- - Thursday, August 23, 2012

During the past week, Rep. Paul Ryan received an overwhelming welcome from young Californians. This all may be because Mr. Ryan is a part of “Generation X” or it may be because younger Americans are beginning to intuit that Mr. Ryan actually may be their true champion. I’d make the case for the latter.

Young Americans are, unquestionably, the biggest losers of the political and economic turmoil of the past three years, which has led to people in the 20-to-40 age group grappling with the following problems:

Nearly $16 trillion in federal deficits and future tax burdens to pay for wasteful stimulus and “green energy” projects.

Economic policies that discourage private-sector investment and job creation and lead to growing poverty and potential social unrest.

$107 trillion in unfunded liabilities to pay for future Social Security and Medicare.

Huge future taxes to pay for the $4 trillion in unfunded pension benefits granted to public employees at the state and local level by politicians who found it easier to garner union favor and money by making deals that would not come due for years or decades to come — deals that young Americans will pay for, although they will receive little or no benefit.

Being forced to buy several thousand dollars more each year for health insurance under Obamacare than they need to finance benefits for older Americans and the uninsured.

A failing public education system — the third-most-expensive per student among developed countries and 25th out of 34 in teaching math — that gives generous rewards to teachers for seniority rather than quality, and that cannot or will not prepare young Americans or their children for the challenges of the global economy.

To put all this in perspective, the total size of the annual U.S. economy is about $15 trillion. We have a huge spending problem.

It has been called “generational warfare” against American youth — and it is — but it is far more than that. It is the systematic political destruction of the future for young Americans, largely because they have chosen not to think about the future or have approached it in the most naive of ways.

While their parents saw government taxes take between 20 percent and 40 percent of their income, future Social Security and Medicare alone will take 33 percent and the remaining government shortfall will demand another 40 percent to 50 percent as young Americans age.

Both candidates say they have different visions for America’s future. The impact of policies on young Americans is actually the foundation of the future for all Americans. The true acid test for this election might be called a Contract with American Youth. Young Americans should demand a future that:

Delivers a balanced budget and stable foundation for the American economy.

Provides a strong energy policy that supports economic security for America as well as the political security of lessened dependence on foreign energy supplies.

Re-creates our education system so that it prepares young Americans and their children for the future.

Promotes private investment and stable economic policy that provides real market opportunities for everyone, creates real jobs, reduces poverty and maintains social stability so that future neighborhoods are safe and prosperous.

Maintains a clean and healthy environment, but balances that with policies that are prudent and sound from an economic perspective.

Restructures our health care systems so that they are based on sound market economics that can control costs and deliver quality care to all Americans.

Remakes entitlement programs so that they are affordable and sustainable, so that they take care of current retirees, and are also there when young Americans eventually retire.

Now enters Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican chosen earlier this month by Mitt Romney to be his running mate, with the “radical” message that we need to control spending, balance our budget and, especially, control the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Social Security if young Americans hope to have anything near their legitimate expectations for the future. Mr. Ryan’s ideas stop the generational warfare on several fronts. They slash wasteful government spending, restructure Medicare and Social Security so that they sustain the social contract with America’s elderly and will be there when young Americans retire, and restore the confidence of American business so that it can again create jobs and opportunity.

Mr. Ryan essentially has delivered a Contract with Young Americans. His message is that Americans must make some very hard decisions. In many ways, he is the true adult in this race and is fully prepared to be an excellent vice president.

President Obama carried young voters by 66 percent in 2008 because many said he was “cool.” Polls now suggest that Mr. Obama is below 60 percent with young voters and falling fast. Polls also suggest that young voters are evenly split on restructuring Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Ryan has been portrayed as “rumpled,” “awkward” and a “nerd,” but what could be more heroic and exciting than a smart, young nerd, facing an avalanche of public ridicule, and still coming forward to save the American economy and create a safe and secure future for everyone?

Brett Henry is a 34-year-old entrepreneur, businessman and a commissioner of the Redondo Beach, Calif., Budget and Finance Commission.