OP-ED—WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Three ways big government is squeezing young people

OP-ED—WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Three ways big government is squeezing young people

Jason Lewis
02/19/2020

Young people need more than protests.

For decades, bad public policy has been economically squeezing the next generation as never before. Whether Generation X, millennial, or even Generation Z, younger generations now find themselves in too much debt with too little income. The answer isn’t to embrace socialism but to end the sort of crony capitalism that has priced too many young people out of getting a good start in life.

This is especially true when it comes to education, housing, and healthcare.

For too long, the exorbitant costs of higher education have been rising, outpacing all other expenses that younger consumers face. The inability to service the debt on a $1.6 trillion student loan bubble is directly tied to a lack of transparency and all too often an illiberal education, to boot. Democrats say they want to forgive trillions in student debt, but that’s just code for another bailout of Big Education. It merely transfers the bill to taxpayers while doing absolutely nothing to rein in costs.

The 115th Congress, in which I served, sought to address the problem. We tried to strengthen workforce development, streamline Title IV student aid, and require that colleges and universities have more skin in the game when it comes to defaults. Naturally, Democrats blocked this.

These wealthy institutions of higher learning receive billions of taxpayer dollars annually, not that they need it, given their revenue from billion-dollar endowments and big-money athletics. If they can’t or won’t reduce tuition rates, Congress should consider imposing price controls on federal aid.

Meanwhile, homeownership is fast becoming another luxury out of reach for young people trying to get a leg up. Again, government intervention is largely to blame. For years, politicians have been underwriting the costs of housing and then bailing out investors while inflating home prices with overregulation, urban growth boundaries, and cheap money.

The inevitable housing bubble that followed might have been great for real estate investors and the wealthy who already own property, but it was, and remains, horrible for first-time buyers.

A recent Housing First Minnesota study showed that up to one-third of a new home’s price in the Twin Cities comes from fees and regulations, making it nearly impossible to build a single-family home in the metro area for under $375,000.

Meanwhile, unelected bureaucrats at the Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities have strong-armed the suburbs with “smart growth” policies that limit cheaper housing in the name of high-density development in mass transit corridors. Costs have naturally escalated, along with disturbing levels of crime, hardly a conducive environment for starting a family.

Finally, the healthcare affordability crisis has hit young adults especially hard. As so many of us warned, the primary outcome of the billions spent on the Affordable Care Act has been skyrocketing insurance premiums, most pronounced for the young and healthy.

By forcing those in better health to overinsure with a one-size-fits-all approach, the ACA priced millions out of the market. States such as Minnesota have even been forced to buy down premiums with millions more in taxpayer dollars, but that hasn’t kept up.

Indeed, for those who don’t qualify for subsidies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports a 40% decline in enrollment between 2016 and 2018.

No wonder all the calculations have been so horribly off the mark. Only half the enrollees predicted by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was passed are actually getting their insurance today on exchanges such as MNSure.

Perhaps this is why the architects of Obamacare let grown children stay on their parents’ plans. They knew they wouldn’t be able to afford it on their own.

The solution is straightforward: Let young people buy precisely the kind of health insurance, including more affordable, catastrophic plans, they want.

Whether it’s education, housing, or healthcare, our liberal friends continue their cynical ploy of promising something for nothing, but I suspect young voters are becoming increasingly woke to what Elizabeth Warren won’t admit: The “something” is coming right out of their rising middle-class tax bill.

Jason Lewis, a former member of the House, is a Republican candidate to represent Minnesota in the Senate.

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