I have to agree with Peter Lawler about the resentment younger generations might rightly feel towards Baby Boomers. However, I ask if Baby Boomers weren’t equally screwed by the Greatest Generation? Through Social Security and Medicare, that generation got back far more than it ever put in. That’s not because they were lazy or anything, far from it, but inflation meant that what they put into Social Security had far less value by the time they retired. The average retiree in 1980 received all of his retirement savings with interest within about two years after retirement. Where has the money come from to pay those retirees what was “owed” until death? First from the Baby Boomers, now from the Millennials and younger, who also must try to make up to the Boomers all that those folks paid ostensibly for retirement that actually went as direct payment to the prior generation. The Boomers have a right to expect to get back in retirement what they paid in for it, don’t they? In reality, probably not.
The young voter has incentive to be interested in Paul Ryan’s plans to manage the mess we’ve put ourselves into.
One of my sons has a theory about government dependence that people embrace it because it is convenient. It makes life more convenient. We love anything that makes life easier. Managing work, family, all of the stuff accumulated for modern life, much of it bought to make life more convenient, is plenty for any person to deal with. If government is willing to make life easier, we will take what is offered, whatever it is, even if it makes government more complicated and not easier to manage in the long run. Convenience is about now.
The young I know seem divided into those who think government owes the people because that is what government is for and those who think government cannot deliver on its promises and therefore cannot be trusted. The latter look at growing government debt and dread the paying of it. The former look at government debt and think, “Better government than me.”
Paul Ryan’s plans will appeal to the one group, as long as it doesn’t look too inconvenient. However, Democrats offer the convenience of not really thinking about the future of the economy or the consequences of massive spending. Government should do what we want it to do for us because we the people have the right to all that democratic government can offer. Someone will conveniently pay for it, whoever has the money, because it is right to share when we live in community. Will Paul Ryan appeal to those folks? Probably not, because what he proposes is not convenient to them, forcing them to take responsibility not only for themselves, but for those who came before.
That’s not fair. But as long as politicians and people only worry about what is fair, we will never get out of the generational mess that keeps putting off inconvenience until later. We could call that acting like grown-ups, but what grown-ups have done for generations now is not very — grown up. Where is the model? I tell the young they’ll have to make a new one, but they can start by looking back, beyond the grown-ups they know or to watch out for people who know how to make hard choices. Now they have a clue where to look.