Back in June, in honor of D-Day, I wrote a long post entitled Why Do We Hate Our Kids? in which I argued that we Boomers have made a mess of things pretty much across the board, in large measure due to our unwillingness to put the interests of our children first. In sum, we are selfish, entitled toads who (effectively) hate our kids. My conclusion follows.
A D-Day of sorts is approaching for those of us who are Boomers. We are headed toward a “point of no return” with respect to the giant problems we have created and nourished. Solving them will require creativity, strength, intelligence, courage and sacrifice. Those are characteristics Americans have often demonstrated in crisis and characteristics our brave men and women in uniform – our kids – demonstrate every single day. If it’s not just talk and we really do love our kids, it’s time to step-up, put them first, and get about fixing the messes we’ve made. But we’d better start soon because time is running out.
Third Way, the self-styled moderate Democratic think tank, has now published a study that supports my argument by asserting that what they (and the federal government) call “public investments” (such as defense, infrastructure, long-term research and education) are on a collision course with entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.). In essence, the research claims that the only way to save things like NASA, highway funding, and clean energy research is to reform entitlements. Third Way sees that approach as a “progressive” imperative.
But, like Bill Keller of The New York Times (whose excellent recent piece alerted me to the study), I was particularly struck by the visual (irrespective of whether or not you agree with the priorities Third Way sees as “investments”), shown to the left. In 1962, about 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments and only 14 percent on entitlements. In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investment and 46 cents on entitlements. By 2030, when all the Baby Boomers have started collecting Social Security, entitlements will consume 61 cents of every federal dollar, leaving us, in the words of the study, with “a less-skilled work force, lower rates of job creation, and an infrastructure unfit for a 21st-century economy.” Whatever political priorities one might choose as appropriate investments in our children’s futures, without entitlement reforms we can’t afford them.
I am not the first nor the last to make a basic Boomer-bashing argument. As Keller pointed out (follow-up here), just in July The New York Times editorial page published such pieces from Ross Thouhat, David Brooks and Kurt Andersen. Sadly, they are largely correct. We are essentially unwilling to make the tough choices and the difficult sacrifices that are necessary for our children to flourish.
The American Left panders to Boomers by opposing anything like a cut to entitlements (for example) and panders to everyone by suggesting that our problems can be fixed simply by taxing “the rich.” But the math of such alleged “solutions” simply doesn’t work (in fact, it’s so far off as to be ridiculous). The American Right panders to everyone by claiming that taxes needn’t be raised and can even be cut (for example) while only eliminating government “waste.” That’s nuts too (although perhaps cynically intended to “starve the beast“). To the extent that either position prevails without serious and careful compromise, investments in our kids’ futures are doomed.
Ever since I turned 50, I have received regular solicitations from the AARP to join up. But since the organization’s stated and public approach (see here) seems to be that entitlements are “sacred” and that any approach — no matter how sensible and fiscally responsible — that even considers what they see as a reduction in benefits is evil (not to mention the “third rail” of American politics), I have no wish to provide them with my money. I love my kids too much.