those omnipresent “Hope” bumper stickers and t-shirts in garbage bins.

Not because of apathy.  Not because another candidate generates more enthusiasm.  Not because of his character.  Not because they think voting is pointless.  The 18-29 vote is up for grabs in 2012 because youth can’t afford cars to put bumper stickers on and those t-shirts are worn out from too many days sitting on the couch unemployed.

The sobering reality:  just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs.  And earlier this year, Americans’ student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.

Rather than develop a lasting initiative to help young unemployed Americans, the President launched “Greater Together” – a campaign tool that offers community forums rather than jobs.  Rather than provide a bailout to those crushed by the burden of educational loans, his student debt relief program was pathetic – only reducing interest rates by a measly 0.5 percent.

No wonder less than half of Americans 18-29 approve of Obama.

It’s no surprise the President is ignoring millenials.  They’re too poor to donate to his campaign this election cycle.  Older Americans are 47 times richer than the young – a striking generational gap in prosperity that has widened from a 10 to 1 ratio when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984.  At the same time, Obama is ringing up donations from older voters.  In the first 10 months of 2011, he attended 58 fundraisers – twice the number President George W. Bush attended during the comparable period before his reelection.  That’s overkill when the GOP candidate is still TBD.

Millenials haven’t embraced any of the GOP candidates yet, but there’s a huge opportunity for the eventual nominee to swoop in and win over the youth vote.  They have a short memory, filled mostly with three difficult years under President Obama’s economic stewardship.  The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reports that the youth vote won’t come out strongly this time around, but there’s little doubt the voting bloc is up for grabs to the first candidate who offers up viable policies – not themes and slogans – to address their issues.

To win the youth vote in November, a Presidential candidate could start by:

Creating a limited student debt forgiveness program:  It would be impractical and foolhardy to create complete debt amnesty.  Instead, erase all federal student debt for those with more than $30,000 in federal student loan debt and cut the bill by 10 percent for those with debts under that threshold.  That still leaves students accountable – no free rides – but it eases the crushing burden on millions of millenials.  H.Res. 365 by Rep. Hansen Clark (D-MI) was a well-intentioned (albeit pie-in-the-sky) call for debt relief and it’s a good starting point for future efforts.

Controls on Predatory Lenders/ServicersMost students need their parents to co-sign loans and then take care of the bills themselves.  But private loan servicers like American Education Services (AES) have no oversight and resort to bully tactics to threaten students’ parents with credit rating ruin as little as five days after a bill comes overdue for the first time.  Not even credit card companies are that ruthless.  There’s nothing more humiliating and stressful to students or parents than getting harassed for short-term delinquencies.  There’s no need for a Credit Protection Financial Bureau, just more oversight on predators like AES.

Allowing Student Loan Discharge in Bankruptcy:  In 2005, bankruptcy law changed to specifically exclude private student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.  Young adults don’t want the headache or stigma of going bankrupt, but sheltering private lenders at the expense of recent graduates is wrong.  H.R. 2028 will restore pre-2005 terms – support for the bill would be huge in generating millennial votes.

The ancillary benefit of student debt relief is a stimulus to the economy.  Older Americans might say that giving money back to the young is an invitation to run up debt again, but millenials have watched their parents get underwater with mortgages and credit cards – it’s the pot calling the kettle black to deny young adults their own bailout.  The stimulus will come in the form of solid and responsible purchases:  a first couch, a first bed, a first set of dinner plates.  This isn’t reckless spending, it’s the type of economic stimulus that Obama’s much-touted stimulus should have been.

Without the youth vote in 2008, the President would have lost North Carolina and Indiana – a 26 delegate swing equal to nearly 10 percent of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.  The 2012 election promises to be closer and the swing of the youth vote could be enough to tip the balance.  It’s time the President did some soul searching on his feelings toward the youth vote.  And he better do it soon, because the GOP candidate is waiting in the wings and won’t hesitate to take the youth vote.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Brad Chase.

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Youth

soundoff (996 Responses)
  1. I Have A Wee-Weed Up POTUS

    The top ten secret White House excuses for the poorly performing economy:

    10. Obama not getting in enough golf.

    9. Lady Gaga accidentally allowed to provide economic advice during first year of Obama’s presidency.

    8. Obama never should have listened when Bush said, “Obama, wreck the economy.”

    7. Evil spell cast on the country by Dick Cheney has yet to wear off.

    6. Thousands unable to work after being injured trying to learn the Macarena.

    5. Economic time bomb planted by Richard Nixon finally going off.

    4. Bernanke hooked again on Afghani hashish.

    3. Bo ate my economic plan.

    2. Economy still reeling from failed 1980s introduction of New Coke.

    1. Loch Ness Monster threatening to make an appearance in Lake Superior.

    Source: Keith Koffler

    December 31, 2011 at 9:37 am | Reply
  2. Mike P

    Couldn't help but notice the author's suggestions on how the GOP could attract young voters consist solely of variations on handouts.

