I grew up in the 1990s, a decade where Americans had jobs. Innovation and entrepreneurship were more than ambitions; they could be your reality. The American Dream was alive and achievable. It was a decade of prosperity, and it was a decade that appears to be nothing more than a distant memory.
That is what America is all about, and this is what America is not. America is not a country who doesn't pay its bills, racking up a $16 trillion dollar debt that it will leave for subsequent generations to pay. America is not a country where only 50 percent of college graduates find jobs. America is not a country that will let its youth pay into a Social Security system their entire working lives that -- at this rate -- they will never see returned.
Americans leave their country better for subsequent generations. They always have, and this generation should be no exception. Americans do not dump the hard decisions on their young. They don't greedily take all they can get and leave their children to pick up the mess. This is not America, and these are not Americans. It is imperative that America be the America it always has been -- a country that makes the hard decisions and takes into account the America of the future.
It's not hard to see why we have gotten into this quandary. The average age of a congressman is 59 years old, the policies promulgated reflect that. More often than not re-election prospects and personal interest are the pre-eminent concern of Washington, thereby sustaining policies that will prove devastating years from now. All of this is done at the expense of my generation.
Issue by issue, votes are determined by what is politically advantageous at the moment. Courageous politicians willing to make tough decisions are an endangered species, and -- as a result -- real change is virtually nonexistent.
Any time real change is proposed, the advocate of change is attacked. A slew of smear campaigns and insults are hurled -- often from both sides -- and then we are back where we started. This was the case when Congressman Paul Ryan laid out a bold plan to reform Medicare. His plan was met with vitriolic attacks and an ad was released depicting Ryan pushing granny off a cliff. Again, we were back where we started.
During the 2008 election I was studying in Oxford, England. I received an essay question that I found both strange and frustrating: Does American exceptionalism exist? At the time, I dismissed the question. Of course American exceptionalism exists, I thought.
Now, four years later, as I await the 2012 election, I find myself asking if American will be exceptional for my children and grandchildren.
We are becoming an America that I do not recognize. We are a country that took a barren continent and made it the most fruitful, prosperous, and powerful place on earth. But, looking at what's on the horizon, I find myself asking -- will we be the America I once knew? Or will we be the next Greece?
Kayleigh McEnany is a writer and political activist who graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and studied at Oxford University. She is the founder of www.RealReaganConservative.com. She writes every Tuesday for the International Business Times.