The generation that will pay

"The generation that will pay" Continued...

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

"While some may question the credibility of millennials on things, that's what the campaign process is about," said Generation Opportunity's Conway. "But as a nation, we don't question the credibility of someone who is 17 or 18 years old who signs up to fight for our country."

Fresh from the battlefield of the financial sector, Ethan Wingfield, 26, is running as a Republican against Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler in western North Carolina. Wingfield, born and raised in Shuler's district, left North Carolina to attend Brown University.

In 2006, his senior year, Wingfield was president of Brown's Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a student ministry affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, when Brown suspended the organization, saying the 200-member group maintained a "culture of contempt and dishonesty." Wingfield and RUF eventually took Brown's action to the press, and after a six-month dispute, the university restored the student ministry's membership. Wingfield graduated, started his own technology company, sold it, and joined Capital One, where he rose to become an adviser to the CEO. Since then he and his wife Jacqueline have moved back to North Carolina, and he is about to formally kick off his campaign.

Three-term congressman Shuler has an uphill battle for reelection, since the Republican state legislature is enacting redistricting that will cut out much of his Democratic support. The Republican primary roster has started to fill with challengers.

Unlike most candidates, Wingfield doesn't gloss over the work ahead: "Primarying or running in a general against an incumbent is a really tough way to win." But he knows other facts: Some counties in western North Carolina are dealing with unemployment percentages in the double digits. "I look around at my peers and my friends I grew up with, and they're really struggling," he said. "You used to be able to go to school, graduate, work hard, buy a house, settle down, have a kid. That American dream seems to be disintegrating before our eyes."

Capital One, notes Wingfield, did not take any federal bailouts, and added thousands of jobs while the rest of the economy was shrinking. He thinks the federal government could learn about budgeting from the private sector. Wingfield wants to take on another congressional practice-budgeting via emergency spending legislation that's effective for a few months rather than passing an actual budget for a fiscal year.

"As a young person, I'm free to take a 50-year time horizon, because I'm going to live in that world," Wingfield said. "Being a finance person, from a fiscal perspective, I think we are way closer to the edge than most people realize. ... I really do think that we have a limited window of time to make serious changes. If I wait 10 or 20 years to do it, I think that window would have passed. Why not do it now?"

Troubling signs

The views of Millennials, according to the Generation Opportunity Poll

America and Opportunity:

• 54% believe America is on the wrong track, only 24 percent believe the United States is headed in the right direction.

• 77% of respondents (18-29) are delaying major life changes due to economic restraints.

• 54% agree they have "more opportunity" than their parents, and 27 percent think their children will have less.

• 56% agree with "American Exceptionalism," and over half indicated they are not optimistic about the country's future.


• 56% believe the wrong leadership is in Washington and 61 percent will vote on a candidate's record, not charisma.

• 31% of those 18-29 approve of Obama's handling of youth unemployment.

• 57% said they will learn more about the policy positions of presidential candidates in 2012 than they did in 2008.

• 69% say political leaders do NOT reflect the interests of young Americans.

National Security:

Greatest threats to national security:

  1. National Debt (62 percent),
  2. Energy Dependency (61 percent)
  3. Indebtedness to Foreign Powers (50 percent)

• 70% (net) would increase production of domestic energy sources like oil.

• 80% view China as a danger: economic threat (48 percent), both economic and military threat (28 percent), and military alone (4 percent).

• 22% (net) would decrease production of domestic energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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