At a press conference this afternoon, GUSA President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) stood with a handful of other student body presidents as they unveiled their letter to President Obama, imploring him and other leaders to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling debate and the country’s budget crisis.
Over 100 college and university student body presidents representing over 2 million students signed the letter. Similar letters will be hand delivered to members of Congress.
Meaney, who spearheaded the initiative along with other members of GUSA, explained that the idea to appeal to the country’s leadership was born out of a conversation during a bus ride about a week ago. The topic of discussion: the discrepancy between how our government ideally works and “the sorry state of the ongoing gridlock over the debt ceiling and deficit.”
“We asked ourselves: How come our leaders can’t seem to work together for the good of the country? Why do they seem to care more about the next election than the next generation?” he said. “Young people are often used as a political football, but we can’t afford to let others speak for us any longer.”
The letter [PDF] is an appeal for bipartisan collaboration that transcends party agendas, ideology, and promises. “We can’t pass up an opportunity to solve our problems because of pledges, partisanship, or pettiness,” Meaney said. He later denied any reference to the GOP’s Pledge to America, which was released before the 2010 elections and vowed to drastically reduce government spending.
University of Miami Student Body President Brandon Mitchell underscored debt concerns that acutely affect college students, noting that the average college student graduates with about $27, 200 in student loan debt. Meanwhile, Republicans has made moves to cut Pell Grant funding at several points during the past year.
Public opinion polls indicate the majority of Americans favor reducing the national debt through a compromise between tax increases and spending cuts. In a poll conducted by CNN/ORC International, more than half of the respondents said the Republicans would be to blame if the debt ceiling is not raised. This finding is also corroborated by other polls.
Although the speakers acknowledged the economic calamity that would result from a failure to raise the debt ceiling, they did not offer any specific recommendations on how best to move forward to resolve our budget issues.
However, Meaney pointed to the proposals of the Gang of Six and the Simpson-Bowles Commission as standards for bipartisanship. “And that’s why we support them as a framework from which our leaders should work,” he said.
The letter, signed by over 120 student leaders representing over 2 million college students, signifies a strong mandate to find a compromise, one of the signatories said.
To get the word out and rally support, the campaign has urged people to tweet comments using the hashtag #dowehaveadealyet. Although it is unclear how many people have retweeted the message or used the topic, Tyler Sax (COL ’13) said the topic was trending in D.C. yesterday afternoon. The initiative’s website reached 2,000 unique visitors and 3,000 page views this morning.
When asked if there was a potential communication gap between our generation, Tweeting our frustration, and the leaders our appeals aim to sway, GUSA Vice President Greg Laverriere (SFS ’12) said social media was an increasingly effective means of grabbing national leaders’ attention. Although initially our generation comprised the sole Twitter market, the sphere of influence has expanded. “Every person in leadership has a Twitter now,” Laverriere said.
Meaney and the other signatories do not have any plans for calls to action on other issues. And they do not intend to organize a broad-scale rally that would engage their constituent student populations as a whole. “This is not directed towards political action but towards leadership,” he said.