PRESIDENT Obama's deficit-reduction commission has released a bold proposal to stabilize the nation's debt over the next decade - and the response from the political establishment was just as predicted.

Conservatives overwhelmingly rejected the plan because it runs against GOP doctrine that all tax increases are inherently wrong.

The left cried foul over proposed changes in the retirement age for Social Security, and tried to paint the commission as a stalking horse to demolish the social contract whose creation started with the New Deal.

And as long as the debate is framed by ideology, compromise will be unattainable, and the U.S. will continue its slide toward becoming a second-rate debtor nation.

But plain and simple, deficit reduction must become the permanent pet issue for young Americans.

If the Millennial Generation allows the status quo to continue, we will be guaranteeing a future in which more and more of our hard-earned tax dollars go toward paying interest on our debt to China and the Middle East.

We will be resigning ourselves to a dystopic America where future generations will have a lower standard of living than that enjoyed by their parents.

America's youth are split, like everyone else, into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. But on this issue, it is imperative to put aside those differences and unite as a generational voting bloc, in the same way that older voters can often use the ballot box to veto cuts to Social Security and to entitlement programs like Medicare.

Instead of demanding that taxes stay constant and entitlement programs remain unchanged, the nation's youth must insist that our leaders care about the next generation as much as they care about their next election.

Most of all, we have to require our elected leaders to show that rare quality that has become absent in American politics: courage.

It's become popular and convenient for Americans to blame the country's ills on politicians in Washington, but the reality is more complicated. Public opinion surveys show that voters are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to put the country back on a sustainable path.

The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 70 percent of adults say they are uncomfortable with cuts to Medicare, Social Security and defense programs. And 59 percent rejected increasing taxes and eliminating popular deductions.

But the question is not whether Americans will have to pay more in taxes or receive fewer benefits; the question is only when.

This country has been living beyond its means for too long now, and the pressure of an aging population will force the bill to come due. Seemingly every constituency has weighed in on the deficit panel's recommendations - except America's youth, the generation with the most at stake.

When the president and members of Congress take their oaths, they are in effect promising to be stewards for the state, to govern in the best interests of the country, regardless of whether or not those decisions may cost them their elected positions.

AS JAMES Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, government is nothing but a reflection of its people.

The broader American public is unwilling to make tough decisions and sacrifices, so young Americans must make the case that the controversial proposals released by the commission are merely prescriptions to allow for a brighter future.

Alexander Heffner of New York City is an undergraduate at Harvard. Yoni Gruskin of Denver is a student at the University of Pennsylvania.