By Gonzalo Valdes
Although it’s necessary to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges, do we really need to do it at the expense of the next generation?
Unfortunately, Congress seems to think so. Congress is embroiled in a staring contest over the upcoming automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration.” Both sides are staunchly entrenched and doing a lot of finger pointing, but one thing is certain: crucial investments in young people are facing steep cuts, even though we’ve been underinvesting in our nation’s future for years.
Let’s take a moment to look at how further cuts would affect the lives of young adults nationwide, highlighting a leading national service program: AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps gives young people a chance to give back while gaining important skills and experience for the working world. It serves as a vital bridge from graduation to gainful employment for many young adults and contributes positively to communities nationwide through efforts like building houses for the disadvantaged, promoting green energy, and feeding the needy to name a few. However, AmeriCorps is under-resourced and faces further cuts beginning this week.
- AmeriCorps, received a record 582,000 applications in 2011 for only 80,000 positions.
- Congress responded by proposing to eliminate another $40 million in 2013, on top of cutbacks in recent years.
- More cuts would further limit opportunities for a generation already facing an unemployment rate double the national average.
The federal government spends more on the war in Afghanistan than on education, more on tax breaks for oil and gas companies than on programs for disadvantaged youth, and more on subsidies for livestock feed than on programs promoting National Service.
This is not a matter of scarcity. It is a matter of priority.