Twentysomething group derides deficit Issue may 'threaten our existence'

July 15, 1993|By Jeff Leeds | Jeff Leeds,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- A somewhat brash but articulate group of twentysomething urban professionals -- contrasting with their generation's reputation for political apathy and the values of TV character Bart Simpson -- declared their fear and anger over the swelling national debt yesterday and announced plans to form an interest group to represent them.

Calling themselves a "post-partisan" organization, the members of the newly created Third Millennium issued a plea for fellow young adults to join and distributed copies of their manifesto, which charges that "those in power have practiced fiscal child abuse, mortgaging our future, and the futures of those to come."

Members said they conceived the idea for the nonprofit group at a Washington-area weekend retreat last spring. Resources for the group have been sparse so far. A "modest" anonymous gift paid for yesterday's news conference, a spokesman said, but otherwise the organization will depend on $9 membership fees and donations to support its efforts.

"People will probably say we're too young or too inexperienced for this," said 26-year-old Douglas Kennedy of New York, a Third Millennium co-founder and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. "That may be true, but what brings us together here is, when the issue came down to our future, we found so much agreement." The group plans to establish a computer network and issue a periodic newsletter to members to stimulate support among their demographic group -- those in their 20s and early 30s.

"Everyone's been trying to figure out what this twentysomething rebellion means. I don't know what it means. The reason I'm here is my 20-month-old son," said Bob Lukefahr of Sterling, Va., senior editor of a journal called Diversity & Division. "Before he hits the third grade, he will owe $25,000 on the national debt."

The group has chosen a formidable enemy -- the $4.4 trillion debt, which equals 70 percent of the gross domestic product and is expected to surge despite the administration's plans to lower the annual budget shortfall.

Group leaders said several current political issues, such as abortion and the military's ban on gay soldiers, are divisive and divert resources from concerns that "threaten our existence as a country," such as the environment and the deficit.

A statement released by the group quoted onetime '60s radical Tom Hayden, now a California state senator, as saying that those born after 1960 belong to "the first generation to obviously have downsizing imposed on them: fewer good jobs, lower pay, higher college costs, fewer loans and this is a frustrating reality that spans the entire generation."

The twentysomethings, also known as Generation X, warned yesterday of a redistribution of wealth and a widening wealth gap, not between rich and poor, but young and old. During the booming 1980s, median income for Americans under 25 dropped 10.8 percent, while income for all other age groups increased 6.5 percent, they said.

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