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A Federal Budget Plan that Reflects the Priorities of the
Millennial Genertion Collected through Think 2040
May 25, 2011

The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network’s Budget for a KEY DECISIONS and INNOVATIVE IDEAS
Millennial America is a rigorous plan that makes the
essential investments in  education, health care, • We expand domestic investment dramatically
infrastructure and green energy needed to ensure a through initiatives like universal Pre-K, an ambitious
robust 21st century economy, while reducing the federal infrastructure repair program, and increases in safety
debt to a sustainable level.  The plan reflects the views net, education, and transportation programs.
of a cross-section of some three thousand Millennials. It
was created democratically through the Campus • We provide bold short-term stimulus funding. The
Network’s unique model of student engagement with economy has yet to recover, and it is a moral
members and nonmembers alike. The budget addresses imperative to get America back on its feet as soon as
the  root causes, not just the symptoms, of possible. As part of this, we research and implement a
the  federal  debt by ending Too Big to Fail and 21st century working retraining program.
addressing rising health care costs.  It strengthens the
social safety net by making it more responsive to crisis • We don’t cut Social Security benefits. In fact, we
and recession  through automatic stimulus and stronger make them stronger through adjustments in the
worker retraining programs.  The Budget for Millennial payroll tax and the reinstatement of the student
America is the only citizen-produced deficit reduction survivor benefit.
plan – by young, old or middle-aged – being given serious
consideration in the public debate. • We save money on government health care costs by
instituting a public option trigger, repealing the
monopoly exemptions, and replacing the employer-
provided health insurance tax exclusion with a tax
credit that dramatically expands access to quality,
Key Metrics CBO BASELINE ROOSEVELT affordable care.
2035 PLAN
Debt as % of GDP 91.5% 63.6% • We end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2015,
saving the U.S. $3.8 trillion. We also launch a cyber
Govt. Health Care 9.8% 7.3% security push and position alternative energy as a key
Costs as % of GDP defense priority.
Tax Revenue as % 23.3% 22.9%
• We institute a major tax reform, cu#ing corporate
of GDP tax rates across the board while eliminating most tax
Defense Costs as % 3.3% 2.9% loopholes. The lowest bracket for income taxes is set
at 9.5% and now applies for all households making
of GDP
below $79,000/year. We also reformulate the code to
reflect rising income inequality.

• We end “too big to fail” through a Systemic Risk Tax,

alongside instituting a Financial Transactions Tax and a
Carbon Tax as additional revenue.

Copyright 2011, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved. 1

Overview Millennial America moves aggressively to reduce
systemic risk by proposing a “Too Big to Fail Tax” and by
replacing the Mortgage Interest Deduction with a
Young Americans will inherit the consequences of
capped credit.
whatever action we take to address America’s long-term
budget challenges. Many public figures have tried to
speak for us, claiming to represent their “grandchildren.” Finally, as young Americans continue to struggle
But until now, Millennials have not been asked to because of the Great Recession, Millennials are
provide their plan to achieve a vision for the future that commi#ed to building a safety net that will be resilient
brings America back to fiscal sustainability. The Budget when the next economic storm hits. That means
for the Millennial America represents that Millennial strengthening Social Security. It means giving states the
voice. The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network asked tools they need to provide essential services to citizens.
thousands of young people across the country to It means that we don’t walk away from displaced
identify our priorities for America’s future, coalesce workers, but rather build a system to get them back on
around the most important outcomes, and make the their feet. The Budget for the Millennial America
tough choices necessary to finance them. We came actually increases domestic discretionary spending,
together as a generation and put forward this proposal because we believe that investments in our people,
to resolve America’s fiscal challenges and build towards infrastructure, and economy are the only viable route to
our shared vision for 2040.$ a prosperous society that provides for all Americans.

