Yesterday, Dean Baker wrote two important articles that obliquely addressed the conservative obsession with all the terrible things we are doing to our children’s future. You know the kind of thing: “We are mortgaging our children’s future!” Or: “Someday our children will have to pay these bills.” And perhaps most perniciously: “Our children will go bankrupt paying for the long and lavish retirements of their parents!” You know, class warfare is terrible, but inter-generational warfare is grrrrreat!
Baker writes, Millions of Children are Growing Up With Unemployed Parents Because of Fix the Debt and Other Deficit Hawks. After that headline, you hardly need to read the article. But let me break it down for you anyway. As anyone knows, debt is not that bad a thing as long as you have a good job that allows you to manage your financial obligations. For example, my biggest problem is not my debt; it is that right now there is much too little money coming in.
The deficit hawks effectively want to will to our kids no debt but also no opportunities. Children growing up in poverty today are having their futures limited. As has been well documented, if you want a college degree, it is better to be born rich than smart. Of course, being born poor also limits your chances of excelling even in grammar school. It is hard to focus on school when you are insecure about where you will live, much less if you will have enough to eat.
It isn’t that the deficit hawks don’t know this. We are really better off thinking of these people as royalists. Their concern about future debt is not that the middle class will be held down. It is that in the future everyone may see the necessity of taxing the rich at a reasonable level. The deficit hawks are the rich looking out for the interests of the rich. Even the millennial deficit hawks are what I accurately describe as Rich Kids for the Rich.
The main point of this is that if we really care about future generations we need to do something today about income inequality and unemployment. We can’t cede the “Save our kids!” ground to people who are really just pushing for “Save our rich kids!”
Bake also takes on world class fucktard and humility expert David Brooks. He writes, “David Brooks told us again today that he doesn’t like Social Security and Medicare. He does this frequently in his columns although usually while he ostensibly makes some other point.” You see, Brooks says that those dirty stinking retirees with their $1200 per month stipends and oh so convenient healthcare “needs” are destroying our future!
In two different ways!
First, they are taking money away from forward looking projects like building rockets to go to Mars so that we could terraform it and turn it into like Disney World, but more cool, because, hey, Mars! You know, like on Futurama where Mars is like New Las Vegas?! We could totally have that if it weren’t for those dirty stinking old people and their hip replacement surgeries which could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $120,000 if you can even get a quote. And hey, wouldn’t a moon colony be really cool?! (Note: David Brooks’ column is only slightly less fanciful with its discussion of past Americans who “gave their lives a slingshot shape.”)
Dean Baker notes that even if he got rid of Medicare, the tax revenues wouldn’t still be there. People accept a tax for Medicare because they like Medicare. If you take away the program, the people will want their money back. Also (and we talk about this a lot around here), the problem is not Medicare. The problem is that healthcare in the United States costs twice what it should.
Brooks goes on to show that he doesn’t understand the basics of finance. It’s a funny thing. Week after week, Dean Baker embarrasses David Brooks and yet, Brooks just chugs along. I really don’t understand it. It isn’t like I’m never wrong. I am stunningly wrong from time to time. But unlike Brooks, I look for opportunities to get my facts straight and correct earlier mistakes. But what is a deficit hawk like Brooks to do? He needs to protect the wealth of the future rich while maintaining that he is protecting the future more generally. When you are involved in such an endeavor, you either have to lie or be really stupid. I’m not sure exactly how Brooks partitions these attributes.
Regardless of all this, we really do need to worry about future generations. And that means fixing our politics and economy today. That means reducing the effect of money on politics. That means enfranchising more voters. That means addressing our accelerating income inequality. That means fixing our healthcare delivery system. It does not mean screwing old people in the name of inter-generational warfare.