By DANIEL HENNINGER, May 2, 2012, WSJ
Unless they plan to be union lifers, what’s in an Obama vote for young Americans?
Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Barack Obama in November?
Mr. Obama resumed his College Tour 2012 last week, visiting campuses in Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado for the purpose of replicating his 66% youth-vote total from 2008.
In 2008, he reeled them in with promises of hope and change. In 2012 he’s offering cash, promising to protect 3.4% interest on their college loans. We’re about to find out if it’s true that when you’re young, hope springs eternal.
Put differently, the past three years have been a Peter Pan presidency for Peter Pan voters. If you’re going to college, it’s good to vote for Barack Obama again, so long as you’ll never have to turn 23. But for many young Americans, there will be no Tinker Bell showing them how to land a job with lovely thoughts.
The youth unemployment rate for Americans has hovered around 16%. Anecdotal stories abound of college graduates living in the bedroom they grew up in, jobless. But hey, the president they voted for as freshmen is promising 3.4% interest on the average $25,000 or so of college debt they owe four years later.
At his appearance before students at the University of Iowa, President Obama ran straight at those who’ve criticized his student interest-rate gift as small beer: “These guys don’t get it. . . . This is the economy!” Mr. Obama shouted. “This is about your job security! This is about your future! If you do well, the economy does well. This is about the economy!”
We get it: The election really is about the economy. If so, the job market for many young people during the Obama presidency has bordered on, well, social Darwinism. Many students who did well in school either don’t have a job or took one far below their expensive skills.
Last May, the Nobel laureate economist Robert Lucas, an expert on economic growth, put together a lecture on the economy because so many people asked him why the U.S. economy’s post-recession growth rate was struggling around 2%.
He noted that in the years after World War II, both the U.S. and Europe grew at an annual rate of about 3%. But in the mid-1970s, Western Europe dropped below that growth rate and stayed there, creating a 20% to 40% gap in income levels between Europe and the U.S. Prof. Lucas suggested this had to do with the cost of maintaining the social-welfare commitments Europe accumulated in the postwar years.