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Indeed, be wary of folks telling you that means-testing old-age entitlements is insulting and un-American. Because the fact of the matter is that between 1984 and 2009, the only households that did well are those headed by people 55 years or older. Fact is, you're coughing up 12.4 percent of your compensation for a system that will give you less money than you gave it. And that's assuming the system is still around in recognizable form when you're ready for retirement. On top of that negative return, expect to read more articles like this one by Spy co-creator Kurt Anderson (b. 1954) in which the one-time snark-meister bemoans the fact that the 1960s made us "all shamelessly selfish." Huh? Who's we, kemo sabe? Those of us either too young or too unborn to remember the '60s aren't being selfish if we call attention to a system that loots the relatively young and relatively poor to give money to the relatively old and relatively rich. We're being fair.
So kiddos, you're getting screwed by old people who expect you to maintain a system that benefits them at your expense, regardless of their needs or yours. Thanks, Mom and Dad! And we just might be in the early stages of a bring-back-the-draft-movement, where you would get to choose between painting military barracks for 18 months or sharpening a teacher's pencils for two years.
Then chew on this: One of the primary ways that President Obama (born 1961) is making the so-called Affordable Care Act affordable is by having you foot more than your share of the bill.
Think it through for a moment, especially given that younger voters seem to really dig him. The younger you are, the less likely you are to need health care, much less insurance (there is a difference). The smart move for most generally healthy younger people is to take out a catastrophic coverage plan that would cover you in the event of a big accident. Thanks to Obamacare, you've got to get covered, either by your parents' plan or otherwise. The predictable result is that plans for younger people are getting more expensive precisely at the moment they are required by law (finally, a case where correlation meets causation!). That all plans are going to have to conform to higher-than-before benefit schedules ain't helping things either. Some colleges are dropping student plans as a result.
costs insurers six times as much. So you're helping balance the books there, too. Welcome to community rating, kids.And just wait until those price-capped government-run health-care exchanges finally get set up. By law, the exchanges can't charge their oldest beneficiaries more than three times what they charge their youngest beneficiaries. That's despite the actuarial reality that the older group
Another way you're helping balance the books: It'll be your future earnings that will pay the taxes to cover the massive amount of debt that local, state, and federal governments have rung up over the past few decades. Even before the Great Recession, the feds were spending like a drunken sailor (no disrespect to drunken sailors). Nowadays, the feds are borrowing something like 40 cents of every dollar they're spending. That bill is going to come due eventually and when it does, the people who spent it will be long dead. And so will the economy, suffering from a "debt hangover" that all the Advil in the world won't help. We're getting perilously close to the debt-to-GDP ratios that economists Carmen M. Reinhart, Vincent R. Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff say will significantly retard economic growth for an average of 23 years.
It should go without saying that it doesn't have to be this way. And don't buy into the idea that the way things are is just part of the circle of life. You're the mark here, the chump who's believing in Bernie Madoff even after the grift has been revealed. There's not going to be a bigger idiot to come along and keep the pyramid scheme alive. You can tell yourself that this is all part of living in a society, that's it for the common good, that there's simply no way a class of people with only 45 times the amount of household income as you do can get by without you sacrificing so much. But you're kidding yourself, kiddo.
More to the point: Older generations don't need to mop up all the gravy from their kids' bowls. Those of them who can afford to should pay their own way and, in a generational exchange observed for hundreds of generations, could even leave things for their heirs (this is impossible with Social Security, of course). The days when being old universally meant being poor or sick are thankfully behind us and old-age entitlements should change to reflect that reality. We can help the truly needy among us without creating a system in which young people's already small incomes and savings are reduced further to prop up the relatively plush living standards of older Americans (read the cover story of the August-September issue of Reason, not yet online). The young shouldn't be sacrificed to the real and imagined needs of the old.
The one thing I know for damn sure as a parent and a late-era boomer (b. 1963) is that I would never want to charge my existence onto my kids' credit card. If that means we need to start living within our means as a society, that's not really a tough call, is it?
Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, now out in paperback with a new foreword. He is the co-author with Veronique de Rugy of the cover story, "Generational Warfare," in the August/September issue of Reason (on newsstands now).