Millennials believe that America has come to a Rebuilding the Social Safety Net
crossroads. The role of government involvement and
public spending is hotly contested, and our generation is Over the past 30 years, the American economy has
faced with hard fiscal choices. But these challenges are become more dynamic, more service-oriented, and more
not inexorable. Young people across the country unpredictable. Yet the institutions that compose our
recognize that those in power have made choices over social safety net have remained largely unchanged.
the last 15 years that led us down the path to fiscal Millennials want to remedy this oversight. The safety net
turmoil. We are ready to pull ourselves out – not by should provide basic insurance for everyday Americans
making haphazard cuts and sacrificing investment, but against the exigencies of a dynamic, flexible economy. In
through a budget plan rooted in achieving our vision for order to do so, it must grow stronger during difficult
America in a fiscally responsible way. Any solution to our times, providing even more robust benefits, rather than
fiscal trouble must not only resolve the gap between shriveling up when state budgets face challenges.
spending and revenue, but also address the underlying Furthermore, it should help Americans rebound when
causes. their careers are sidetracked by industrial shi&s that are
out of their control.
Millennials recognize that much of the long-term budget
gap stems from excess cost growth in the health care To accomplish these essential goals, Roosevelt proposes
industry. We resist calls to simply push the cost from two key additions to the safety net: an automatic
government balance sheets directly onto the backs of stimulus plan that ensures states continue to provide
American households. Rather, the Budget for the needed social services, even when tax revenues dry up
Millennial America makes a serious effort to bring health during recessions, and a new kind of worker retraining
costs under control. And we are ready to institute a program designed specifically for the 21st century
public health insurance option that can hold costs down economy. The recent recession proved that states do
through competition with the private market if they not have the tools to fight recessions when they occur.
continue to spiral out of control. Combining an auto-stimulus plan with a State Budget
Bank that can provide lending to fill budget holes during
When Millennials look at our country’s economic and economic downturns will give states the firepower they
political landscape in 2011, they understand that the root need to continue to support health insurance for the
causes of the financial crash have not been addressed. elderly, needy, and young and to keep education strong
They recognize that the housing bubble that wiped out during tough times. Without this change, we can expect
the savings of millions of hard-working Americans was to once again see American society begin to unravel at
made much worse by irresponsible practices in the the seams during recessions.
financial sector, especially from banks that are “too big
to fail.” Any sustainable solution to America’s fiscal Thus far, worker retraining programs in America have
challenges must include decisive action to bring about a failed to live up to the promise of preparing all
stable, efficient financial system. The Budget for the Americans for participation in a 21st century economy.

Copyright 2010, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved. 2

But that does not mean we cannot design a successful If these systemic reforms fail to bring non-Medicare
program if we put our minds to it. Retraining has been government health insurance expenditures under
shown to be successful around the world in bringing control by 2022, Roosevelt creates a robust, national
displaced workers back up to speed. If it can be done public health insurance plan to compete with the private
elsewhere, it can be done here in America. We propose market. This health plan would have all the negotiating
funding five years of research for designing a successful and cost-controlling powers of Medicare, would be listed
program before implementation. Furthermore, we see on all health insurance exchanges, and would be eligible
social impact bonds, which draw on the capacity of the for exchange subsidies through the PPACA.
private sector to provide needed public goods, as an
excellent resource in solving the puzzle of ge#ing Ultimately, Roosevelt brings sanity to America’s health
displaced workers back on their feet and into the job insurance market through a uniquely American solution.
market. We bring the full force of public and private innovation
to bear on reducing health costs while maintaining
Finally, Roosevelt ensures that Social Security will consumer choice in doctors and hospitals. Furthermore,
continue to provide the foundation of retirement through the creation of a generous tax credit to help
security and insurance against death and disability for families buy health insurance, Roosevelt brings the
future generations of Americans. With adjustments in opportunity to buy high-quality insurance to low-income,
the payroll tax to bring it back to 1990 levels, we address part-time workers for the first time in American history.
the fiscal challenges in the program. Furthermore, we
restore the student survivor benefit in order to make Make the Investments Needed to Restore the
sure the children of disabled and diseased parents
American Middle Class
continue to receive Social Security benefits while
pursuing higher education.
We cannot let the enormous federal budget numbers
produced by the economic downturn distract from the
Fulfill the Promise of Quality Affordable most urgent problem — the economic downturn itself.
Health Care for All Americans Unemployment at the date of this writing is 9.2%, almost
double the typical rate of the past 20 years. This
Millennials understand the importance of health to their represents an enormous pain that is felt by working
own lives and to society more broadly. This is a Americans across the country, and Millennials more than
generation that has grown up with Fast Food Nation and any other group.
Food, Inc. The enormous costs to society of obesity and
chronic disease are not lost on them. In fact, we are looking at a generation that is in the
process of becoming lost. A huge cadre of promising
Furthermore, the cost of ensuring decent care for the young people is staring at a job market without jobs —
elderly and disabled will grow to unsustainable levels and a future without skills. The best thing we can do to
during the prime of the Millennial Generation. ensure that America continues to be competitive for the
Millennials believe that this issue demands decisive next 50 years is to get young people back to work, back
action while upholding the core commitment of ensuring to earning, and back to learning as soon as we possibly
quality health care for those that can least afford to buy can. Every day we don’t is a day wasted in the life of this
it on a private market. promising generation.

