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.
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the host of the new podcast “This...Is Interesting,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.
The Democratic president and the Republican budget chairman do this as a matter of bipartisan principle — the principle that avoiding undue risks to reelection is more important than any reasonable notion of generational fairness.
Want more? For years, states have let public pension managers assume their investments would grow 7.5 or 8 percent a year, when 3 to 6 percent has been more realistic. This bipartisan ploy hides trillions more in pension shortfalls, funds that will have to be forked over one day by (you guessed it) younger Americans.
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.
Matt Miller, a co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center,” writes a weekly online column for The Post. His e-mail address is email@example.com.