“I’m just a bill

Yes, I’m only a bill

And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill”

Remember that? It’s sound of “School House Rock,” which for many of us was the introduction to civic action. Poor old Bill sits on Capitol Hill knowing full well that there’s only a slim chance he’ll become a law. But, as our civics teachers taught us, democracy means that everyone gets a chance to impact government. The process might be tough, but what matters is the symbolism of popular involvement. Just like anyone could become president, anyone can get a bill started.

“When I started, I wasn’t even a bill, I was just an idea. Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local Congressman and he said, “You’re right, there ought to be a law.” Then he sat down and wrote me out and introduced me to Congress. And I became a bill, and I’ll remain a bill until they decide to make me a law.”

Or so the story goes…

Fast forward to 2014 and suddenly the symbolism feels a bit hollow. Apparently “School House Rock” forgot the part about partisan politics and intransigence leading to an all out political war that stalls essential reforms and legislation to help a generation currently at the end of its tether. As it turns out, representative democracy isn’t quite so representative.

Millennial unemployment is currently at 15.1 percent, double the national average. A recent Pew report found that, while a record of one-third of 25-to 29-year-olds hold a bachelor’s degree in 2012, another report by Braun Research found that “66 percent of hiring managers do not believe college grads are ready for the work force.” Instead, they choose to hire those who have experience. According to ERE, an average of 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening. Currently, 80 percent of 27-year-olds are in debt and 54 percent of 26-year-olds are making less than $25,000 annually. In 2011, the average college debt was $23,300. Meanwhile, the college tuition and fees are still on the rise. According to the Department of Education, if the current trends holds, by 2016, the average cost of a public college education will have doubled in 15 years.

Clearly, something must be done. History shows that the American government is able and willing to take steps to provide financial relief, be it through tax breaks to homeowners, subsidies to farmers, or government programs such as the GI Bill.

Congress and the President have done basically nothing to support Millennials when it comes to college debt relief, unemployment, and education costs. In fact, they’ve made it worse. The higher education debt issue has become mired in the political polarization within Congress. In July 2013, college loan interest rates went up simply because no one in Congress could agree to stop the increase. The issue is just not seen as sufficiently critical to warrant action.

Even though Millennials won the election for Obama in 2008 and proved crucial in 2012, we don’t have political clout when it comes to policy decisions. Unfortunately, we can’t expect Boomers or Gen X to be allies. The problem is that it’s squarely the Millennial Generation that’s facing the perfect storm of college debt and recession. Neither the Boomers nor the Gen Xers have a useful frame of reference. Their response tends to be “quit whining, I paid my own college costs with a combination of summer jobs and part time work.” Well, when a year of public university tuition costs well over $10,000, it’s not hard to imagine why Millennials might not find this advice very useful. There’s also the belief that, by throwing us social issue victories on gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana, they can continue to count on our votes. Can they be more out of touch? It’s about the economy, stupid! While Millennials undoubtedly care about social issues, they care just as much, if not more, about their current and future financial situations.

Given the lack of support from Boomers and Gen Xers on student loans, it seems we need to elect members of our generation to Congress in order to advance our agenda. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s not about to happen anytime soon.

Last November, a new report from First Person Politics was released, which stated that Millennials would likely not get a majority in Congress until 2035. The accompanying article notes that this is the typical progression of each generation. According to the article, each generation “enters the House for the first time when their eldest members turn 30, becomes the largest minority at age 44, and wins their first majority around age 53 (within a two-year margin of error).”

The problem with this report is that Millennials demonstrate a remarkable reluctance to even consider entering in the world of politics, which Millennials tend to view with suspicion and disfavor. Millennials may view public service in general as desirable, but they are not interested in running for office. According to a recent Harvard survey, 69 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds “believed community service was an honorable thing to do.” However, by comparison, only 39 percent said that running for political office would be similarly honorable.

The Millennial generation is highly active in civil society, with lofty ideals regarding public service, but disillusioned by current governmental politics, including a Congress that very nearly defaulted on American debt rather than work across the partisan aisle. Frankly, given the complete lack of bipartisanship in Congress, along with the extremism of the Tea Party and the enervated Obama administration, it’s not surprising that Millennials would view running for political office in a negative light. Why would any Millennial want to work for a legislative body that rarely manages to pass any legislation? Understandably, it all seems rather hopeless.

Without a critical mass of Millennial politicians, Congress is unlikely to address issues like student debt or youth unemployment. Yet, Congress’ own incapacity to address the issues of the day make it seem completely unpalatable to Millennials reared on the sweeping idealism of the 1990s, and the patriotic fervor of the early 2000s.