Reclaiming the American dream

The American Dream is based on the idea that greater educational and employment opportunities will allow each generation to achieve more than their parents. Unfortunately, for far too many young people, this dream is slipping out of reach. If current economic trends continue, it is likely that for the first time in modern American history the younger generation will have a lower standard of living than their parents. This is a national tragedy that must be addressed. Unfortunately, instead of working to remedy this problem, the Bush-Cheney Administration is making a bad situation worse. Incredibly, at a time when the cost of college education is soaring, President Bush is making it even harder for students and young workers to get the higher education they need. The Administration’s recently-proposed budget eliminates TRIO Talent Search, TRIO Upward Bound, and GEAR-UP, three highly successful programs that help lower-income high school and college students with the support they need to attend and succeed in college. If the Administration pushes this disastrous plan through, these cuts would jeopardize the college dreams of more than 6,800 Vermont students. To make matters even worse, the elimination of these programs comes directly on the heels of a recent $12 billion cut to student loans by the Republican leadership in Congress-the largest cut to student aid in history. These cuts will raise student loan interest rates, forcing borrowers to pay thousands of dollars more for their loans. Appallingly, these cuts were enacted to make room for more tax breaks for the very wealthy. At a time when students are finding it harder and harder to afford college, we should be working to cut costs for students, not forcing them to pay more. At a time when the rich in America have never had it so good and our national debt is at an all time high, the wealthy don’t need more tax breaks. High student loans aren’t the only problem new graduates will face after leaving college. With millions of American jobs being shipped overseas, it has become harder for recent college graduates to find decent paying work. The reality is that since President Bush took office, the U.S. has experienced the worst record of private-sector job growth since the Great Depression. This is due in large part to Administration trade policies that allow American corporations to outsource their jobs abroad and force Americans to compete against workers in low-wage countries who make pennies an hour. And it’s not just manufacturing jobs that are being lost. The U.S. is now on the cusp of losing millions of good-paying, white collar information technology jobs. After cutting education funding and shipping your jobs overseas, this Administration has another surprise for today’s students. They’re sticking you with the bill. This dismal job growth combined with the Bush Administration’s long series of irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy have left us with a record-breaking $8.2 trillion national debt. That’s $28,000 owed by every man woman and child in this country. This is a debt that is going to be left to you and to your children to pay off. Clearly, if we are going to improve the outlook for students and young workers, we need to undo the damage caused by the policies of the Bush-Cheney Administration and change the direction in which our country is headed. Instead of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, we need to make certain that our country has the best public education system in the world and that every student who has the ability can afford a college education. Instead of piling up record-breaking budget deficits, we need responsible economic policies that serve the needs of the middle class-not wealthy campaign contributors. Because it is the younger generation that will be left to contend with the effects of this Administration’s policies, it is critical that they get involved in shaping the decisions that are being made now. And the issues at stake include much more than the economy. How do we bring the troops home from Iraq as soon as possible? How do we move away from our dependence on Mideast oil and polluting fossil fuels to an economy that runs on sustainable energy? How do we join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all? How do we effectively protect our country from terrorism without undermining the constitutional rights that make us a free country? How do we end homophobia and protect a woman’s right to choose? The good news is that it is not too late to help get our country back on the right course. By making their voices heard, young people can pressure this Administration and Congress to start looking out for the needs of all Americans, and not just the wealthy and powerful. Today’s students can resurrect the American Dream and create the kind of country we all know that America can become.