Cutting the Budget, Cutting America's Future

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As a young American, it is nice to hear my leaders say that they have my generation's best interests at heart. In the midst of the ongoing budget battle in Washington, the one point that both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that they don't want to burden future generations of Americans with crushing debt.

Speaker John Boehner recently said, "It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt," and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said, "Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to chart an effective course toward responsible stewardship of the public purse." But what programs are they proposing to cut to achieve this end? While I appreciate their solicitude, I am concerned that America's leaders are jeopardizing my generation's future in the name of fiscal austerity.

The budget passed by House Republicans included a $5.7 billion cut to the Pell Grants program, a nearly $900 million cut to the Office of Science budget, more than $1 billion cut from Head Start and severe cuts to dozens of other educational programs. The Democratic-controlled Senate may reject some of these cuts, but the desire to make large spending cuts with little regard for their long-term impact is strong on both sides in Washington.

While Congress considers cutting education, America's businesses are projecting an increased demand for a more educated workforce. According to a recent report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, our colleges and universities will have to increase the number of degrees they confer by 10 percent annually, through 2018, in order to meet demand. Education is nearly a requirement in some of our nation's fastest-growing industries, such as information services, professional and business services and health care, in which 75 to 90 percent of workers have at least some higher education.

The bottom line is that America should be spending more on education, not less. Can we afford to increase spending on anything given the massive federal budget deficit? I would argue we can't afford not to.

Investments in education are just that, investments that yield high returns. A dollar spent on an effective educational program yields significantly more than its cost through future increased economic output. The rest of the world knows this, which is why China and India have both dramatically increased the amount of money they spend on educational programs.

Let's be clear about the debate over the deficit. In the short term, America's economy will function normally regardless of whether we operate with a large budget deficit or a small one, so the entire argument is over what is in our nation's long-term best interest. Will America really be better off with balanced budgets in 20 years if our workforce is less educated and ill-prepared for the global economy of the 21st century?

President Obama has called for new national priorities based on "winning the future," but most members of Congress seem more intent on cutting the future. If leaders in Washington truly want to advocate for my generation's best interests, they should spend less time pinching pennies and more time making the investments necessary to build a stronger America.


Ian Magruder is a student at UC Berkeley and the president of the California College Democrats. Reply to [email protected]



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