Voting On Our Economic Futures

Zach Duffy

With less than a week to go before Election Day, I have a plea to make to all of the Pioneer‘s readers: please vote.

I’d like to think that it is second nature for most Whitman students to register to vote and then fill out and return their ballots when they come in the mail. But just in case there are any readers who doubt that the act of voting is of any great importance, allow me to frame the upcoming midterm elections in terms of our national economy:

Three years after the collapse of the housing bubble, 14.1 million Americans remain jobless with the national unemployment rate standing at 9.6 percent. Among young people, the figures are worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among students enrolled in high school and college stands at a rate of 17.1 percent. Nearly one in three African American students and one in five Hispanic students are unable to find work. And just under 60 percent  of black teens not currently enrolled in high school are unemployed.

Perhaps you’ve heard cable news personalities talking about these figures and opining that our generation is doomed to be the first generation in recent American history to enjoy a lower standard of living than that of their parents. The scary thing is that they may be right: As a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates, “Failure to find a first job or keep it for long can have negative long-term consequences on the career prospects [of young people] that some experts refer to as ‘scarring.’ Beyond the negative effects on future wages and employability, long spells of unemployment while young often create permanent scars through the harmful effects on a number of other outcomes, including happiness, job satisfaction and health, many years later.”

In other words, if unemployment remains as bad as it is now when any of Whitman’s current students graduate, they can expect to make significantly less money and have significantly less job security than they would have had if they graduated in the midst of an economic boom.

I hope that in detailing the potential effects that the recession might have on our career prospects, I have impressed upon some of you that the stakes of these midterm elections are high. Whatever representatives are elected in November will have an enormous impact on the decisions that Congress makes in the next few years. And many of us will be graduating into this uncertain job market and relying upon our congressional representatives to ensure that the American economy rights itself quickly.

I don’t mean for this column to be an endorsement for any particular candidate, although since I am a Whitman student, you can guess that I’ll be supporting the Democratic ticket. But I do urge everyone who is registered to vote this year to read candidates’ platforms and then to fill out their ballots and drop them in the mail. This is no ordinary election, and our very futures are at stake.