Why CSA: A Testimonial

Posted by Blake Wright on February 24, 2014 at 2:51 PM

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Why do I believe in CSA?

I care about Common Sense Action because my generation deserves a fair shot at the American Dream, not empty promises about opportunity. We can make this nation stronger and more prosperous if Millennials come together with political leaders to repair the collapsing ladder of social mobility. This means responsibly financing valuable programs as well as re-investing in basic infrastructure and education.

Speaking as a Republican, for a long time I scoffed at the proposition that policy could generate opportunity or social mobility. Wasn’t the whole purpose of the free market system to create jobs and a meritocracy that allowed individuals to empower themselves?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to be comfortably middle-class, but I never intended to waste this head start. After all, my entrepreneurial parents had always taught my brother and me to work hard and to value self-sufficiency. As kids, we ran the neighborhood lemonade stand, taking pride in the fact that we earned our pocket change rather than receiving an allowance. After school and during summer vacations, I took odd jobs like babysitting, cat sitting, refereeing local soccer games, and working at a gift shop. I dreamed of growing up, owning a home, maybe starting a business, fulfilling my American Dream –for myself and by myself.

But my views on self-sufficiency drastically changed when my mother lost her job during my freshman fall at Brown University. While I was privileged enough to attend an Ivy League college, my mother was supporting herself on savings and unemployment checks. I wondered how drastically my life and my family’s lives would change. I saw my friend’s dad lose his job at Washington Mutual when that bank went under, the home next to mine was foreclosed, and many of my friends enrolled in the local community college when money was scarce, hoping to transfer to a 4-year college later. Without the security of my mom’s job, I wondered how much we would have to cut back, what hard decisions we would have to make.

My family didn’t fall through the cracks all the way to the bottom. This experience made me realize that policy plays a role in helping families weather economic storms. At the same time, it made me realize the extent to which we as Americans need to prioritize opportunity so that we do not risk a stagnating middle class. Although my mother has been both lucky and perseverant enough to find a new job, many in her position do not, and many of my friends graduating from college are struggling to start careers in a lackluster economy. Drowning in debt, stuck in the intern economy, and underemployed or unemployed, countless Millennials face long odds in achieving the prosperity of generations past while simultaneously paying for the obligations we are inheriting.

All around me, I see my peers frustrated that college is more unaffordable for them than for their parents, that getting a hired isn’t as easy as it used to be, nor is job security high as it was for our grandparents. At the same time that the economy is becoming more competitive, I worry about the unchecked government spending my generation will inherit. Will the programs that have always shored up the middle class be around when my generation needs them? Or will programs like Social Security, unemployment benefits, and Medicare be unfunded, empty promises?

Despite any one person’s hard work, the American Dream still needs policy to prioritize responsible consumption, investment, and economic mobility. As part of CSA, I hope to empower my generation to advocate for policy that stewards the economy from generation to generation. Armed with facts and ideas, but with the humility to know we are not the experts, young leaders from across the country are coming together under a single mission. Together, we must convince politicians to both invest in growth and to spend responsibly, so that my generation sees the same opportunities as afforded to the generations that came before us.