Pallone Urges Younger Americans to Become More Involved
Recently, I held a student forum at Rutgers University to discuss federal policies that relate to students and young Americans. Specifically, we talked about recently proposed cuts in federal student aid, as well as how Social Security reform might impact younger workers. I felt the need to go and talk with students because I am concerned that young people in our country are largely absent from the national debate, and as a result, federal lawmakers often overlook their interests.
Take for instance, the President's reckless fiscal policies. Thanks to President Bush, and his relentless crusade to provide tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, our country has gone from record surpluses to record deficits in a matter of a few years. As a result, the federal government has had to continually borrow money in order to fund critical government programs, which will ultimately be paid back by younger Americans in the form of higher taxes or reduced services. This simply is not fair. The federal government should not be funding its liabilities on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
Further consider the Fiscal Year 2006 budget proposal submitted by President Bush and recently agreed to by House Republicans. It does virtually nothing to address the concerns of America's students, such as the rapidly rising cost of tuition. In the past few years, the weakened economy, regressive tax cuts for the wealthy and federal budget cuts have reduced the federal commitment to provide student financial aid, thereby pushing higher tuition prices onto college students and their families at a time when they can least afford it.
Just this past year alone, tuition has increased an average of 11 percent at four-year public institutions, 9 percent at two-year public institutions, and 6 percent at four-year private schools. Rather than provide relief to struggling low and middle-income students, the president has instead chosen to make it harder to finance a college education by slashing federal student aid, or eliminating entire programs like GEAR UP, Upward Bound, and Talent Search.
America's young people can no longer afford to be silent on these and similar issues. They need to realize that the decisions being made in Washington have real consequences for them and their future. That is why I encourage all of our country's young people to become more involved in the political process and engage the issues that are important to them. America's young people need to make their voices heard, and show lawmakers in Washington that they will no longer be taken advantage of.