    December 31, 2011 at 9:43 am | Reply
  3. alnga

    The new leisure class is made up of those that disregard responsibility and accountability. Housing made easy in MOM'S basement. The worst words in the English language "TAKE IT EASY". This new class wants to take no risk, put nothing out their of their own, RISKING NOTHING. and then blaming others when their therotical ship doesn't come in. The BIBLE gives the best description of what happens when you do not step out and plant your seed. Jesus spoke about planting and reaping. Sew nothing you get nothing. Get busy, get to work, be productive. Create your own wealth.

    December 31, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  4. kbs55

    Youth and black unemployment are the result of Democratic policies, since the Davis Bacon Act and minimum wage law.

    December 31, 2011 at 10:58 am | Reply
  5. Mickey

    Obama is not the anti-Christ, but he wishes he were. He wants to be King of the World. He is the most dangerous man in America. A definite wolf in sheep clothing.

    December 31, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
  6. Richard

    Kbs55 is on to something. The article bemoans high youth unemployment, then offers student loan reform as a solution. Who will pay for this and how will it help increase youth employment? If you want to get youth back to work, reduce or eliminate minimum wage (trainee or starter wage?), and reduce their government benefits. This would decrease the deficit and put people back to work.

    December 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  7. Michael

    It seems to me that partial forgiveness of student loans as proposed by Mr. Brad Chase in this article will result in serious redistribution of wealth. Consider a simple setting, there are two students, one decides to go to Harvard and gets himself into a lot of debt and another decides to limit the amount of borrowing and attends the University of MA instead. Obviously, the Harvard grad will have much greater debt and will benefit much more from the proposed in the article scheme, in fact the UMA student won’t benefit at all. However, the Harvard diploma opens more doors than that of the University of MA. So, effectively, the student who was responsible in trying to control their debt level will now have to effectively, as a taxpayer, subsidize the student who was less responsible in their assessment of their financial strength.

    December 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • sheerblather

      Harvard should be pickier, then, and stop accepting students who cannot demonstrate even the most basic financial intelligence. That will solve that problem – not. Of course, it is not going to be the Harvard grads looking to the American taxpayer to pay their school loans. No, it will be the average to slightly above average student who somehow got into an expensive university, when he or she ought to have started at the community college, or better yet, pursued vocational training, and who took on school loans that, after four years, would add up to 4 or 5 times (likely more) the entry salary for their intended profession. Talk about dumb.

      December 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  8. Freddy

    Sorry diseased Occupy libs and paid Soros bloggers on this site. Your president is a failure. Your liberal mediia is a failure. The American people have woken up and do not believe the lies anymore. Except for the welare leeches, drugged out, violent Occcupy protestors and illegals.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  9. Omaha Bob

    Obama, Harry, and Nancy have been busy giving away the store working for progressive social change including free health care for illegals and hamstringing industry with regulations to try to push a green agenda. Honorable endeavors if we could afford it. He should have been helping business trying to create jobs. Here's a thought: Kick out the illegals and unemployment will go to 0%! Amazingly simple idea.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  10. sheerblather

    Now, after paying for their parents' Cash For Clunkers cars and their parents' foreclosures and short sales, I should now be expected to pay off these students' school loans via debt forgiveness? Why should I have to do this? Why should a student who took on tens of thousands of school loans in order to get degrees that are useless in the marketplace (if they had chosen wisely, they would be working) now get debt forgiveness paid for by the taxpayers? All these bailouts are getting ridiculous. Is there no one around, whether a bank, an automaker, a middle-aged homeowner, or a college student who can pay their own way these days? These are people with all of the advantages and they still need welfare in the form of bailouts and debt forgiveness? I am sick of it. Let them all go bankrupt and suffer the consequences. In life, you win some and you lose some, and the Me Generation, with their short sales and empty retirement accounts, along with their foolish college kids, rolled the dice and lost. But I bet they both have awesome flatscreen TVs and every gadget sold by Apple.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  11. Mina

    I'm so glad he's got a Nobel peace prize. Imagine what he'd have done without it. Anyone know how long till Obama attacks Syria to help the Muslim Brotherhood? I'd hate him to sit back and let the Turks/Arab league rip Assad apart without him.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  12. BRian

    Anyone who voted for Obama and has a job should immediately quit and give it to one of the 45% who have had their lives ruined by the last 3 years of the "we hate America" coming from the Whitehouse. Go live in your parents house in the hamptons and stop screwing up the rest of the country.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  13. linda

    What a bunch of hate filled comments.......

    December 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  14. K

    Why should the school debt be reduced for those that borrowed to go to school? Many others have worked to pay there way through school without incurring debt. Others have sacrificed alot for their children to pay for their children's college. Would it be fair to reduce the debt of those that didn't. Why should government keep bailing idiots like you out? Get government out the picture.

    December 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  15. Jake Johnson

    What is the source for the claim that only 55% of people from ages 18 to 29 have jobs? The text for the statistic links to another article, but the article it links to gives no source for the claim.

    December 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  16. Jack

    CNN,
    I love your recommendations–basically, give-aways. It's still Christmas with you guys. Wipe out debt, free money. Why not say the POTUS candidates should just hand out "free" stipends so they can travel the world? You fail to realize all of these hand-outs have bankrupted us. Many kids don't want a hand-out, they just want a president who isn't going to destroy their future.
    -Jack

    December 31, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  17. keith

    Have the youth given up on Obama? YES! And your point?

    December 31, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Reply
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