What Would a Millennial-Generation Budget Look Like?

Photo: *clairity*

The average age of Congress is 57.4 years-old. With all the talk (from both sides of the aisle) about how our ballooning debt is stealing from today’s young people, shouldn’t they have a voice in deciding how to solve our long-term fiscal problems, considering they’ll be the ones paying for them? And yet, now that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) has turned 30, not a single member of Congress is in his/her twenties.

What would a budget designed by the Millennial Generation look like? We now know thanks to a group of 18- to-26-year-olds who have released a budget proposal reflecting their priorities. It’s even been scored by the CBO. Organized by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network, the group, along with a handful of think tanks, was given a $200,000 grant by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to craft a budget proposal.

Here’s an overview of the so-called “Budget for Millennial America.” And here’s a full version. Among its highlights:

  • Automated stimulus plan where the release of funds is tied to economic conditions.
  • Stimulus funds would be triggered after an observed 1% increase in the national unemployment rate. Once triggered, the total funding would be automatically authorized for $7.5 billion per point of national unemployment. These funds would be allocated to states based on population.

  • Create a state budget bank where states are able to borrow from the Federal government when national economic triggers deem it necessary.
  • We have modeled out federal outlays and expected repayment schedule based on the amount of relief already provided in ARRA, the aggregate state deficit projections over the next 4 years, and historical state fiscal behavior in previous recessions. We estimate that demand for lending would be $198 billion over the next two fiscal years and have allocated that sum, less $6 billion in funding remaining in the pipeline from ARRA. Given that this bank will largely take the place of statewide “rainy day funds,” we expect that outlays can be repaid in full by FY 2019.

  • End some $15 billion of agriculture subsidies
  • We propose phasing out the vast majority of existing agricultural subsidies. Half of the annual savings will be applied to deficit reduction while the other half will be used to promote sustainable, local agriculture and fund programs that address urgent problems such as food deserts and lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Tax carbon at $23 per ton, repeal the federal gas tax
  • We propose the introduction of an upstream carbon tax of $23 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent beginning in 2012. This price will increase by 5.6% each year, which is consistent with the EPA’s conservative estimates of the social cost of carbon. The CBO has projected that it will reduce emissions by 36% of projected levels by 2026, setting us on a path to responsible levels of emissions over the long term. We take the view that a tax is more efficient than a cap-and-trade system, as it confers more certainty about the future price of carbon. This certainty makes our free market system friendlier to innovators and encourages entrepreneurialism through guaranteeing the future costs and revenues from shifting to low-carbon production. Furthermore, we propose the full repeal of the federal gas tax. The double taxation that a gas and carbon tax would en-tail is unnecessary; in fact, a carbon tax is simply a broader version of a gasoline tax.

  • Increase funding for intercity highspeed rail
  • We propose supplementing existing funding for the HighSpeed Intercity Passenger Rail program with an extra $3 billion per year, indexed to inflation, through 2025. This long-term commitment will guarantee federal support for apprehensive local partners and ensure the program’s success.

  • Reduce combat troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, to 45K by 2015
  • Millennials overwhelmingly disapproved of the invasion of Iraq and the current large-scale occupation of Afghanistan, viewing these wars as misguided, costly endeavors that distract US resources from waging an effective war against global terrorism. Roosevelt recommends scaling down and ending the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to free up our forces for potential deployment in other, future conflicts. Under this scenario, the number of military personnel deployed for war-related purposes would decline over a five-year period to an average of 180,000 in 2011, 130,000 in 2012,100,000 in 2013, 65,000 in 2014, and 45,000 in 2015 and there-after. The US would save over $1.1 trillion from 2012-2021.

  • Implement a new income tax code based on percent of total income
  • We propose a new income tax code that bases bracket assignment upon share of overall American income, rather than the haphazard reforms which currently characterize the process. Brackets will be based on the percentile of total income earned in the United States.

    A new bracket system amounts to a tax cut for the vast majority of working families. We combine the bottom two brackets under the current system into a single bracket with a 9.45% income tax rate instead of the existing 10 and 15% rates for the current two brackets. Our second bracket, at a rate of 15.75%, compares favorably to the 25% individuals are paying in this bracket even under the Bush-era tax cuts. Every other rate is lower than those under President Clinton, and our elimination of a wide range of income and corporate tax loopholes ensures that the system is both straightforward and friendly to foreign investors.Moreover, our system eliminates many of the problems Congress currently resolves on an annual basis. We permanently eliminate the “marriage penalty” under the Alternative Minimum Tax. Furthermore, our new income share system automatically incorporates revisions to the AMT so that it affects only the truly wealthy.


doesn't seem to bad. They still keep troops in places though. Still don't think we need a base in 138 countries around the world. Some kids aren't dumb, they are simple, and simple works in most cases, even the government.


