Now that "fiscal cliff" talks are in full swing with a stalemate ongoing, we've been hearing a whole lot about whether we'll "go off the cliff." It seems those in Washington need a reality check. We're already off the cliff; the issue now is figuring out how hard we hit the bottom. Sadly, it's the forgotten and fiscally abused young people hoping for a bright future who will see the worst consequences of the decisions made before Jan. 1.
There are a few things the White House and those on Capitol Hill can do to soften the fall. The first is obvious: Reform the biggest drivers of our debt and deficits. Even President Obama has admitted that Medicare and Social Security must be reformed to preserve some kind of fiscal sanity in America. Despite this fact, there has been little discussion about entitlement reform in negotiations, which realistically won't take place during a lame-duck session due to time constraints. Such reforms must be discussed across party lines. Republicans have already offered their solutions; it's time for the Democrats to do the same.
How will Mr. Obama's deal of $1.6 trillion in tax hikes over the next 10 years with $50 billion in new stimulus spending actually help future generations?
Rep. Paul Ryan said it best at the 2012 Republican National Convention: "College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
If the federal government does not change its spending habits, more and more young people will be left waiting to start their adult lives.
The fiscal cliff decisions made now will affect an entire generation of young workers trying to enter the economy. Politicos tend to think of time in terms of elections, but by the end of Mr. Obama's second term, during which the chances of ever discussing entitlement reform are slim, nearly a decade will have gone by. During that time, eight college classes will have graduated, and nearly every one will have massive student loan debt and very little opportunity for jobs.
We've heard a lot about needing to raise tax rates on the wealthy, yet the increase being proposed doesn't even begin to pay off the national debt. This will have serious future consequences. The number of dollars of debt we have now means more in taxes for future generations thanks to proposed Band-Aid solutions instead of real fiscal reform.
Under Mr. Obama, we've seen an increase of $6 trillion in the national debt, and he hasn't even been inaugurated for his second term yet. The Congressional Budget Office's alternative fiscal scenario projects that Mr. Obama will add $4 trillion more to the debt in his second term, meaning a grand total of at least $10 trillion added by the time he leaves office -- and even more in taxes down the road.
Politicians in Washington need to ask themselves if short-term political interests are really worth the destruction of young people's future.
The sad truth is, Mr. Obama is betraying the young voters who granted him a second term by engaging in a dishonest argument that the rich paying just a little more will solve our problems.
Is this all Mr. Obama's fault? Hardly. Republicans have failed to explain to the American people, in particular to young people, just how damaging it will be for the employers in the country to pay more in taxes. The GOP has failed to call Mr. Obama on his false narrative that "millionaires and billionaires" just need to pay a little more, when the proposal on the table from the president has small businesses making the biggest sacrifices. Republicans have failed to explain what making $250,000 per year as a small business actually means. This number comes before a business owner signs paychecks, pays back loans, pays payroll taxes and takes care of business expenses. Republicans have failed to explain how a tax hike on job creators will further damage the middle class by destroying middle-class jobs. Finally, they've failed to point out that Mr. Obama isn't giving anybody a tax cut, he has simply offered to extend the current rates to those making less than $250,000.
In the end, the next 20 days aren't about whether America will jump off the fiscal cliff. Every economic indicator and warning from Europe proves we've already done so. The question now becomes how hard we hit the bottom. Will it be a swift, sharp and painful landing? Or will it be a soft landing based on future economic stability and common sense -- taking the future of young people into account?
Katie Pavlich, 24, is news editor for Townhall.com and author of "Fast and Furious" (Regnery, 2012).