In my indefatigable effort to keep you updated on the most combustible episodes of generational warfare, here’s a link to Matt Miller’s WaPo piece saying old people have well and truly screwed over Millennials and those yet to be born. Excerpt:
Our roads, bridges, sewers, airports and power grids desperately need upgrades. Our investments in research and development as a share of our economy trail that of our peers. Republicans don’t seem to care. Democrats care enough to propose token sums that would fund a fraction of the need.
There’s no cash for such investments in the future because pension and health-care programs for seniors (plus a bloated Pentagon) take up so much of the budget. At the federal level, seven dollars go to programs supporting elderly consumption for every dollar invested in people under 18. Nationally (after taking account of the fact that most education is paid for at the state and local level), the ratio is still 2 1 / 2 to one.
And that’s just today’s elderly tilt. We have trillions in unfunded liabilities in these programs coming due as more and more boomers retire.
Yet amazingly, both parties would exempt every current senior from participating in the inevitable adjustments in these programs. Paul Ryan and Barack Obama lock arms in agreeing that everyone over 55 must be spared such changes, even though most of these Americans are getting back far more than they paid into the system. And millions are well-off.
Add it up, and what’s it all mean? Younger Americans don’t realize they’re coming of age in an era in which both parties have pre-committed virtually all public resources to seniors. They’ll inherit a government without the cash or flexibility to address emerging non-elderly needs — choices that should be every generation’s birthright. Want to help a poor child or fix a bridge? Sorry, kids, the till is empty.
There are answers to these challenges that are fair to young and old alike. But we won’t hear them until younger people wake up to what’s happening.
In 1995, when I was a (younger) generational equity worrywart, I asked then-Sen. Alan Simpson how to fix what was clearly coming. Simpson told me nothing would change until someone like me could walk into his office and say, “I’m from the American Association of Young People. We have 30 million members, and we’re watching you, Simpson. You [mess with] us and we’ll take you out.”
Simpson was right then. He’s still right now.
America needs an upgrade, and young people need it more than anybody else. The old ways of doing things are gradually choking the life out of the country and making it harder and harder for people to do very simple things — like starting a family, raising, kids, preparing for retirement.
Generational equity is one of the reasons America has to change the way it does business; but every generation — including those not yet born — has a stake in breaking the chains that hold us back.