Well, this answers the question, "Why does the Constitution have an age requirement to serve in Congress or as President?" I'll try to hit some highlights and hope I get past the moderator.

1. Who measures the unemployment rate? Who determines where the $7.5B gets allocated? Chances are these two people will be the same person, and closely related to the person who gets the money.

2. This will be a $15B regressive "tax" on food and ethanol based fuels.

3. Does an unbiased measure of carbon use even exist? Who profits from the carbon markets that offset carbon usage? (I'll take this one. The same people who propose the carbon tax.) Does this item even address a problem? Carbon levels are higher than in recent centuries but not as high as they have been in geological time, and high carbon in the atmosphere encourages crop growth. You know, to feed people. They'll need the carbon to help their sustainable victory gardens now that agricultural subsidies are no longer in place to keep food affordable.

4. The US is not densely populated like Japan or Western Europe. Few people commute hundreds of miles to work; high speed rail is more expensive and ecological destructive that air flight.

5. Random troop numbers are random. Identify military and peacetime objectives and quit hamstringing the people who know how to achieve them. If the cost ($ or lives) is too high, then don't take half measures, just get the heck out.

6. "...total income earned in the United States." I will now earn 100% of my income overseas, so it's no longer taxable. Yay me, rich people, and every corporation, public or private.

Not to say this list lacks creativity or optimism. And it seems like $200,000 well spent. We probably need to raise the age requirement for serving in office.



Speaking from someone who is not too far out of that age range (27) most of these ideas are completely asinine. The stimulus worked so well the first two times around we are going to try it again? A carbon tax, seriously? We can't even get scientists to agree if the global warming we are experiencing is anthropogenic or not.

Mike B

Wow, this sort of competent thinking makes me want to temporarily suspend Medicare and Flu shots to get these people into positions of power sooner.

Chris Tomalty

As a "Millennial", I'm insulted when people - my generation or not - claim to represent my generation. We are not nearly the homogeneous demographic blob that many activists make us out to be. It's like asking for a "African-American budget" or a "Muslim budget" and even more invalid as those mentioned share at least some historical background or religious values while all that binds us is our arbitrary date of birth. We do not have the same priorities. That is a myth perpetrated by those of my peers who wish to hijack our entire demographic.

I am Canadian, and in recent elections the Conservative Party finally got the parliamentary majority it has been looking for since its founding in 2003. The most interest facet, however, was the socialistish New Democratic Party unexpectedly swept French-speaking Quebec (the NDP had held 1 seat out of 75 in the province before the election), destroying the leftist/separatist Bloc Quebecois and gaining 58 new Quebec seats. Most of these were filled with "paper candidates", many of whom were little older than me (one having just finished first year of university, like me). They have become a national laughingstock. I would much rather have older people in charge and have my generation grow up before it starts trying to take charge.



Quite a bit of good sense in there. Still haven't a clue about the "War on Terror" thing: the problem isn't terrorism, it's the (ongoing since 623 AD) Islamic Jihad which currently is using terrorism as its tactic du jour.

Also, it seems that allowing states (or individuals) to borrow at will would simply encourage ongoing spending beyond means.


Can I vote for any of these kids? Sounds like they're a heck of a lot smarter than the old farts in Congress.


As a member of the so-called "millenial generation" I actually think this is a pretty good step in the right direction. But it seems that the authors have inherited some of their parents' limitations in devising flexible legislation.

The biggest issue I see is the continued hypocritical insistence that the government is somehow responsible for funding the technologies of the future. I got excited when I saw the proposal to end agriculture subsidies, but my excitement was crushed when I saw that the money would just be diverted to new subsidies. Certainly food deserts are a problem, because they encourage unhealthful food choices, but why does local agriculture have to be the answer? Aside from a vague perception that local is "better," there's no real reason for the government to make mandates in this regard. If local is better, then the market will determine that on its own, perhaps because non-local food will be too expensive. Perhaps a better solution would be to create a Fresh Food Fund that subsidizes the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables, with the freedom to quickly (within 3 months) grant or remove subsidies based on strict criteria.

Similarly, increasing funding for high speed rail is probably not a good idea right now, at least not by a flat amount. Instead, we could maybe leave a flexible account from which Amtrak can draw request funds for any project, high speed or otherwise. This would leave a lot more room to adjust for changes in technology, demand, etc.

A carbon tax is also pretty silly. Why carbon and not more obvious pollutants like lead and mercury, and toxic agricultural chemicals, which have a much more obvious negative impact on welfare, even if their levels are below the arbitrary standards in the Clean Air Act -- more is less. What about a general tax schedule on all pollutants, including carbon? And if you're concerned about oil imports compromising national security, put a tariff on that specifically.

On another note, an automated stimulus plan would be hard to implement because of the myraid different causes of unemployment. Perhaps instead of automatically stimulating the economy, the budget automatically sets aside $7.5b per 1% of unemployment with a mandate that the money be used only for employment-restoration measures.

Meanwhile, the state budget bank and the tax reforms are a GREAT idea. I'd argue that we need more tax brackets and not fewer, but taxing based on share of national income is extremely clever. It's things like this that give me (a little bit of) hope for my generation



Are the millenials trying to

a) Cause a big sensation
b) Just talking about their generation

I often wonder what the political world will look like when people in my age bracket (I'm 29) are white-hairs in suits making laws, and for that matter what the professional world will be like. Will people wear khakis to work in 2036? Look at all the "gen Y friendly" companies right now. Will there be senseless wars? Will there even be a debate about human right issues like gay marriage? What will systemic racism have diminished to?

While we may have it worse economically than our parents did, and we will certainly make mistakes, I'm confident we can contribute a lot more to the world than our Boomer parents did (i.e. Crosby Stills and Nash, and the Slinky).


Some clever, pragmatic thinking there. Perhaps there is some hope for America after all. Eventually.

For now, the current "pigs-at-the-trough" generation is doing its best to wreck the place. My apologies, kids.


3 billion for highspeed rail? its going to cost way more than that


These are probably intelligent young adults so the chances they will ever run for office are very slim.

Kevin P.

A little Googling would have found that the Roosevelt Institute is a partisan left-liberal organization:

Progressives Can Fight Budget Battles with a Home Field Advantage
- by Zachary Kolodin, Director of the Future Preparedness Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute.

Not surprisingly, their funded project finds that millenials favor liberal politics and liberal solutions!

Matthew Phillips doesn't mention any of this, and misrepresents this organization and their project as being representative of millenials in general. This is commonplace for liberals to imagine that their worldview is shared by all people, even though self-identified liberals hover around 22% of the population of the United States.

Mike D

What about three to five year olds? They'll be paying for a lot of this too. They deserve a voice, right?


I am not sure where to begin. I guess I'll start by saying that I am in the Millennial Generation (24), however I feel that a lot of these proposals are either slightly misguided if not completely ridiculous. I went back and forth while reading this between agreement and disagreement, and I have finally settled on disagreement. Although I have a slight desire to dissect and analyze every aspect of this proposal, I do realize that this is not on the floor of Congress, so why waste the time. I will point out a few things in which I totally disagree.

First, I read through the full version and noticed that it was written in a tense describing what the Millennial think, rather than in a text of them writing it themselves. This gives me a feeling that (although again this is strictly a feeling and more likely than not, I am incorrect, but maybe) there could have been a guided discussion on the topics, hence the reason there is a majority left of center outlook on almost all of these proposals.

Second, Throughout this entire proposal, I didn't notice in one instance in which there would actually be any spending cuts? I glanced through the full version so I may have missed something, but from what I saw, everything in terms of spending, would all increase. Not to mention spending close to $100 billion on pre-K schooling by 2017. We have a hard time handling K-12. Not too sure that this would help. Yes I am aware of the learning curves that children who have attended pre-K do better. However, there is one high school in my state (Rhode Island) in which the high school has a 51% drop-out rate. in the light of that statistic, pre-K almost seems pointless.

Lastly, the high speed rail. Where do they come up with this arbitrary $3 billion. Not to mention AMTRAK is hemorrhaging money as is. Right now, Acela train costs double the fair to gain a trip that is on average 3 minutes faster that the normal. The reason, the tracks are not straight enough and cannot pick up the needed speed. The high speed rails would be pointless where most of the advocates are (North East) because the area is too heavily populated and in order to gain the land to have straight lines connecting major city hubs, people would be displaced, and I don't think that the cost is worth it.



Sounds like the policies of the Australian Greens.


'A' for effort. Some inventive ideas like taxing on share of total income. Not sure how that would work but proposing out there ideas like provokes additional thinking and perhaps a workable breakthrough idea. As to the carbon tax etc, not only not creative simply a reflection of the public education indoctrination this generation has received. I'd love to have seen what they would have come up with if they couldn't propose ideas that are already floating out there. Make something completely new and see what the youthful perspective could come up with, minus the framework we all live in now. I'll bet they would blow us away with creativity.


The headline shouldn't read "Millenial-Generation Budget." It should read "Budget Designed by 18-26 Year-Olds Affliated with Roosevelt Institute." As someone who writes about economics, I'd assume you are familiar with the term 'sampling bias.' This is clearly not a representative sample of Millennials.