Cole Cooper: Young People need something better than outdated conservative agendas

( Jake May | The Flint Journal via AP file) Claudia Perkins-Milton, second right, joins other Flint residents as they listen and ask questions of Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy during a community meeting with Flint water prosecutors at UAW Local 659 on Friday, June 28, 2019, in Flint, Mich.

In his Oct. 20 Salt Lake Tribune commentary, "Not all young voters are attracted to socialism,” Grayson Massey acknowledges that young Americans face deeply concerning issues. Yet he believes that young people need/want strong conservative leaders and policies. Furthermore, Grayson implies some of his generation are "starting to buy into the socialist ideals they’re being sold, but the majority of us are not falling for that rhetoric.”

The truth is that the majority of my generation are looking for an alternative socio-economic system and the conservative solutions he offers have been proven to be outdated, and quality-of-life degrading, failures.

My generation not only faces the aforementioned issues mentioned by Grayson (education costs, for example). We also face far more issues than Grayson would like to acknowledge. We have seen wages stagnate for the working and middle classes since the 80s, while costs of living have skyrocketed. Also, we have the most expensive health care in the global north and as a result the number one cause of bankruptcy in America is from the inability to pay our medical bills.

Finally, our current economic system requires unsustainable exponential economic growth and is ultimately responsible for the degradation of land, water, climate and the 6th mass extinction of species. We want solutions to these problems. However, we do not want these solutions coming from the same ideology that caused them in the first place.

Grayson states that he, and other young people, want/need someone like Jeff Burningham, a conservative candidate for Utah governor, to combat all of these complex issues. Burningham has ardently supported replacing public sector utilities with for-profit privatized management that supposedly offer “customers with less expensive, better-than-expected service.” To offer these privatized services, Burningham demands we move away from “big government” operating the public utilities.

This is a classic, capitalist/conserative argument in which it is implied corporations are best suited to handle public utilities like water treatment and health care. This argument is nothing new. We have seen profound privatization of all sorts of public utilities within the U.S. and elsewhere for years. However, there have been severe negative environmental, social, and health consequences for these actions.

Consider the implication of privatization for Flint, Mich. When Detroit Water and Sewage Department was privatized by United Waters, United Water’s then fired the majority of the employees of DWSD and increased the costs of water. With DWSD unable to manage Flint’s water, Flint switched to Flint River as its water source and had its water privately managed. Because of Flint River’s high concentration of corrosive chloride, water from the river eroded Flint’s water pipes which leaked lead into the town’s water systems for years. Veolia, the world’s largest private water company, was hired during these years to test the water quality and deemed the water safe to consume and made no mention of lead. Due to the privatization of water management, Flint inhabitants consumed toxic amounts of heavy metals resulting in profound long-term health consequences.

Abroad, and quite recently, we’ve seen the consequences of Burningham’s ideology. Recently in Chile, their dysfunctional, overpriced and privately managed public transportation raised subway fair costs. The result was national riots across the country, fueled by a youthful anger that comes from enduring a conserative/capitalist economic system that has continually commodified and restricted their access to vital services.

So, the reality is that we have already tried Grayson and Buringham’s privatization for-profit ideas: Corporations and elites got very wealthy, but these gains came at the detriment to the health and quality of life for average citizens. That is why folks are looking towards the promises of an alternative economic way of life. These alternatives are championed under such progressive policies that promises a job transition away from fossil fuels industries to clean energy, an elimination of the student debt and universal affordable health care.

Because these desirable policies are only being seriously pushed by progressive politicians such as democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, the majority of the youth actually see progressive, socialist, policies in a good light. In reality the majority of college students, and the youth, want a socio-economic system that works for the many, not the “rich few.” Thus, Grayson never has, and never will, speak for our generation.

Cole Cooper

Cole Cooper is a recent undergraduate from Westminster College with a combined custom major in political science, gender studies, justice studies and environmental justice. He is currently taking a gap year but plans to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. degrees in critical mental health studies, with a particular interest in the socio-economic factors that cause, or contribute to, depression.