AGE: An Introduction
By Sam Gilman and Andrew Kaplan
The Agenda for Generational Equity is the first bipartisan policy agenda to be crafted through a nationwide, Millennial-driven process. AGE tackles issues most critical to our generation, like student loan debt, entitlement reform, and national service and was built with the input from college students from places as diverse as inner-city Baltimore, rural South Carolina, and suburban Iowa.
AGE totals 70 pages in full, so we're breaking each of its goals into daily blog posts. To kick off the series, we included the introductory letter to the Agenda written by CSA's co-founders Sam Gilman and Andrew Kaplan.
To our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, and grandmas and grandpas,
We need to have a conversation. And AGE is a conversation starter.
Right now, young Americans—those with the largest stake in America’s future—are getting the short end of the stick. Older generations are passing enormous bills down to our generation, and they are not investing enough in the foundations, skills, and opportunities to ensure that we—their kids and grandkids—can have as good of a life as they did. To make matters worse, older generations are more polarized and therefore Congress is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. Political warfare has impeded pragmatic solutions that will preserve the American dream for our children.
Throughout history, we have seen one generation after another exceed the success of the generation before it. However, we are the first generation in our country’s history that may not even live as well as our parents. Our future prosperity is at risk not through decisions of our own, but because of decisions the current generation of leaders has refused to make.
It is clear: young Americans cannot afford to be bystanders for critical debates about our nation’s future when we have the most at stake.
Over the last year, hundreds of Millennials across the country have participated in Common Sense Action’s (CSA) deep exploration of our broken political system, the challenges facing Millennials and future generations, and the policy solutions to those challenges. The Agenda for Generational Equity (AGE), which we release today, is our response. It is the first national and bipartisan policy agenda created by Millennials. It articulates a pragmatic path toward a more prosperous and just America. AGE and the agenda formulation process brings hundreds of young Americans, or Millennials, from both parties to the policymaking table on college campuses, in statehouses, and in Washington.
AGE is a new kind of agenda. Instead of creating a definitive ten-step, all-or-nothing plan, we offer a menu of policy options designed to advance Millennial priorities. Under each pillar, CSA outlines several policy-based goals that we hope to achieve. And under each goal, CSA outlines a menu of policy ideas that we support.
We do not expect that politicians will enact every single policy we recommend, but by emphasizing pragmatic policy ideas that fall between the Democratic 40-yard line and the Republican 40-yard line, we have created a menu of options to choose from that would make significant progress toward restoring our national fiscal health and expanding economic mobility. When combined with campus organizing, AGE is designed to make political space for elected leaders to develop principled compromises, make solutions-first decisions, and keep America’s promise to future generations.
AGE is only the first step in our process. It’s what we do with the agenda that matters.
Therefore, AGE is more than just a wonky policy document. It is a manifesto for the Common Sense Action movement.
This is critical because Millennials don’t have a microphone at the policymaking table to safeguard our future from a status quo of political gridlock. And frankly, we haven’t organized to use the tools we have—namely, the right to vote. In the 2012 election, only 45 percent of the 46 million Americans aged 18-29 years old eligible to vote actually voted.1 By contrast, 72 percent of the 39 million eligible seniors voted.2 Even more alarmingly, 18–29-year-old voter turnout decreased by six percentage points from 2008 to 2012—while turnout among seniors increased by two percentage points.3 Until that changes and until Millennials start speaking up at the ballot box, elected officials will not have incentives to address the issues that most affect the Millennial generation—the cost of entitlements, high college costs, and the overall lack of investment in the future.
Fortunately, CSA is building a movement to do just that: to keep that American promise to future generations and ensure that not just we as a generation, but America itself, continues to prosper and be a leader to the world. If we can organize, mobilize, and empower the largest, most networked, most diverse generation in U.S. history to support AGE, young people can impact our political process and policy debates to create lasting change.
Using AGE as a galvanizing vision for a better future, each of Common Sense Action’s chapters have begun to pull Americans—on their campuses and in their communities—off the sidelines and into the political arena to pursue three primary objectives: advancing
generational fairness, investing in Millennial mobility, and repairing politics. In just over two months of organizing, nearly 3,400 people endorsed this agenda before we even launched it.
Together, we imagine a world where the American promise to future generations is stronger than ever. We imagine a world where aspiring politicians run for office using the Agenda for Generational Equity as their platform, knowing that thousands of Millennials across the country will mobilize on their behalf. We imagine a world in which our leaders can be principled partisans but see benefit in crossing the aisle to make bipartisan progress. We imagine a world where the gateways of opportunity are open ever wider for future generations of Americans.
Sam Gilman & Andrew Kaplan