Magazine article The American Prospect

A Contract with America's Youth

Magazine article The American Prospect

A Contract with America's Youth

Article excerpt

NEITHER MAJOR POLITICAL PARTY IN THE UNITED STATES PAYS ENOUGH ATTENTION TO THE YOUNG. THIS HAS to change. In the course of writing and editing this special report, we at the Prospect thought it worthwhile to put down on one page the essential needs of the next generation and what is required of the political system to enhance the chances that our youth will fully participate in American life. We see this contract as something of a first stab at what is needed. Our readers undoubtedly will have other thoughts and suggestions. Please send any ideas to youthcontract@prospect.org and we will share as many as we can on our Web site at www.prospect.org.

1. Secure America. America needs to show resolve in the face of terrorism, and to do so as part of a global community so that our young men and women stationed abroad are emissaries of democratic values, not unwelcome invaders. America's foreign policy cannot be separated from the lives of younger Americans, for it is young men and women who fight and die in war.

2. Make college affordable again. Tuitions have soared, scholarships have given way to loans and federal Pell Grants have been frozen. Community-college opportunities also need to be expanded to give young people without four-year degrees the chance to enter professions and earn decent incomes.

3. Improve economic opportunities for young people without college degrees. Enable people in low-paid jobs to get on paraprofessional and professional career ladders. Help young workers to upgrade skills and earnings.

4. Help young people become stakeholders. Stakeholder accounts, provided to all Americans at birth, would grow as children do; the accounts could subsidize college tuition, first-time homeownership and job retraining. Restoring the tax on large estates could fund these accounts.

5. Begin nest eggs for retirement. The stakeholder accounts could help here, as could reforming pension systems so that pensions and 401(k)s are fully portable and guaranteed against Enron-style looting. Social Security should be kept financially strong, thereby protecting the compact that knits one generation to another.

6. Leave no school behind. Improving the quality of poor public schools in America's large cities and rural areas would help equalize life chances for children from poorer families, Teach for America's funding must be restored.

7. Provide service opportunities for young people. Expanding AmeriCorps and other service programs would allow young adults to put their idealism into practice while letting them learn firsthand about the problems facing the country. …

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