The Washington Post

Do Millennials matter in Washington?

In an e-mail Monday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner’s office explained that, according to the Heritage Foundation, “Millennials will be hit with an average hike of $1,099” if the Bush tax cuts expire.

Wait . . . Millennials?

The use of that word didn’t make the speaker’s anti-tax jeremiad any more convincing. But it did make my afternoon.

Watching Washington means you have to hear a lot about how this or that will hurt seniors, or the middle class or middle-class seniors. This tendency reflects one of those unbreachable rules of modern America: The government kinda shafts you when you’re young and working, but you can get as many hip replacements as you want when you’re old and voting.

As a Millennial, I figured that mattering to the speaker of the House was just something to look forward to, a silver lining to silver hair. You turn 65, AARP card in hand, and, suddenly, politicians want to buy you a Rascal scooter. Being young brings other advantages, such as not needing a Rascal scooter.

Whether a cause or a symptom of this sort of thinking, official Washington’s lexicon is decidedly unfriendly to twenty-somethings. Wonks often discuss Medicare spending per senior collecting benefits, instead of spending per worker supporting the program. The effects of economic policy are figured by the “household,” which sounds like that area above the basements in which we’re living. Even when politicians discuss issues that might affect young people, such as the national debt, they often ask those listening to think about their “kids” or “grandkids,” when these are things lots of twenty-somethings actively avoid having.

Matt Miller argues we need to behave more like an interest group to attract this kind of consideration, which is probably true; it would help if young Americans could organize themselves to do something more than occupy public parks until the weather gets cold. In the meantime, thanks, Heritage Foundation, for deeming us Millennials worth mentioning.

Stephen Stromberg is a Post editorial writer. He specializes in domestic policy, including energy, the environment, legal affairs and public health.


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