My generation, the so-called "millennials" between the ages of 18 and 29, is looking toward the future, and we don't like what we see. Washington is bursting with chatter about debt and deficit, and Capitol Hill is overrun by progressive politicians ready to pillage the wallets of young people to atone for government's shortcomings in payments to our parents and grandparents.
Although the federal government's gross inability to balance a checkbook is a cause of great concern, it remains true that "all politics is local." Few people can pay attention to Washington's "fiscal cliff" when they are struggling to provide for the well-being of their family.
Millennials must encourage the return to a precious-metals-backed monetary system. Regardless of difficult-to-understand technical terms, there is plenty of empirical evidence that a departure from the gold standard has shattered our monetary system. The United States officially ended the gold-backed dollar standard in 1971. This offers a bright line of distinction for examining the issue. The 40 years since that time have borne witness to prices on everyday goods that are radically higher than during the previous four decades.
In 1971, gasoline was 36 cents per gallon. Today it's near $4. This means that in just a little more than 40 years, we have witnessed an elevenfold increase in the price at the pump. In the 40 years preceding the gold standard's demise, gas prices rose just 31/2 times. In order for the average salary to keep pace with the rise in fuel prices, Americans would have to be earning $99,308 per year. Instead, the average annual salary is about half that -- a bit more than $51,000.
Eggs were 53 cents per dozen back in the 1970s. Today they are $1.89, an increase of more than 350 percent. During the past four decades, milk prices have risen by 331 percent (from $1.18 to $3.91). Compare that to a difference of just 35 cents for eggs and 73 cents for milk from 1931 (in the midst of the Great Depression) to 1971.
Although inflation certainly is an issue even when the dollar is backed by something more tangible than Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's promises, it is apparent that the dilemma is exacerbated without precious metals guaranteeing our paper notes. As inflation continues to ravage our monetary system, our paychecks will continue to diminish in value. We millennials will be working harder than we ever have only to see our dollars cover less. The prices we will encounter as we enter our 50s and 60s will be unbearable.
Fortunately for millennials (and for Americans of all generations), the Republican Party included in its 2012 national platform a call to study returning to the gold standard. It's about time someone took the matter seriously. The last time the gold standard gained any traction was during the Reagan administration, when we were only a decade removed from the practice of sound money.
As millennials become aware of the extreme inflation associated with soft money and begin to focus on the gold standard, politicians of all stripes would be wise to regard our calls for transformation.
In the recent presidential election, a number of media outlets and youth-oriented organizations argued that the millennial generation made the difference for President Obama. Their analysis is correct. Consider this: Mr. Obama carried 60 percent of the more than 23 million youth votes cast, and significant portions in key battleground states. Those figures fail to take into account Mitt Romney's 40 percent of the youth vote -- a historic high for a Republican presidential candidate. However, four years ago, Mr. Obama secured 66 percent of that same 23 million.
What moved the needle downward?
It certainly wasn't the social-issues drum the Democratic Party beat so loudly in a reasonably successful effort to veil the president's treacherous economic policies. Indeed, millennials tend to be socially moderate to liberal, in comparison to their parents, which should have kept Mr. Obama's numbers high. Instead, many moved away from the president, indicating that social issues were not the determining factor in securing the youth vote. Moreover, leading millennial-driven movements, such as The Can Kicks Back, focus exclusively on fiscal issues. Thus, it would seem that a message of economic conservatism sways the millennial generation.
With inflation permeating every facet of daily life, sound money policy should be the pre-eminent topic when discussing economic issues. Millennials must step forward and lead on this issue. After all, it is our future. Politicians must take heed, for their elections hinge on the youth vote.
Travis N. Taylor, 29, is the special assistant to the president at American Principles in Action.