Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
If I could speak for my generation, and the generation before me, I’d say to millennials: I’m sorry. We’ve let you down.
We’ve let you down in so many ways, some of which will become even more apparent in the years ahead.
We have let the costs of higher education increase endlessly. Millennials are leaving college with record amounts of debt — about $27,000 for the average Maryland college graduate in 2015, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
We have created a health care system that is ridiculously expensive for individuals and businesses. The U.S. spends double on health care per person compared with the average industrialized country, and our outcomes are only as good or worse, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Peterson Center on Healthcare.
We have created an irresponsible amount of federal debt, which is expected to grow by more than $10 trillion over the next decade. This will be a costly drag on the economy, slowing growth and preventing needed investments in education, health care and other critical areas.
We have failed to adequately invest in our aging infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, ports, airports and telecommunications systems are all keys to driving our economy forward. There are parts of rural Maryland that don’t have broadband access, which is simply inexcusable.
We are failing to resolve key social issues, including immigration, gun violence and climate change, despite there being common ground in the public on addressing them.
Adding to these significant challenges is the broken state of our political system, with a corrupt campaign finance system, gerrymandered districts and partisan bickering by leaders who care only about winning the next news cycle or the next election.
As I travel the state visiting all 23 counties and the city of Baltimore, millennials are telling me they are angry, and they have every right to be. They realize the two political parties have failed them. They intuitively understand that partisan politicians are serving the needs of the special interests that fund their campaigns, not the people who elected them.
While millennials may not yet have the same clout in Washington, D.C., as organized special interests, they can do one thing to make change happen: vote. Only about 20 percent of millennials voted in the last two midterm elections, but they can make a difference this November by going to the polls and rejecting the status quo. This can be their moment to set a course toward non-partisan independent leadership that will, finally, address the issues that will improve the lives of the next generation and beyond.
As one young Marylander said to me, “Our generation doesn’t understand why our government is made up of two teams trying to beat each other. Why aren’t they working together, as one team?”
Neal Simon is an independent U.S. Senate candidate in Maryland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.