In the last seven years, President Obama has transformed our health care system, reoriented our foreign policy priorities and redefined our social policy agenda. But in so doing, the president and his appointees have unwittingly harmed the economic prospect of today's college students through burdensome over-regulation.
At the end of July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 5.6 million job openings in the U.S. So, why are recent college grads less likely to secure good jobs and move out of their parents' homes?
Today's college students face barriers to good jobs that did not exist before President Obama took office. These six seemingly well-intentioned Obama administration actions threaten our overall economy and competitiveness as a nation:
1. Transforming graduate students into employees. In late August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declared graduate students are no longer students. Now they are employees.
This ruling allows the students to unionize, strike and shut down university campuses. The NLRB's intention was to improve pay and working conditions for graduate students. But in reality, cash-strapped universities will have to limit the number of graduate students they accept or raise tuition for undergrads.
Either move reduces opportunities for students and ignores the reality that graduate students are still learning – and teaching undergraduates is part of their learning process.
The Obama administration's approach mimics that of France, where unions dominate universities and often shut them down with strikes while hurting and interrupting undergraduate students' education.
Instead, U.S. colleges and universities could take steps to discourage lifetime tenure and offer new retirement options. This would cut college costs and allow opportunities for younger graduates to get better university jobs.
2. Banning unpaid internships. Early in the Obama administration, the Department of Labor (DOL) subjected employers to a list of six new requirements for unpaid internships, which has made it harder for students to secure entry-level jobs. Internships help young adults build their resumes and gain experience.
A better solution would have been to allow employers to offer unpaid internships that can lead to full-time employment, and to create need-based tuition credits for interning students.
3. Requiring overtime for everyone making less than $47,476. A new DOL rule set to go into effect in December doubles the threshold for overtime eligibility. That means fewer recent graduates with professional degrees, but without real-world skills, will be hired. Employers will have to choose between raising starting salaries and hiring fewer workers, or barring overtime. The DOL's move is an attack on American entrepreneurship, drafted by Washington bureaucrats who have never worked at a startup, and it discourages startups and innovation. This lose-lose choice hits startups hard, as every new business asks its employees to do whatever it takes to launch the app, service or new product before its competition.
A better alternative would have been to recognize that even professionals have a learning curve after graduation – these new hires can and should earn less. Startups should be exempted from this requirement altogether.
4. Altering student debt. Obama has taken many unilateral actions to forgive or extend student debt. While I'm sure this made the students feel good, someone had to pay for that forgiveness at the expense of other government programs or higher federal debt. Our young people must learn financial responsibility. We can't afford to continue pushing college on all students no matter the major or cost.
We should encourage students to study subjects and take majors that lead to jobs, so they could pay off their debts. Lower-interest loans should go to students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, whose graduates are in great demand.
5. Mandating health care for all employees and requiring young people to carry the burden of older people's health care costs. Obamacare requires employers to provide employees with health insurance or pay stiff penalties. This makes it more expensive to run a business and hire new employees.
Obamacare is based on the principle that young people bear health care costs grossly disproportionate to their needs, so they subsidize the cost of older people's health care.
A better alternative would be to cut health care costs by restricting drug prices, allowing drug purchases from Canada and stopping the incentivizing of doctors to use the most expensive treatments.
Today's graduating students face a future when all government revenues go to just two budget line items: interest on the debt (5 percent interest on $20 trillion is $1 trillion annually) and entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Those two categories of mandatory spending will soon consume all funding for federal spending on the environment, education, national parks, research or even the military. The White House told lawmakers the debt is a problem the next president and the next Congress will have to deal with. It isn't the next president who will feel the effects of the debt burden; it's our youth, for reasons of national and financial security. Sorry – no good intentions on this one.
Today's college students face an amazing era of technological and economic transformation. They also face a terrible economic future, because of short-sighted decision making by the current administration. It's time to change our thinking. The futures of our children and our children's children depend on it.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.