Recognizing the enormous effort that went into passing The American economy behaves fundamentally
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, differently than it did when the great social safety net
Roosevelt proposes to strengthen the market reforms programs of the 20th century were developed
begun in the PPACA and give the new system ten years (1934-1974). Americans used to be able to depend on
to bring government health care expenditures under their pensions for a secure retirement. Today, they are
control. As such, Roosevelt immediately implements lucky to have a good 401(k) account. Americans used to
several key market reforms such as repealing the be able to depend on advancement within a single
monopoly exemption for health insurance companies, company over the course of their lifetime. Now, very few
allowing states to pool their insurance markets, funding Americans stay with the same company for an entire
comparative effectiveness research, increasing price career. These changes have helped give America the
transparency of health services, and replacing the most dynamic economy in the world. But they have also
employer-provided health insurance tax exclusion with a destabilized the trajectory for success and security in
generous tax credit. America. Sustained success has become more difficult
and tenuous for Americans, even as we have collectively

Copyright 2010, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved. 3

produced more wealth than any country in history. do so without assisting hard-working Americans who
Failing to recognize and respond to these challenges as may be hurt by the decline of the fossil fuel industry.
a society would represent a moral failing. That is why
Roosevelt proposes a creating a robust, worker Modernize the American Military Approach
retraining program tailored for the 21st century
and Reinvigorate American Diplomacy

During the Cold War, there was a clear overarching goal

Furthermore, failing to anticipate and prepare for the
for US foreign policy that was accepted by Washington’s
fact that our economy goes into recessions every so
political establishment: contain and defeat communism.
o&en and will surely fall into recession again represents
But since the end of the Cold War, when the US became
a failure of intelligence. Roosevelt believes that
the world’s only superpower, we have operated without
immediate and decisive stimulus can be a game changer
a coherent long-term strategy that defines our position
for averting deep recessions. That is why we build in
in the international system, outlines our goals for
automatic stimulus spending and a State Budget Bank to
engagement with other countries, and provides a plan
ensure that states uphold their responsibilities to their
for ensuring that our foreign policy builds our national
citizens during recessions.
prosperity. We need a “Grand Strategy” to ensure that
America wins the 21st century.
This is a generation with an ambitious vision for what is
possible in America. Millennials want an America that
To achieve our long-term fiscal sustainability goals, we
doesn’t just compete in a race to the bo#om, but
need to rethink our approach to national defense. US
recognizes the unique dynamism of our economy and
global leadership is going to have to look leaner, meaner,
leverages that to provide equal opportunity to its
and fight smarter.
citizens. That means investing in education at all levels —
closing the achievement gap and making college
affordable for anyone who wants to a#end. Millennials National defense expenditures are approaching $700
are commi#ed to solving America’s most pressing billion/year, and the US military budget is nearly what
challenges — climate change, globalization, and income the rest of the world pays for defense combined. There
inequality — and we know that we need a good are approximately 440,000 US troops stationed or
education to do it. deployed overseas, close to the number overseas at the
close of the Cold War. The threats to US national
security have changed dramatically since the fall of the
Make Investments to Build an Equitable Berlin Wall; rogue non-state actors, transnational
Green Economy criminal networks, and failing states that serve as safe
havens for extremism are the new security threats.
Millennials see climate change as a paramount challenge These new challenges demand a new strategic approach.
of our generation. The economic downturn has created
an incredible opportunity to rebuild the American As a consequence, our antiquated nuclear arsenal no
economy in a more sustainable, efficient mold. They are longer serves as a useful deterrent against foreign
commi#ed to fighting energy scarcity and global aggression. There is strong bi-partisan consensus that
warming while investing in communities and listening to 21st century threats need to be addressed with a mix of
community voices. We have proposed a set of foreign policy tools, a concept commonly referred to as
transformative tax reforms and investments to ensure “smart power,” that places more emphasis on
that the 21st century green economy comes into being as development and diplomacy. Our military also needs the
soon as possible. ability to reform institutions to implement the use of
new operational systems, reforming the US foreign
Too o&en, climate and environmental advocates are assistance structure and creating a centralized cyber
unwilling to listen to community voices who are invested security command. Through rebalancing the deployment
in a quality of life based on unsustainable practices. of US forces overseas to reflect current threats to
Roosevelt believes that in order to effectively implement national security and mixing the use of defense,
good climate change policy, we must be responsive to development, and diplomacy, the United States can
helping communities adjust to a less carbon-dependent reduce national defense expenditures and work more
economy. That is why we have developed an innovative effectively to ensure global stability.
program called ARPACT, which invests in areas
adversely affected by the implementation of the carbon And while the US military has made heroic strides
tax. It is a clear moral imperative to reverse the tide of towards modernizing its fighting force to address current
climate change, but Millennials recognize that we cannot threats to the international system, Congress has

