On July 2, a bipartisan effort from Congress passed legislation that will freeze the current student-loan rate at 3.4 percent. One would be extremely naive to believe this was passed without an ulterior motive.
Politicians will insist they passed this simply because “[they] must ensure that cost does not keep hardworking students from getting a college education (Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa),” or because “the agreement they’ve reached will ensure that college students, who are already facing enormous challenges in the Obama economy, won’t be paying higher interest rates next month (Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.).” When you get down to it, though, the true reason becomes clear.
After 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected in part by the huge young voter turnout, politicians suddenly started to care about youth interests.
I’m not criticizing the politicians for pandering because, this close to November, re-election is the number-one thing on their minds. No, I’m pointing out that we need to use this to our advantage.
For too long, college-aged students have gotten the short end of the political stick because politicians don’t care about what we think. But if we continue to come out in record numbers to the polls and show that we are a factor in elections, we will very quickly see policy become friendlier to our interests.
There’s a reason Washington hasn’t reformed social security, despite the fact that everyone who won’t retire by 2037 won’t see any benefits even though they will have paid into it their entire lives.
There’s a reason marijuana hasn’t been legalized even though 56 percent of the nation supports it.
There’s a reason same-sex partnerships and marriages haven’t been recognized on a federal level despite 62 percent of the nation being in favor of it.
There’s a reason the median age in the Senate is 60, and 55 in the House.
The reason is simple: The people who vote the most, who make their voices heard, are the generations older than us. These are people whose values — by and large — are different from ours. And until this generation decides to mobilize, to show some presence in politics, we will continue to be misrepresented and forced to follow laws that aren’t in our best interest.
Hopefully, the bipartisan passage of this student loan bill is the first step toward
Congress recognizing that it needs to curry favor from us too.
Even if it is, though, we need to go out in November and vote in record numbers. It doesn’t matter who you vote for; just go out on election day and cast a ballot.
Maybe then this nation will finally enter the 21st century, and adopt the views that go with it.
Reach opinion columnist Nathan Taft at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NathanTaft
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