A message from the young: get serious about reforms

21 04 2011

Think class warfare is bad? Brace yourself for generational warfare.

This article from the US News & World Report hints at what is obvious to anyone who has spent a few moments glancing at our nation’s fiscal arithmetic (with unfunded liabilities running as high as $100 Trillion, a few moments of glancing is about all I can take before turning away in horror): eventually, the staggering burden of our entitlement programs is going to be borne by the young. Namely, my generation and all of those who come after me.

Of course, preventing this robbing from the young and the yet unborn has been a theme of the Tea Party protesters, who have remained rhetorically steadfast on the national debt issue. Unfortunately, despite this rhetoric, the entitlement mentality (“Get your government hands off my Medicare”) seems have taken root across the board: a recent poll shows that 78% of respondents oppose cuts to Medicare in order to reduce the national debt.

That’s not going to fly. We as a generation apparently don’t expect much as it is; 60% of young workers don’t expect to see any Social Security benefits, despite already paying into the system. What we can rightfully demand, however, is a shot at the American Dream, which I believe boils down to nothing more than the opportunity for economic and personal self-determination. That opportunity is going to be suffocated by excessive taxation enacted to prop up a system that my generation had no say in creating and, more importantly, no stake in saving.

And that’s going to create some electoral tension, not to mention social tension, as the young try to make their way in a world seemingly set up to benefit the old. Unless, of course, we get our fiscal house in order. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan is a start-or it would be, if it had any real prospects of moving forward. Likewise, Sen. Rand Paul’s $500 Billion spending cut proposal at least shows he has a bit of a backbone (more than can be said about most of current the Republican leadership).

Still, when dealing with a $14 Trillion national debt and untold trillions in unfunded liabilities, all of these proposals seem more laughable than bold. The political establishment’s utter inability to tackle our entitlement issues and the massive debts that accompany them explains an otherwise puzzling trend I’ve noticed among an increasing number of student liberty activists I’ve crossed paths with: a resignation to the fact that the current system is beyond salvation or reform, and a desire to get our entitlement implosion out of the way sooner, rather than later, in order to get on with the process of rebuilding. Call it the “Atlas Shrugged” mentality.

This seeming nihilism isn’t borne out of malice, nor is it personally directed at members of older generations. Instead, this attitude is a realistic and understandable reaction to our current political reality. Yet the “collapse” can be averted, and along with it any dark prospects of “generational warfare,” but only if we act decisively.

Entitlement reform and debt rollback are no longer abstract topics of discussion to be had at symposia among intellectuals; these problems are real, they are current, and they threaten the viability and vitality of the nation. Hopefully, we’ll come to this realization and take the dramatic moves necessary to avert unnecessary and ugly young-vs-old electoral combat.




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