Copyright 2010, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved.

consistently refused to reform a broken weapons address Millennials’ deep concerns for America’s fiscal
procurement system or provide funding for the research future, we designed a plan together to fund the future
and development programs that our military needs to they want to inherit – our Budget for the Millennial
keep our country safe and promote American America.
prosperity. Our military needs the ability to more tightly
control the arms procurement process and more funding Using the Blueprint as a starting point, we set up four
to generate the next generation of technological working groups to discuss different aspects of the
advances that will propel the US economy into the 21st federal budget, including groups on: Taxes and the
century. Economy, Health Care and the Social Safety Net, Non-
Defense Discretionary Spending, and Defense
Not only does the Millennial Grand Strategy make sense Discretionary Spending. Each group met at least three
given our budget and global resource constraints, it also times and moved from a very broad set of options to the
expresses sound policies that will save America money, final policy choices showcased in the Budget for the
restore America’s image abroad, and save American Millennial America.
Ensure a Sustainable Federal Budget
When all is said and done, the Budget for the Millennial
Millennials know that in order to provide opportunity for America stabilizes the national debt in 2015. If we adopt
all Americans and build a society prepared to compete this plan, we will build the America our generation
in the 21st century, we must make investments in our envisions, while bringing the national debt down to 64%
people and in our infrastructure. To finance this, of GDP by 2035.
Millennials are willing to raise more revenue through the
tax system. We will raise them as necessary, but not until Authors
we eliminate the billions of dollars in tax giveaways to
corporations and special interests distributed through
the tax code. Roosevelt eliminates loopholes and Produced by Hilary Doe, Zachary Kolodin, Reese
exemptions to make the tax code more equitable, while Neader, Brad Bosserman, Nick Brown, and the Budget
implementing a financial transactions tax and cu#ing for the Millennial America working groups, including
corporate rates across the board. Social Safety Net:  Milad  Alucozai, Lydia Bowers, Sarah
Chase, David Rosenthal, Rahul Rekhi; Economy and
Taxes: Chris Esposo, Sarah Chase, Anita Sonawane;
We also implement major income tax reform. Currently Defense: Chris Scanzoni, Erika Solanki, Jenna Ruddock;
the top 10% of earners hold more than 45% of the Discretionary: Grayson Cooper, Aaron Goldstein, Amy
wealth in America. While cu#ing income rates to Li#leton, Bruno Werneck.
historic lows, we amend the system to designate tax
rates based on the distribution of wealth, so that as
inequality rises or falls, the tax system automatically The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those
adapts to follow the money. It’s a smarter, more of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views
equitable method, responsive to changes in inequality of the Roosevelt Institute, its officers, or its directors
that makes it possible to invest in education, fight
climate change, and update American infrastructure — About the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
all while bringing debt under control.
The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network is dedicated to
Process for Creating the Budget developing the next generation of progressive leaders by
promoting and implementing their ideas for change.    It
The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network employed its has 10,000 students and young professionals at 80+
unique model of student engagement to produce this chapters across the country. The Campus Network is
Budget for the Millennial America. Over the course of a part of the Roosevelt Institute, a non-profit organization
year, we engaged more than 1,000 young people in devoted to carrying forward the values of Franklin and
person and 2,000 online in our Think 2040 program, Eleanor Roosevelt. For more information visit us
which asked college-aged Millennials, “What do you at  or find us on
want the world to look like in 2040?” Their values and Facebook and Twi#er.
highest-ranked priorities for America’s future are
reflected in our Blueprint for the Millennial America. In
order to prove that this vision is achievable, and to

Copyright 2010, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved.