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What others say: Political change may not occur until Americans at the grass roots speak up

Dallas Morning News

Published: Monday, Jan. 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Those of us who believe in reasonable compromise have not sent a clear enough message to our elected leaders about sacrificing for the larger good. Given that politicos mostly respond to what they hear at home, change may not occur until Americans at the grass roots speak up.

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The following editorial appeared recently in the Dallas Morning News:

Many Americans are probably long past eager to see both political parties get beyond the brinksmanship that has taken Washington hostage.

If we're really honest with ourselves, we will also acknowledge that we voters bear some responsibility for the gridlock, including the division over how to curb the growth in the national debt.

Those of us who believe in reasonable compromise have not sent a clear enough message to our elected leaders about sacrificing for the larger good. Given that politicos mostly respond to what they hear at home, change may not occur until Americans at the grass roots speak up.

That gets us to an inspiring grass-roots organization: The Can Kicks Back. An email arrived from the group mere hours after Congress passed its tax bill on New Year's Day. The headline of the message was clear and simple: The debt is much too high.

The source of the missive was especially interesting. The Can Kicks Back is a group of millennials devoted to stopping Congress from kicking the debt problem down the road. The voices of millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, matter because they will bear the brunt of the debt's impact on our economy — unless something is done.

President Barack Obama made a big pitch to this age range in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. He now should pay close attention to what some of their leaders are saying.

Here, for example, is what Ryan Schoenike, executive director of The Can Kicks Back, prescribes for the future:

"Congress and the president must get to work immediately and put together a bold, balanced and bipartisan solution with substance; and it must be generationally balanced.

"That means having a real conversation about what our priorities are as a country. Young people don't want to see our parents, grandparents or country hurt, and a real plan to fix the debt should be implemented in a way that will not hurt our fragile recovery or makes cuts that threaten our global competitiveness. But we ask leaders to confront the generational inequity being set up by refusing to deal with the structural drivers of our debt now."

"Generational inequity." "Structural drivers of our debt." The president and members of Congress should keep those phrases running through their minds as the fiscal cliff talk moves toward spending reforms. Without serious changes in entitlement programs such as Medicare, younger Americans will get stuck with a very big debt for a very long time.

A video on the organization's website, thecankicksback.org, is titled "Washington won't act until we do." We couldn't agree more. May the activism of The Can Kicks Back spur the rest of us into action.

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