Competing Priorities: The Millennial Outlook

Tarsi Dunlop is the former Director of Operations for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and the Communications Director for the Roosevelt Pipeline, DC Chapter. 

Millennials have just as much of a stake in the answers to long-term budget questions as we do in the short-term decisions concerning the economic recovery. As the newest civic generation, we value community, volunteering and public service.



Tarsi Dunlop at the Capitol

We consider ourselves the 9/11-generation; our worldviews and identity were shaped, in part, by a day of horror, patriotism and unity. Today, we are working to develop a coherent narrative around our views on competing national priorities. Here are three points worth highlighting in light of the upcoming election, sequestration and in the context of the coming decades.

First, Millennials prefer a balanced approach with regards to deficit reduction. In the long-term, we understand the potential dangers of a ballooning federal deficit: specifically, a debt that continues to grow in proportion to GDP and rising interest payments as a proportion of our annual spending. Politicians warn of the devastating consequences of leaving such a debt burden for their grandchildren, but there are not enough nuances in this argument. Young Americans support public programs, such as Social Security, perhaps because we recognize their immense societal value for our more vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly, children and those with disabilities.

In the short term, we support key investments for the future. We recognize the dangers of a slow decay of infrastructure, from bridges and roads to cities’ water pipes and school buildings.  Putting off maintenance and upgrades, such as the Washington DC Metro system, just means these systems and services will send some future generation a bill. Social mobility, economic security and resource accessibility are all key to ensuring our country’s competitiveness in the 21st century.

Today, the older generations’ voting bloc drives public policy.  However, demographic trends mean that Millennials become a more significant percentage of the voting population with each election. We’re interested in a long-term plan that doesn’t put off infrastructure maintenance, ensures dignity in retirement for the elderly, controls health care costs, offers opportunity for children, adjusts key social programs for future generations and eventually balances the deficit and begins paying down the debt.

As forward-looking Millennials serve in their local communities and city and public institutions, we will influence local budget priorities. Our balanced and nuanced views on investment and infrastructure will appear at first removed from the federal landscape, but in the coming decades we may yet see a more “Millennial” society.