August 15, 2012
What Do Seniors Owe the Young?
By Mike McManus
What is the obligation of America’s seniors to the younger
generation? In my view, as a Medicare and Social Security
recipient, I believe we owe it to the young to give them an even
better opportunity than we were given.
In fact, we are robbing them of
There is increasing evidence that the “Millennials” or
Generation Y, Americans who are under age 35, are “the screwed
generation,” as Newsweek asserts in its July 23 cover story.
Consider these facts Newsweek offers:
No generation has
suffered more from the Great Recession. Median net worth of
those under 35 fell 37%, according to Census, while those of my
generation took only a 13% hit.
The median net
worth of my generation is $171,000, 42% more than in 1984, while
Generation Y is only $3,662, down 68% in those years.
Since 2008 the
percentage of those under 25 who are in the workforce has
dropped 13% while those over 55 who are working has risen 8%.
We can’t afford to retire, which means fewer jobs are available
to the young.
Unable to find
work, many Millennials have gotten more education, and now owe
$27,000 each in tuition debt, or a stunning $1 trillion.
Over 43% of recent
college grads are working in jobs that don’t require a college
education. And a third of Generation Y have deferred marriage
and moved back home.
Of far greater long-term concern
is that the U.S. Government has imposed $5 trillion of new debt
on the young in just the last three years. This is
disturbingly unfair. And the situation is growing worse. If
Obama’s view prevails, Washington will spend $1 trillion on
welfare programs in 2014, and $1.6 trillion by 2022.
Taxes are collecting only 58% of
what government is spending on today’s generation. So 42 cents
is borrowed, with the debt piling especially high on Generation
Y, who will pay the interest on today’s profligacy for the rest
of their lives along with their children and grandchildren. Yet
almost half of today’s workers pay no income tax.
This is profoundly immoral. It
As Baby Boomers retire, tens of
millions of additional people will have their hands out for
Social Security and Medicare – which, if not reversed, will
bankrupt the country.
The only hope I see is that Mitt
Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. While his
House-passed Medicare plan would not change benefits for the
currently retired or those over age 55, it would alter the
system for later retirees who would get a voucher to apply
toward buying private insurance, ending Medicare’s current
Democrats are already running ads
criticizing House Republicans who voted for Ryan’s plan “to end
Medicare as we know it, forcing seniors to pay more,” as one
opponent put it.
In addition, Ryan also would
gradually raise the age to receive Medicare from 65 to 67.
Medicaid, which pays for health care for the poor, would be cut
These steps seem reasonable. We
also should consider raising the age at which Social Security is
given. Americans are living longer lives, and it is reasonable
to ask Seniors to bear a larger share of the costs, rather than
impose them on our children and grandchildren.
Oddly, Romney/Ryan want to
increase military spending, when we are already spending $711
billion a year. China only spends $143 billion; Russia, $72
billion; Britain and France about $63 billion each; Japan, $59
billion, Saudi Arabia, $48 billion and India, $47 billion.
America could cut military spending by a fifth and still be more
than all seven of the next largest countries combined!
Who are we arming to fight?
However, it is utterly
unrealistic to expect the deficit to be brought into balance by
only cutting spending. Federal revenues are at an historic low,
as a percentage of the Gross National Product.
I agree more with Obama than
Romney/Ryan on the need for the affluent to pay higher taxes. On
the other hand, the top 1% of earners pay 38% of federal income
taxes and the top 10% pay 71%. However, why should owners of
second homes get a mortgage tax deduction? And why shouldn’t
two-thirds of Americans pay some income tax, rather than only
half of them?
The good news is that Romney’s
choice of Paul Ryan will open the door for a serious debate on
how to reduce the federal deficit.
It’s about time.