A Fight for the Future: How Budget Talks Affect Young People

You’ve heard the term “fiscal cliff” and you’ve definitely heard that lawmakers in Washington can’t agree on spending or taxes. But here’s what you may not have heard: The federal budget negotiations happening right now may result in deep cuts to programs that benefit the next generation of Americans — the young people who are this country’s future.

Ms. Aliyah Suitte @ The Ford Family Reunion

Kamau Akabueze/ flickr

With collaborators at the great organization Young Invincibles, our team at National Priorities Project recently published a groundbreaking report called A Fight for the Future: Education, Job Training, and the Fiscal Showdown. Here are the disturbing facts we uncovered:

  • The federal government currently spends more annually on the war in Afghanistan than on education. As states made deep cuts to education funding in recent years, federal education funding barely held steady, and the nation’s young adults fell from 1st to 12th globally in educational attainment.
  • The federal government cut $1 billion from job training for disadvantaged youth over the past decade. Currently, underfunded training programs reach fewer than 5 percent of the 6.7 million disconnected youth — those not connected to work or school and most in need of help.
  • Reduced investment in job training for young adults affects young people of color disproportionately, as they are more likely to be eligible for assistance. While the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16 to 24 is 16 percent — more than twice the national average — the unemployment rate is 17 percent for Latino youth and 26.7 percent for African American youth.
  • Looming automatic budget cuts, known as “sequestration,” will cost thousands of youth jobs in 2013. AmeriCorps, which has already sustained cuts in recent years, creates 80,000 youth jobs a year — though in 2011 it received a record 582,000 applications. Cuts from sequestration could pull nearly $40 million dollars from the program in 2013, in addition to reducing funding for nearly every other education and training program.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our report also found that the federal government spends more on tax breaks for oil and gas companies than on programs for disconnected youth and far more on subsidies for livestock feed than on employment for young people in AmeriCorps. The negotiations happening now are a chance for this country to prioritize young people.

Spread the word: Budget negotiations aren’t just for Washington insiders. We all have something at stake. Contact your legislators and tell them your priorities.

Read the full report from National Priorities Project and Young Invincibles. Find out more about the fiscal cliff.

This blog post is cross-posted from Mom's Rising.