By John Celock
One of the country’s youngest members of Congress warned his colleagues early Wednesday evening that rising student loan debt could lead to a “permanent boomerang generation” in the United States.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) used a speech on the House floor to focus on the impact student loan debt is having on millennial entrepreneurs across the country. Swalwell heads a Democratic initiative called Future Forum, which is geared towards reaching out to millennial voters around the country. During a series of meetings over the last week, Swalwell said he and other Future Forum members heard about the impact of student loans on millennials. He said that a town hall in the Boston area, one mother talked about the personal impact her daughter’s debt is having on her family.
“Her daughter took out a number of student loans. Her daughter lives at home and cannot find a job,” Swalwell said. “What we are seeing for our millennial generation and what was expressed by this mother is that we are at risk of becoming a permanent boomerang generation. We obtain a degree and skills. But because of the rising cost of tuition and debt our generation is saddled with, we boomerang back home.”
Future Forum was launched earlier this year by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who tapped Swalwell, a 34-year-old second term congressman from the San Francisco Bay Area to run it. Consisting of 14 Democratic members, Swalwell led Future Forum meetings in New York, San Francisco and Boston starting last week.
During his speech, Swalwell focused on the impact of student loans on entrepreneurship, noting that many of the sessions attracted millennials who are launching their own businesses. Several of the sessions were held at shared workspaces geared towards entrepreneurs, including one in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.
Swalwell said that during the New York session, he and the other members of Congress in the room polled the audience about their student loan debt, finding that many had debt of over $100,000. He said they asked what they would use the money on if they were not repaying the debt and found it would be for business.
“These young business minded people didn’t say they’d go on a vacation or buy a new toy or a boat or have fun. They said ‘I’d invest in my company, I’d invest it my company,’” Swalwell said on the House floor Wednesday. “What do we know what happens when entre invest money in their company, they create jobs. They create growth around their industries that put more and more Americans to work.”
In his speech Swalwell said similar comments came up at other meetings, including with community college students in the San Francisco area. He noted that several of the community college students who attended talked about needing to hold down part time jobs in addition to student loans in order to pay for school and school related costs, including commuting.
Swalwell said during a Boston town hall, audience members said that the current campaign finance rules are impacting what can be done in student loans.
“These young people, they get it. They told us exactly what the problem is,” Swalwell said. “Because of unlimited amounts of money that can be spent on campaigns today, there is less courage to tackle big problems.”
Swalwell said that more town halls are planned in other states, noting that he is working with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in planning an event in her state.
Known for his social media ability, Swalwell encouraged the use of social media to bring ideas to the attention of the Democratic group.
“Give us your ideas. You can tweet them at hash tag Future Forum, put them on Istagram, you can find us on Facebook. Use social media and give us your ideas,” Swalwell said. “The goal is for us to listen to you and then work here in a bipartisan to act on your behalf. This conversation will continue. Our work will go on until we lift the burden that is holding back our young people.”