Millennials and The Fiscal Flywheel

Special Guests: Robert L. Bixby, Layla Zaidane, Steven Borne

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On Facing the Future, Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby, COO of the Millennial Action Project Layla Zaidane and newly published author Steven Borne joined me to discuss Millennial perspectives on key issues, building trust amongst members of Congress, fiscal policy, government efficiency and more.


Zaidane participated in a recent panel hosted by the Brookings Institution and MAP, which discussed Millennials’ perspectives on national debt and climate change. She said a conversation on getting young people more engaged in such long-term issues, which also require difficult decisions and tradeoffs, is timely.

Those tradeoffs represent “pain today for some outcome that is beneficial toward generations down the road,” she said.

She added that younger generations have had very different reactions to these two issues that are going to be very big problems down the road.

“On the national debt, Millennials have a lot of personal experience with debt — like student debt or credit card debt — we’re educated on the importance of it, but it doesn’t feel urgent the way that climate change does,” Zaidane said. “We can see it with storms and natural disasters, we can see it in environmental injustice … that creates not just the importance but the urgency around taking action.”

She said pushing Millennials to engage their generational optimism and act on the national debt requires making it feel real, less abstract and mobilizing around specific solutions.

Borne had a similar motivation for writing his book, Consuming Government. The book was designed to take a lot of his ideas and help motivate people to take an active role in the government services they consume.

“That’s where the title comes in … approach it as a consumer, and as a consumer be responsible for the money that we spend,” he said.

Borne uses the analogy of a flywheel as the framework for his book and discussing challenges related to government inefficiency, cost growth, value for services and breakdowns within our political system.

“If you think of it as a huge stone flywheel, one person isn’t going to do much, but if a whole bunch of people do a little bit and start pushing at that flywheel … eventually we can turn this around, getting the democracy working more effectively for us,” he said. “There are things that are brakes that suck energy out of the flywheel, there are things that are weights that we have to fight through on every revolution.”

Borne added that there are also elements in our system that put sand on the axle of the flywheel and then actions we can take that help put grease on that axle to improve its function. And he points to his book for greater detail.

“We’ve got to go back to … common denominator government,” Borne said. “Take the person on the farthest left and the farthest right that live in the same community, there’s some level of local government they both agree that we need to have; start there and learn to work together.”

Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.

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