Two years into the Trump presidency, the Administration has proved that their priorities are directly at odds with the needs of younger generations. The President has stripped protections from those living with DACA, ignored the gun violence epidemic, done little to fix a broken criminal justice system, exacerbated the student debt crisis, denied climate change, and rolled back progress on diversity and inclusion. In his Tuesday State of the Union address, President Trump will surely list his accomplishments and successes. But regardless of the results that he’ll discuss, young people know that his policies benefit the wealthy and powerful, and are taking bold steps to fight back.
With Congress negotiating government funding to avoid another disastrous and costly shutdown, Tuesday’s speech will undoubtedly focus on President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall. The President says that the wall is needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis, but the only humanitarian crisis at the border is the one that his Administration created. The Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy has impacted thousands of families and ripped young children from the arms of their parents. Months after the implementation of this policy, the Administration has admitted that reuniting all families may be impossible. This policy followed the President’s decision to end the DACA program which protected more than 820,000 people from deportation and gave young people the ability to work and go to school. As the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, Millennials and Generation Z are the most impacted by the DACA program’s end. Refusing to stay silent, young people organized rallies and protests in D.C. and across the U.S. to show the President that America stands with undocumented youth and against his xenophobic policies.
Young people are disproportionately impacted by America’s uncontrolled gun violence epidemic. As a 2017 report by Generation Progress and the Center for American Progress notes, gunfire surpassed car accidents as one of the leading killers of young people in the United States. From Parkland to Thousand Oaks, and from Las Vegas to Sutherland Springs, in recent years, young lives were senselessly lost as America experienced some of the deadliest mass shootings in history. These tragedies could have been avoided if the White House and Congress chose to act with commonsense gun violence prevention efforts. The solutions exist—and young people are leading movement to turn these ideas into action. 2018 was a monumental year for youth activists as March For Our Lives mobilized hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. with demands to hold their elected leaders accountable. Voters heeded the call by rejecting NRA-backed candidates and electing a wave of gun violence prevention advocates at the midterms.
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice has proved to be one of the rare issues where lawmakers from both parties are able to come together and find solutions. With the First Step Act, signed in to law by President Trump last year, sentencing guidelines were reformed to reduce disparities, harsh mandatory minimum sentences were eased, and thousands of imprisoned people were given a second chance at life. But young know that leaders need to go much further and offer bolder solutions to tackle a broken criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts young people, particularly young people of color. Without proper leadership, young people have seized the reigns of power at the local level. Around the country, young leaders are working to overhaul police practices, push for meaningful policy reforms, and support their communities with resources and networks.
The clearest sign of the Trump administration’s disregard for students and borrowers came in early 2018, when the CFPB, then-led by Mick Mulvaney, shuttered the Office of Students and Young Consumers. Before its closure, the Office of Students and Young Consumers recovered more than $750 million in funds for students who were wronged by lenders and servicers. Under an unregulated system, student loan debt in America has ballooned to over $1.5 trillion, with Millennials being hit the hardest. Instead of addressing the crisis that’s impacting the financial livelihoods of millions of Americans, the Trump-DeVos administration has taken the side of education profiteers and shady for-profit companies. Just last year, the Administration announced plans to roll back gainful employment and borrower defense rules, moves that would have allowed predatory for-profit colleges to line the pockets of their executives and shareholders, and leave cheated students with few protections. Due to an overwhelming amount of public comments from students and borrowers, the Education Department missed a deadline to implement these rules, giving a victory to Americans who believe in a fair and equitable higher education system.
The majority of Americans believe the mainstream consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, with 70 percent of people under the age of 39 supporting government actions to curtail the rise in global temperatures. Yet, from the halls of Congress to the White House, climate deniers are in control of policy. According to a new analysis, 150 lawmakers in the 116th Congress are climate deniers, a sharp decrease from the previous Congress, but still making up more than a quarter of all legislators. And in 2019, the President of the United States questions the existence of climate change because the Midwest is cold. In the face of denial, young people have once again taken action into their own hands, organizing climate marches around the world, and calling on climate deniers to get the facts out or GTFO. Young generations have the most to lose if climate change goes unchecked, and are flexing their political muscles on the streets, online, and at the ballot box, to secure future generations have a habitable planet to live on.
Diversity and Inclusion
With a historic turnout by young voters, the 2018 midterms ushered in the most diverse Congress is American history. With an unprecedented number of women, people of color, religious minorities, and Millennials, the 116th Congress represents modern America like no Congress ever before. Prior to this new set of legislators, the U.S. Congress was historically old, with state legislatures reflecting this severe underrepresentation. A Generation Progress report found that only six percent of state legislators were 35 years old or younger. While voters elected a record-number of young and diverse leaders, the White House has chosen to do the opposite. In its first batch of judicial nominations sent to the new Congress, all six nominees are white men. In his inner circle of advisors, the President lacks black staffers, being advised by an overwhelmingly white group. And with a cohort that is expected to be young, the White House intern class, the White House again fails in its inclusion of people of color. With 44 percent of Millennials identifying as people of color, an intern class lacking the variety of races and ethnicities that make up America’s younger generations reveals the Trump administration’s disregard for the inclusion of all Americans in the nation’s political systems.