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Enslavement: An economic means to an end that coupled with hatred to produce a reality of racism that Americans still struggle with today. It is a word that should not be used lightly.

In recent months, many conservatives have felt entitled to its usage. They have linked slavery to food stamps, health care, unemployment benefits, and anything else the government provides to the poor. Their end game is deregulation and corporate control over our democracy.

When a select few in our society hold all the power, we essentially become an oligarchy. A recent study from researchers at Princeton and Northwestern concluded that increasing inequality has demolished the democracy that once built America’s vibrant middle class: “if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened,” it said.

In the old days, oligarchies were built on the backs of slaves. In modern-day America, it’s now the middle class.

Since the 1970s, Republicans championed policies that cheated my parents’ generation out of the American dream and the right to retire with dignity. Corporations now have the same rights as individuals, and workers’ rights have been slowly whittled away.

People working full-time jobs are being forced into poverty. Multibillion-dollar companies pay low wages, and lack of benefits cause many workers to rely on government assistance. People relying on public benefit programs aren’t lazy, unwilling to work or asking for a handout like conservatives would lead many to believe; 73 percent of enrollments in government programs come from working families. If conservatives truly believe that welfare programs are enslaving people, it is their policies that forced them onto public assistance programs in the first place. It’s a national disgrace.

Republicans are now intent using the same broken policies to enslave the next generation of Americans—the millennials. Here’s how:

  • Denying climate change. Happy Earth Day! Now let’s drill, baby, drill! Republicans in Congress continue to block legislation that combats climate change, while championing King Coal. If not climate change addressed today, my generation will be forced pay for their ignorance.
  • Blocking immigration reform. We’re all immigrants. Republicans are keeping millions of our brothers and sisters from a chance to achieve the American dream. They are enslaving them to a life of poverty by keeping them out of full participation in American life.
  • Refusing to raise the minimum wage. As a generation, we are broke and in debt. If conservatives want to liberate us and get us off the bread lines, they should give us a raise.
  • Repealing Obamacare and refusing to expand Medicaid. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the most direct: “If you think you have the right to healthcare, you are saying basically that I am your slave.” As young adults we think we’re invincible. But we will get older, develop cancer or another life-threatening illness, and need serious medical treatment. Saddling us with huge hospital bills on top of nearly $2 trillion in student loan debt doesn’t liberate anyone. Defend and amend. Don’t repeal.
  • Putting even more money into politics. Big businesses and wealthy donors will continue to court Republicans and buy votes. Whether it’s the Supreme Court or the local legislator, the middle class will continue to be sold down the river as long as money speaks louder than constituents.
  • Intent on gutting Social Security. Do you ever want to retire? Didn’t think so. If some conservatives had their way, they would eliminate Social Security. Millennials are already behind in the economy, and one of the last things on their minds is saving for retirement. Social Security is also the most effective program in the country at fighting poverty. Doing away with the program would fuel inequality.

Orwellian policies and crony capitalism is no path to prosperity. Republicans: The future is ours, not yours. Let us have a fighting chance at a better life than our parents’ generation experienced. Inequality enslaves us all.

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