As the Wesleyan campus leader for our chapter of Democracy Matters, a national student-led grassroots movement dedicated to strengthening the freedom and fairness of our democracy, I would like to explain why I so deeply believe the United States must move towards public financing for political campaigns.
Our political process is supposed to be of, by, and for the people—including young people like ourselves. Why, then, do the issues that most affect us so often fall by the wayside when it comes to legislative decisions? So many Wesleyan students and students at other colleges will graduate buried in debt and struggling to find jobs. However, politicians continue to prioritize the profits of huge corporations like Sallie Mae, who make money from our struggles.
Many are quick to blame us for this problem—“young people don’t vote” or “young people don’t care.” I know from my discussions with college students from all over the country that this is simply not true. The problem lies in the way our political system is structured. The astronomical profits that loan disbursement companies make from charging us exorbitant interest rates become contributions to politicians’ campaigns. In turn, these politicians have no choice but to support these companies’ legislative agendas, lest they lose funding for their next campaign.
We are the upcoming, progressive new generation. However, too many of us are limited in our options by the extreme burden of student loan debt. Public financing would help our generation to flourish. Policy makers could finally make decisions on these issues without undue influence from corporations with huge profits at stake. Instead, they would have the time and freedom to listen to the wants and needs of their constituents and enact appropriate policies. It also allows students and other people with lower incomes to run for public office—just like Matt Lesser ’10 did!
Public financing can influence countless issues other than student debt, too. As it stands, our country’s policymakers are constantly trying to balance appeasing those who fund their campaigns and fighting for their constituents, a dichotomy that simply should not exist. With free elections, politicians can focus on improving the lives of the vast majority of Americans instead of continually supporting only the wealthiest few.
I hope other students both at Wesleyan and elsewhere will join me in advocating for this incredibly important change in our political system. This is our democracy. As students, as young people, and as Americans, we have a duty to preserve it—both for ourselves and for the future.