Features
03.26.2020
4 minutes

A new civil corps can beat the virus and prevent generational civil war.

Millions of Americans, huddled in their makeshift shelters, are now realizing that the timeline of this pandemic will go on months and not weeks. It is time to think creatively about how to mitigate the long-term economic and cultural ramifications of this deadly disease. We have embarked upon a prolonged stoppage of many daily routines and national practices, with no idea when normalcy will return. While it is prevalent among self-styled authorities—the “blue-check” community on Twitter—to say sit and wait it out, they appear blind or unwilling to wrestle with the long-term consequences this approach will have.

On one end of the ledger, we wake up every day to virus’s mounting casualty rate. New cities and communities continue to report startling numbers. On the other hand, we also face the reality that hospitals across the nation will certainly soon surpass full capacity, sparking a health crisis previously unseen in this nation. And as if things are not bad enough, we also have news that our nation’s manufacturing and supply chains are destined to instability, further disrupting our lives. These problems will be specifically felt among younger Americans who have been told to hibernate, staying in place at home, facing unemployment and school closures without any hope.

We must change our approach and harness their energy, creativity, and general good health for the good of our communities. Inevitably the economic ramifications will pile onto Millennials and Zoomers specifically, causing real civic unrest and increasing the resentment they already feel toward older generations, who are seen as the cause and concern of this pandemic.

With that in mind, now is the time for the U.S. to create a new, voluntary branch of the civil service made up of healthy young people between ages of 18-30. This team, which has the potential to endure after this crisis passes, will maintain our supply lines, supplement manufacturing, and refurbish hospitals. It is a chance for a generation of young Americans to step up where everyone else has failed.

A Window of Opportunity

Federal and state officials should strongly consider partnering with the private sector to create a civil service corps that will bring stability back to our economy. Working where older generations cannot. Doing the tasks needed to right the ship of state. If done correctly, with establishing proper guidelines to maintain health and discipline, this generation could play the role of American heroes like their forefathers did during WWII or the Great Depression.

The government has one thing to offer young Americans that would incentivize them to step up in this way. Offer participants the promise of loan forgiveness in exchange for accepting the Herculean task before them. In reality, this crisis is similar to most issues facing our nation: a tax on Millennials and Zoomers to atone for the sins of the Boomers. The time is now to create an opportunity to balance the scale of intergenerational strife.

We saw something like this in Italy, where a few young intrepid innovators skirted the rules and were able to 3D print a valve necessary for treatment of the Coronavirus. Usually, this sort of valve would cost $11K. The Millennials’ version cost $1. There is no reason we cannot unleash this creative and kinetic generation across the board, to save our nation from economic and cultural ruin.

We have already seen a host of local and state governments calling for medical students to step up in this time of need. Expediting a growing workforce by encouraging students to join an emergency effort without all the prerequisite credits and hours is step in the right direction.

But we must take this initiative further to encompass all vocations. All occupational licensing requirements, bureaucratic red tape, and union rules should be reevaluated to enable this young generation to step in and change the tide.

Youthful Energy

The Millennial generation, and the Zoomers directly below them in age, are far from the caricature of them that has become popular in the media, standing in lines at bars or partying on the Florida beaches. Contrary to the hot takes on Twitter, most young people have been following guidance, safe at home.

But we must reconsider the reason those more rambunctious kids were out in the first place. Yes, they wanted to have fun. But their actions, though selfish, were a natural response to the purposelessness to which they have been consigned by national institutions. Young people want to be utilized. They want a part to play in responding to this pandemic.

Unfortunately, Millennials and Zoomers have been given no direction as to how they can be productive and helpful. Instead they are told by the authorities and traditional media to go home and play on TikTok. This generational dismissiveness will only continue to perpetuate more damaging behavior as community lockdowns drag on. There are more 18-30 year-olds than any other age group—it is imperative that they be empowered to step in rather than stay inside. Bring in the relief pitcher: the old starter has thrown enough pitches.

Maybe our public health officials will be able to flatten the curve before our resources are exhausted, but at this point the data says otherwise. Instead of simply reshuffling the decks on the Titanic, it is time for a new way of thinking. Create a civil service response team and put our most productive citizens to use: they are an untapped resource needed to save our nation from this calamity.

is a former Hill staffer working in public policy.