Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It's Time for the Younger Generation!

We have an aging population. The baby-boomers are now reaching retirement age by the millions and the oldsters are becoming an even greater percentage of the American population. Their demands for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare prescription drug benefits are insatiable. The question is, is our government willing to bankrupt the country in order to take care of them (including me and Good Witch)? I hope not. And that's one of the primary reasons I'm hoping Obama does well in the upcoming primaries and beats Hillary for the democratic nomination.

I'll be 64 this year, and I will have been "retired" for 10 years. Many of my friends are senior citizens, and I meet plenty more of them on the ambulance. They are good people, most of whom worked hard and sacrificed a lot for their kids. I should add that they are, by and large, pretty well off. They grew up and worked in a different world than their kids are living in, a world where they had significant advantages over those who lived in other countries. Times have changed.

During their working life America fueled its vehicles mostly from oil and gas produced in this country; America exported huge quantities of steel, televisions, computers,and a plethora of other products to countries that were far less developed, or recovering from war, or short of natural resources; a high school education was perfectly adequate for many decent jobs in America. And, equally important, my generation grew up in a time when there were far fewer oldsters and a much less lucrative "safety net" for those who were old. Government was much smaller and much cheaper when my friends and I began our careers, and health care was much less expensive because doctors and hospitals were quite limited in terms of having surgeries and drugs that could prolong life.

The world of today's younger people is turned upside down from my old world. Much of our energy is imported, and worldwide demand is driving up energy prices. We import far more manufactured goods than we export. Our educational process has deteriorated significantly relative to our competitor countries. Oldsters are everywhere, and they benefit from ever-increasing government pensions and government payments for ever-escalating healthcare costs. Today's younger workers scramble to compete for scarce jobs, but many in my generation had the luxury of choosing from several employers who competed to hire them. Is America doomed to slowly deteriorate into a second-string country because our economy can't compete in the world? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not.

Solutions do exist for many of America's problems. We will likely develop alternative energy sources. We may become smarter about creating more efficient living and working environments, environments far less wasteful than the large homes and McMansions that my generation never really needed. We may finally put some creativity into our education system and begin turning out broadly educated and motivated young workers who recognize that "producing things" creates much more value than selling things produced by others. But the problem of the oldsters may be the most difficult problem to solve. There will be many more of us each year, and we expect our government to take care of us. We will fight for government pensions and healthcare subsidies even if it means our schools will get a smaller and smaller share of the pie.

A young president, say about 48 years of age, is much more likely to take on the challenges of re-engineering America for the benefit of those who follow. An older president, say about 72 years of age, will have a totally different perspective. The choices will be difficult and politically dangerous, so they must be expressed in clear, honest terms to everyone who will be affected. The implementation time will outlive the oldster president, but a younger president will be able to see the progress achieved for his/her children and grandchildren. Much must happen, so it's time to give those who must live with the outcomes the ability to make the choices.

Unfortunately for my generation, the solution must include tapping into our rather immense resources. Higher taxes to pay for schools. Smaller growth in our Social Security. Less access to high cost health care options for oldsters with chronic conditions, and higher co-payments for elective surgeries like hip and knee replacements. Estate-management gimmicks that keep estates healthy while forcing the government to pay for long nursing home stays must go. Why? Because my generation failed, during our time of prosperity, to do the things necessary to keep America strong for our children and grandchildren. Now it's time to pay up.

Maybe Obama can rally the country to see the handwriting on the wall and do something about it. McCain is owned by the fat cats, and Hillary is owned by the special interests. Give the kid a chance to save his generation!


Ron Davison said...

If this contest turns out to be between McCain and Obama, it'll be a fascinating contrast between "too old" and "too young," probably, in many ways, as stark a contrast as the electorate has had in decades.

1138 said...

I hear what you say but I think you mis read both the problem and the solution.
But you are right on about Obama.

The one thing our country has failed at is this concept, that we must relearn.

Wealth is built, not borrowed.

When we learn this we will not buy and borrow from China and the rest of the world, we will lend and sell to them again.

Lifehiker said...

1138, we agree that wealth is built, not borrowed, but I would add the caveat that borrowing to build productive capacity often makes sense. The problem is that our country is borrowing to finance current consumption - a practice that leads ultimately to bankruptcy.

The only long term solution for America is to out-educate our competitors and simulaneously reallocate the spending of our current wealth toward productive activities.

Frankly, any spending that doesn't somehow produce or purchase a superior American-built asset is sub-optimal, and spending tons of money on non-productive seniors is, sadly, a terrible drain on our economy.

Wealth "building" only occurs when a county is truly competitive, not when a country becomes protectionist and requires citizens to purchase higher cost, often-inferior products simply because they are produced in country.

Will America somehow become smart enough and entrepreurial enough to begin rebuilding national wealth? It's a great challenge and we have formidable competitors. I'd say the odds are no better than 50-50 on a good day.

1138 said...

Higher cost often inferior products?
I'm sorry but you are repeating a line, not reflecting on reality... there are no higher cost inferior American products for us to purchase.
The government has an obligation to defend the borders and to ensure that our workers compete on a level field, not against slave labor against workers in nations that lack environmental standards, human rights, workers rights, and democratic freedoms. That's what they are having to do now - you don't smart and entrepreur your way around and organized system built to move the means of production off shore to the very hell we and our parents tried to put and end to.

Some one sold us out.