The election is over.

Barack Obama will serve another term as president. Supporters rejoice, detractors mourn. The American people made a choice Tuesday that will dictate the direction of public policy for at least the next four years. But that doesn’t mean our job is over.

During each of their campaigns, neither Obama nor Mitt Romney adequately addressed the most pressing problem facing our country today: the national debt. Whether this issue is addressed in the coming years will determine the United States’ viability as a world power in the 21st century and, with it, the legacy of our generation.

It’s perfectly understandable why the candidates wouldn’t suggest serious reform during the campaign season — to do so would have been electoral suicide. But as of Tuesday, Obama has secured his position in the Oval Office. It’s time to let him hear our voices.

For far too long, Congress has kicked its $16 trillion can down the road, running up a dizzying tab for future generations — yeah, that’s us — to pay off.

Both Democrats and Republicans will have to commit to entitlement program reform, tax reform and a leaner, more efficient military. If the debt is allowed to continue growing at its current rate, it will cripple the ability of our proud nation to exercise its most basic roles: protecting and providing for its citizens. Sound frightening? That’s because it is.

These are the facts. Our national debt has surpassed $16 trillion, and every day it grows by an average of $4 billion. In 2011, the deficit exceeded the annual GDP level for the first time in U.S. history.

Some deficit spending is widely accepted by economists as a method of national economic recovery, especially during a recession. But with the working population shrinking every day and no effort on the part of politicians to scale back spending, this is quickly developing into a crisis.

If this crisis continues, we will not only lose the trust of other governments but also face a lack of funding for national programs that we now take for granted. Think about this: By 2033, the government will only be able to pay out 75 percent of promised Social Security benefits.

The choice future leaders will inevitably have to make is to either finance the debt or provide for the people. The fact that our generation’s future hangs in the balance clearly demonstrates that both parties will have to work together in order to find a solution that benefits the American public.

Now, this isn’t one of the hyperbolic hypotheticals thrown around by self-styled deficit hawks in campaign ads. The Chinese government isn’t going to call in all their loans tomorrow, and anyone who tells you otherwise is insulting your intelligence. However, that doesn’t mean our ballooning debt is in any way acceptable. The time will come when the United States is forced to look itself in the mirror and make some serious changes in order to remain a viable state. If things continue as they are right now, the moment will come when our generation is faced with challenges that will be unfathomably difficult, if not impossible.

So start the process now.

As young voters, we have seen the debt skyrocket in our lifetimes, and it is now our chance to make this transition. The Georgetown community has a long history of good will and leaving the world a little better than it was when we found it. So let us continue to pave a path that will improve the standing of our economy for generations to come. Let us not sit back and allow the debt to rise without limit; let us ask for the media, the people and the politicians to think with us to make our futures a priority.

This is a call to thoughtful action, a chance to amplify our voice. Call your representative. Write to your president. Sign the petition for The Can Kicks Back campaign, which seeks to highlight these concerns on Capitol Hill and create a long-term deficit reduction agreement in 2013. Force those who dug us into this $16 trillion hole to lay the foundations for a way out.

The legacy of our generation should involve lifting this country to greater heights than ever before, not flailing to keep the nation’s head above the rising tide of irresponsible spending
We deserve better than that. We’re capable of better than that. It’s time for the can to kick back.

Christian Chung is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He is a staff member of The Can Kicks Back. Nick Troiano graduated from the College in 2011. He is co-founder and field director of the initiative.

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