Late in 2012 I was in a documentary made by filmmaker Scott Galloway called Overdraft. The film presents a broad explanation of America’s calamitous $16.7 trillion federal debt problem and the choices Americans have to make to fix it. We’ve since had the “fiscal cliff” and now we have “sequestration”. Debate rages over solutions.

The government should turn to an organization called The Can Kicks Back, a Millennial-led campaign focused on educating and activating this generation on debt and deficit issues. They are concerned about their future lives. Since launching in November 2012 they have built a network of 100+ chapters in 38 states and are in the process of pushing forward with a Bill in Congress.

To connect with Millennials they have been reaching out to them in ways that are not typical to campaigns around issues like the debt, with Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake videos and an edgy campaign called Seal the Deal. I take my hat off to Ryan Schoenike and his team of The Can Kicks Back for their imaginative, ideas-driven communications to get everyone, Millennials to Boomers, students to politicians, involved in winding back the debt before it crushes us.

The America we are delivering to young people is not sustainable and it is our responsibility as “wiser heads” to urge politicians to bring out-of-control spending into some intelligent pattern. Austerity does not seem to be working in the countries that are trying it, and in fact it is looking counter-productive as a singular strategy. Stimulus on the other hand, just looks like throwing even more money we don’t have at the problem. There are various sensible prescriptions for addressing the debt without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. One manifestation of sequestration – punishing air travelers by laying off air traffic controllers – was thankfully overturned by the Senate today. It was heading to be a metaphor for how not to attack the debt issue. We need velocity, not delay.

What is needed is a selfless approach to the future that is not corrupted by vested interests as the current system. Maybe we should turn to the young people we are saddling with the debt problem for the solutions. The folk at The Can Kicks Back look like a good place to start.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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