- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

America’s young voters went big for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, but his presidency has only increased their “misery,” according to a new survey released by a conservative group Tuesday.

The Young America’s Foundation, an educational organization that promotes conservative principles on college campuses, reported an 18.1 percent increase in its latest “Youth Misery Index” under Mr. Obama.

“Not quite the hope and change that many young people were looking for,” Ashley Pratte, Young America’s Foundation spokeswoman, said in a briefing for reporters.

The YAF’s 2013 Youth Misery Index stands at an all-time high at 98.6, based on a combination of the current levels of youth unemployment, average student debt and national debt per capita to determine its index.

“Young people will be stuck paying for government debt that they had no part in creating, and they’ll have to do it with less discretionary income than ever before because of record high levels of student loan debt,” Ms. Pratte said.

Youth unemployment rate stands at 16.3 percent, nearly 10 percentage points above the U.S. jobless rate overall. Average debt per student is $29,400, and the individual share of national debt is at an all-time high of $52,948.

The annual index, which stood at 83.5 in the first year of Mr. Obama’s presidency, is compiled by adding the youth jobless rate to the student and per-capita debt levels divided by 1,000.

Anne Johnson, executive director of Generation Progress, an offshoot of the liberal Center for American Progress, sharply disputed the conservative group’s findings.

President Obama “has made economic issues a priority, including advocating for expanded apprenticeships programs and a minimum-wage hike that will benefit many young people,” she said. She also cited administration reforms that she said have lowered student loan borrowing rates.

Mr. Obama handily won the youth vote in both of his presidential campaigns, taking 66 percent of the under-30 vote in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of exit poll data.

“President Obama has continued to stand up for the millennial generation, addressing policies that are most important to us,” Ms. Johnson said.
But Ms. Pratte said there was a direct relationship between government expenditures under President Obama and the Youth Misery Index. Government programs like Obamacare and federal student loans have created a culture of indebtedness, she contended.

“Our government seems to be a tad incompetent when it comes to handling these programs and when it comes to addressing the American people,” she said.

Last week, first lady Michelle Obama jokingly referred to millennials “knuckleheads” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” referring to their propensity to take risks and reluctance to sign up for health insurance. Ms. Pratte said the statement is indicative of the administration’s attitude toward young people more generally.

“They believe that government knows best, whereas we would like to think that young people know best, and we can make our own decisions,” she said.

• Meghan Drake can be reached at mdrake@washingtontimes.com.

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