Political Hay

The Young At Heart

Rocking the vote, wrecking your wallet.

By 12.22.08

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Young people rocked the vote this year for Barack Obama. While general election turnout among eligible voters was almost the same as last cycle, when voters aged 18 to 29 turned out they overwhelmingly supported Obama.

According to the Pew Research Center’s report about young voters, it's not unusual for young voters to back Democrats. But in 2008, a whopping 66% of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama. This made the “disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.”

The theories as to why Obama drew so many young voters abound. He has a particular youthful appeal, a cool vibe. I imagine in high school he was never teased, nor did he tease -- he simply stood above both crowds in his trademark detached intimacy. While he oozes masculine charisma, with his lean figure, flash of white teeth and baritone voice à la Russell Crowe, he prefers Bob Dylan over country and would rather go the gym than go to church (his young voters don’t care for church much either). What’s not to love?

Well, except for his policies. In national exit polling by NBC news examined in the Pew Report, young voters said their "top concern" this election was the economy (as did all the other age groups). But do high taxes help the economy -- or do most young voters think they will never have to pay higher taxes?

According to Pew, 56% of young voters make less than $50,000 per year and 30% make $50-99,000. Only a small percentage make more than $100,000. Of course they care about the economy but what of higher taxes? According to Obama, the vast majority of them will get the tax break they deserve! The Obama-Biden plan for economic relief in America includes a tax plan that "delivers broad-based tax relief to middle class families and cuts taxes for small businesses…."

However, the Heritage Foundation’s memo to the President-elect on his tax plan points out that "broad-based tax relief" for middle-class families "does not mean narrow tax breaks restricted to families who engage in activities that Washington decides are worthy," which Obama’s plan features. Bet Young Voters didn't know that.

Instead, scholars at Heritage suggest cutting taxes for everyone and resisting the urge to increase taxes for people who are more likely to invest: "Tax increases are economically harmful at all times, but they are especially harmful during a recession." In sum, the richest pay the most taxes, specifically those who make more than $250,000 -- they  currently pay 48% of all income taxes.

The chances that Obama is suddenly going to tweak his tax plan to fit the Heritage Foundation's brainy suggestions are slim. By 2010, the Bush tax cuts will, in effect, expire.  If Obama simply does nothing, everyone -- including the Young Voters -- some of whom will be just getting out of college, getting a real job, and finally begin paying a significant amount of taxes -- will automatically pay more. If Obama is able to implement even part of his tax plan, the Young Voters will start paying more than they have been.  And the select few thirty-somethings who voted for change and by some cruel fate make enough to pay what many of wealthier parents and grandparents do, may have a change of heart about their vote.

The issue of the economy presented the most drastic dichotomy between Young Voters' utopian theoretic solutions and what will probably be the disappointing reality. This disparity occurred though with every one of the Young Voters' top concerns including healthcare, energy and terrorism. What, exactly, do they think Obama will do regarding those issues that will improve their quality of life?

Sure, they might receive "universal healthcare," but not without paying more for it some way -- and receiving an inferior quality product. Likewise, the same goes for the other issues. Their concerns and Obama's solutions are more like oil and water than peanut butter and jelly. They don't make a good pair, even though both of them think they do.

On one hand, it's disheartening that the bracket of voters most mobilized, most energized for Obama could end up paying such a high price for that ballot. But then, on the other hand, making bad choices is part of life and every generation. The only choice left is to learn and make a better, more-informed choice next time.

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About the Author

Nicole Russell writes from Northern Virginia.