Time is right for a generational revolt
Thomas L. Friedman
Even after this crisis, eventually the two parties will make another stab at a deal on taxes, investments and entitlements. But there’s one outcome from such negotiations that I can absolutely guarantee: Seniors, Wall Street and unions will all have their say and their interests protected. So the most likely result will be more tinkering around the edges, as our politicians run for the hills the minute someone accuses them of “fixing the deficit on the backs of the elderly” or creating “death panels” to sensibly allocate end-of-life health care.
Could this time be different? Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change: a mass movement for tax, spending and entitlement reform, led by the cohort that is the least organized but will be the most affected if we don’t think long term: today’s young people.
- Whether they realize it or not, they’re the ones who will really get hit by all the cans we’re kicking down the road. After we baby boomers get done retiring, if current taxes and entitlement promises are not reformed, the cupboard will be largely bare for today’s Facebook generation. But what are the chances of them getting out of Facebook and into their parents’ faces and demanding not only that the wealthy do their part but that the next generation as a whole leaves something for this one?
Too bad young people aren’t paying attention. Or are they?
Wait! Who is that speaking to crowds of students at Berkeley, Stanford, Brown, USC, Bowdoin, Notre Dame and NYU, urging these “future seniors” to start a movement to protect their interests? That’s Stan Druckenmiller, the legendary investor who made a fortune predicting the subprime bust, often accompanied by Geoffrey Canada, the president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, of which Druckenmiller is the biggest funder.
“My generation — we brought down the president in the ‘60s because we didn’t want to go into the war against Vietnam,” Druckenmiller told an overflow crowd at Notre Dame last week. “People say young people don’t vote; young people don’t care. I’m hoping after tonight, you will care. There is a clear danger to you and your children.”
With graph after graph, they show how government spending, investments, entitlements and poverty alleviation have overwhelmingly benefited the elderly since the 1960s and how the situation will only get worse as our over-65 population soars 100 percent between now and 2050, while the working population that will have to support them, ages 18 to 64, will grow by 17 percent. This imbalance will lead to a huge burden on the young and, without greater growth, necessitate cutting the very government investments in infrastructure, Head Start, and medical and technology research that help the poorest and also create the jobs of the future.
- Druckenmiller is not looking to get his taxes cut. He considers Social Security and Medicare great achievements for how they’ve reduced poverty among the elderly. He and Canada are simply convinced that only a Vietnam-war-scale movement by the young can break through the web of special interests to force politicians to put in place the reforms that would actually secure both today’s seniors and future seniors, today’s middle class and the wanna-be middle class.
Druckenmiller urges young people to design their own solutions, but, when asked, he recommends: raising taxes on capital gains, dividends and carried interest — now hugely weighted to the wealthy and elderly — to make them equal to earned income taxes; making all consumers more price sensitive when obtaining health care; means-testing Social Security and Medicare so they go to those most in need; phasing in higher age qualifications for entitlements and cutting corporate taxes to zero, so the people who actually create jobs will have more resources to do so.
At the Harlem Children’s Zone, explains Canada, “we have made a promise to all of our children: You play by the rules, do well in school, avoid drugs, gangs, crime and teenage pregnancy, and we will get you into college and on your way down the path of the middle class” and toward a future of financial security.
- But, he adds, “the current spending on my generation — I’m 61 — if it continues unabated, will erase any chance my children will have the safety net of social, education and health services they will need. It seems deeply offensive to me that we will be asking these poor children from Harlem to subsidize a generation that is, by and large, more well-off than they are, and then leave them deeply indebted in an America that had eaten the seed corn of the next generation.”
Thomas L. Friedman writes for The New York Times.
I have to say, this is an eye-opener. Makes me somewhat ashamed of having squawked about the probable upcoming cuts to the SS income of seniors with regard to the cost-of-living adjustment we generally look forward to. Life can be a bitch at times. For most seniors, it ain’t easy; too old to work with too many problems to allow choices to be easy.
No one likes to be seen as greedy and or uncaring, but the simple truth of economic disparity in this nation especially coming from the GOP wanting to deprive women, children and all manner of other needy or disadvantaged people and classes just trying to have a life and survive. But somehow; the well-to-do continue to to be wealthier with each passing season, no matter who is in charge. When we are forced to live with the rulings from SCOTUS whereby all of our civilized lives are changed so ruthlessly and we watch helplessly as laws are allowed to go against our deepest sense of decency, it can get pretty frustrating. One can wonder what the world is coming to.
There is a sense of indignity which rises and can’t be put down. 2 and 2 still accumulates to the same old 4. I cannot or will not apologize for whatever is found stirring amongst the grey matter between my ears. By and large, one survives by focusing on much loftier, happier thought processes; but that is not to say, there aren’t nasty disturbances in the land which cannot be ignored Like almost everybody else, I must say, its not much fun being on the dirty end of a stick.
There is no question that these decisions are extremely relevant and demand attention. Who wouldn’t want equal justice for all? Most especially we want the best for our kids. That’s what parents are about. I am so damned tired of hearing about the too-muchness of what the indigent are getting. They wouldn’t be indigent if we had not lost our sense of civil decency and anyone who worked could easily have a decent life. Why not more appropriately ask — — how much is enough for the wealthier among us? Is there any end to this greed thing?
Friedman is one of my favorite thinkers. But hot dam, I’m upset right now. Jan)