The chart above comes from Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy. It showcases what she argues is the true battleground of haves and have-nots: The young (and relatively poor) vs. the old (and relatively rich). As she writes at National Review's The Corner blog:
In 1970, spending on Social Security and Medicare was one-fifth percent of the budget (blue portion). This portion has since grown to nearly 37 percent of the budget in 2010. By 2030, half of the entire budget will be consumed by payments for senior citizens.
We've been pushing generational warfare for a while now at Reason for the simple reason that more and more money is flowing in the wrong direction, mostly via payroll taxes. For thousands of years, money flowed from the old to they young. But that's all over now, baby blue. Consider this awful news:
In 2003, Cato's Michael Tanner calculated the rate of return on Social Security benefits to folks retiring then at about 2 percent, which stinks for any retirement plan. Worse still, wrote Tanner, "future retirees will receive even lower rates of return." Which is to say, nothing or negative returns. You wouldn't stand for that in a private plan, so why should we stand for it in a forced plan? Better question: Why do we stand for a forced savings plan that systematically robs us of money when we retire? Wouldn't it better to figure out how to help poor people, whether young or old, independent of squeezing us all into a plan that is guaranteed to earn bad returns and then get goosed whenever election season kicks into high gear?
Or put in a slightly more arch formulation from 13 years ago (!):
Can anyone seriously doubt that—given [the Baby Boomers'] penchant for sucking up all the shrimp and steak in the buffet line of life—they are setting up the rest of us not merely to fork over ever more generous portions of our wages to fund their Social Security and Medicare (hey, why shouldn't face lifts and Viagra prescriptions be covered?) but to deny us any last crumb of joy that comes simply from being younger than them?… now, in a stunning, cunning gambit, they are laying the groundwork to rob us of our last remaining generational birthright: the simple, unfettered pleasure of some day dancing on their graves.
Read the whole thing. I happily support a social safety net (preferably financed by the private sector but I'm OK with the public sector taking up the slack), especially for people who cannot care for themselves. But we have taken the idea of a safety net and transmogrified it into an entitlement state that gives more and more money (and cheap drugs!) to folks who can afford to pay their own freight. That just ain't right. As de Rugy argues, the Occupy movement would be smarter to Occupy AARP than Zuccotti Park. It's not clear that Wall Street banktards high pay means the rest of us get less, but it's absolutely true that Medicare and Social Security means the young among us are getting screwed.
No, wonder so many of us, including Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg and The Enema Man, hate our parents and grandparents. Take it way Alan Simpson: