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Will the Young Be Fooled Again?

September 1, 2012
By Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

One reason Barack Obama was so popular among young people four years ago was his reinforcement of the self-esteem message so many of them had been indoctrinated with as children. "Yes, we can," he assured them. And with hope and change as their mantra, the young by the millions voted for Obama.

But if we can, why haven't we? Created jobs, that is.

One of the most relevant lines in the speech Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan delivered Wednesday night was aimed squarely at young people:

"College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life," Ryan said.

Precisely. Many of the young people who fell under Obama's spell four years ago, no doubt helped along by liberal college and unversity professors, can't find jobs today.

The unemployment rate among Americans 20-24 years of age is 13.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's more than 62 percent higher than the 8.3 percent rate for the population as a whole.

If you're in that age group, you know the official numbers don't tell the full story. Many young people who graduated from college with bachelor's degrees, then couldn't find work, gave up the job search and went back to school. They aren't counted in the unemployment statistics. And as matters stand, their situation in a year or two will be that they have master's degrees or doctorates, tens of thousands of dollars more in debt - and still, no jobs. One estimate is that as many as half the college graduates today cannot find jobs.

Younger Americans have little reason for hope, either. The unemployment rate for those 18-19 years of age is 22.2 percent.

According to the pollsters, most young people still support Obama over his rival in the race for president, Mitt Romney.

Why? Just what has Obama done to help young Americans? He claims to have held unemployment down - but if the numbers for those under 25 are his definition of success, I'd hate to see what he calls failure.

"Obamacare" mandates people under 26 can get "free" health insurance on their parents' policies. And the president wants to force insurance companies to provide "free" contraceptive services. Finally, if you're poor - perhaps because Obama's policies made it tougher for you to find a job - the president wants states to include you in their Medicaid programs.

What else? What more has Obama done for young people? Don't include holding interest rates on student loans down, because Congress was going to do that anyway.

Come on, now. If you're a young person, surely you can think of something else the president has done for you.

How about increasing the national debt dramatically? It's $16 trillion now, compared to $10 trillion four years ago. If you're a young voter, think about it this way: Your share of that debt - which you will have to pay, one way or another - is about $51,600. That's nearly $20,000 more than the per capita share four years ago.

Part of Obama's genius four years ago was in mobilizing young Americans to go to the polls and vote for him. Many are not as enthusiastic this time around. A recent Gallup Poll found that although most respondents aged 18-29 favored Obama over Romney, only 59 percent of them said they "definitely" would vote in November. That is the lowest expected participation rate of any age group.

If you're in that age group, think about what Obama hasn't done for you. "Yes, we can," he said - but he didn't.

Not so many years ago a popular song focused on politics, with one line suggesting young voters weren't as gullible as a few politicians might hope. "We won't get fooled again" was the line.

Whether that's true this year remains to be seen.

Hope? Change for the better?

Yes, young voters - you can.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at

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