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By Elisha Brown
September 11, 2015
Credit : Elisha Brown/Generation Progress.

Social Security, the 80-year-old safety net program that insures 60 million retired and disabled Americans, will reach insolvency by 2034 if Congress does not act. The House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday morning to hear policy solutions from four innovative Millennials on how to stabilize the safety net, beyond raising taxes or cutting spending, for their generation.

Rebecca Vallas, policy director of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, urged Congress to push past austerity measures as a quick fix to the anti-poverty programs. Besides calling for a “routine and modest reallocation of payroll taxes,” Vallas argued that we need a level playing field for young people who live in an economy with rising income inequality.

Instead of slashing a program vital to the financial security of millions, Vallas said, we should invest in job creation, raise the minimum wage, and expand educational opportunities for young Americans.

Economist and Manhattan Institute fellow Jared Meyer agreed that higher education reform, particularly tackling the crippling student debt, should be a top priority for Congress. “College tuition rates skyrocketed by 1200 percent since 1978,” said Meyer.

Meyer also said the individually-tailored subsides to each school—think Pell grants, Parent Plus Loans, unsubsidized and subsidized loans—drown students in debt after they graduate, only to be greeted by a tough job market. “Pell grants only cover 25 percent of college costs. In 1976 they covered over half a student’s tuition,” added Vallas.  The average student loan debt is $30,000, a burden that can stop or delay Millennials from purchasing homes and starting families due to financial insecurity.

Others called for Millennials and lawmakers to lessen spending and face the reality of the decades old safety-net policies. Saira Blair, a 19-year-old West Virginian delegate and the youngest elected official in the United States, recommended that the security-net programs face budget cuts, a sure way to lessen our national debt, which currently topples $18 trillion.

Evan Baehr, co-founder of Abe Lending, a small-business loan lender, warned Congress that our future economic success depends on the Millennial generation. He urged all branches of government to utilize young people for policy-making and hire “binders of Millennials” who take innovative risks.

While all these leaders offered pragmatic policy fixes and outlooks, the power ultimately lies with Congress to ensure that Millennials are compensated for their hard work in the years to come. As it stands, young people doubt that Social Security will be there for them by retirement age; 64 percent of Americans aged 18-29 don’t believe the government will provide an adequate level of security benefits in old age.

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