News You Can Use: Friedman on Budget Reform

The Babe Ruth of NYT columnists, Thomas Friedman, pens an epittle to American college students, noting the unique message of Stan Druckenmiller, a notable investor with a message verging on generational war:

My generation — we brought down the president in the ’60s because we didn’t want to go into the war against Vietnam,” Druckenmiller told an overflow crowd at Notre Dame last week. “People say young people don’t vote; young people don’t care. I’m hoping after tonight, you will care. There is a clear danger to you and your children.”

Whenever Druckenmiller (a friend) is challenged by seniors, who also come to his talks, that he is trying to start an intergenerational war, he has a standard reply: “No, that war already happened, and the kids lost. We’re just trying to recover some scraps for them.”

With graph after graph, they show how government spending, investments, entitlements and poverty alleviation have overwhelmingly benefited the elderly since the 1960s and how the situation will only get worse as our over-65 population soars 100 percent between now and 2050, while the working population that will have to support them — ages 18 to 64 — will grow by 17 percent. This imbalance will lead to a huge burden on the young and, without greater growth, necessitate cutting the very government investments in infrastructure, Head Start, and medical and technology research that help the poorest and also create the jobs of the future.

via Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All. –


7 thoughts on “News You Can Use: Friedman on Budget Reform”

  1. Thomas Friedman brings up many good points in his opinion article. The youth of the country right now are the ones that will be largely in charge of paying off the expenses that our government has racked up with their bad spending habits. Now, I won’t say that all of Friedman’s accusations are completely fair. He paints the elderly in a light that they are just selfishly using all of our resources and leaving us with their debt. This may be true in some instances but it certainly doesn’t apply to all of the elderly. The responsibility lies in the hands of government officials, and government roles lie in the hands of the voters. The younger generation needs to get their act together and want to make a difference. I’ve read a number of articles about 20-somethings and their lack of motivation or caring when it comes to world issues. It is a weird dichotomy that we seems to be deemed the laziest, most entitled generation, but we also need to be the ones to make the biggest difference. Our so-called problems can strongly connected to the generation that raised us, who is also facing a huge crisis because of the recent recession. Basically, what I’m getting at, is that our country is a mess, especially financially. It is not and shouldn’t be the sole responsibility or one particular generation, but rather every generation working together to get us back on track. I’m just unsure of a way to kick us all in gear.

    1. I’ve often wondered if it would be possible to change the world via the internet, all Peter Wiggin in Ender’s Game. Unfortunately, the internet is used mostly to bash down, but would it be possible to create a new culture of healing and problem solving among our peers from online? Or maybe that would be only one step. There would need to be people who could inspire like Lincoln did. I remember one story, where Lincoln was speaking and an old codger left in the middle of his speech. He told someone at the door “I won’t hear him. I don’t like listening to a man who makes me believe him in spite of myself.” His speaking was clear and logical and compelling that much. If we could find people who can do that, both online and in speaking, I think we have a chance of changing things.

  2. Two important facts come to mind:

    First, there is an unbroken trend in the world that the more developed a country becomes, the more top-heavy it’s population pyramid becomes. Developed countries have fewer children.

    Second, economically speaking, the debt has no deadline. I am all for paying off debt (I am a student, after all), but as long as our economy remains functional, it would seem that the Chinese, Japanese, and others are more than willing to “purchase” our debt at the risk of default. That’s good news for us since that means higher investment and higher capital stock in the U.S.

    As far as kids go, the number falls because modern careers (juxtaposed with farming, family general stores, or other family businesses of years past) don’t assess children to be an economic asset. Unfortunately for all of the rising generation, people are self-interested, so the trend will not change. My question is whether we will actually face the looming economic crisis that comes to a head when we are all in our 50s, or if we will once again pass the economic buck to our own posterity.

  3. I think the current situation with U.S. deficit spending is sickening. Friedman has written several books on getting the world back in order, a couple of which I have read. While he remains mostly optimistic in his books, I don’t know if I agree with him. Everything indicates that it will just keep getting worse. I have long recognized the great “injustice” of our system towards the rising generation. Our parents, though we may love them dearly, have done nothing but left the world in a mess.

    Unfortunately, my generation seems to suffer from the same apathetic notions of their parents. What we need is a good kick in the pants to get out there and really start pushing for changes. I know that if changes aren’t made starting now, things will only get much much worse in the future. I know that I, and those reading this blog, are hopefully the exception to the apathetic nature of our generation, and knowing that gives me all the more incentive to try and go out there and change the system around. I know that I am going to get, pardon my french, screwed over with social security and paying for medicare of the aging population. That’s just a fact. But I hope we will be the ones to step up and get things right so that at least our children can have a better future than our own.

  4. The government of the United States has had a problem with the basics of budgeting: spending within ones means. Because of this, there will be a day of reckoning, and the burden unfortunately will most likely fall upon my generation of citizens. As Friedman has suggested, my generation must united under the growing pressure of being the ones to carry this large burden. With that being said, I know personally that I do not believe that we should be responsible for the poor fiscal decisions made by past generations. Hopefully, many others see the oncoming danger and will rise to the challenge.

  5. You know, it’s nice to hear someone standing up for our generation once in a while. I think we’ve grown up hearing degrading comments—the “Me” generation, the “entitled” generation, the social networking generation, etc. “Oh, today’s youngsters,” you could say, shaking your head in disapproval.
    Ok, fair enough, perhaps not entirely undeserved comments, and maybe some of which I am guilty of making myself. At the same time, though, it often goes unacknowledged that our generation is faced with tremendous pressure to succeed in a world that just keeps getting more competitive and more entangled in political and economic problems that will continue to have massive repercussions when it comes our turn to “take over.” The first thing that comes to mind is the US debt and other issues such as the implementation of Obamacare, and how these decisions and uncontrolled spending will come to bite us in the butt a few years down the road (once it no longer matters for today’s elderly. Sorry, but they will pass on). But the principle of older generations overlooking the consequences of their actions spills over to all aspects of life. I don’t mean to go on a tangent here, but a good example of this issue is the Palestinian-Isreali conflict. One of my professors pointed out in class recently that because of the decision of older generations on furthering settlements, on refusing to truly compromise, and on refusing to reach out, acknowledge one another, and make an effort to try to understand their neighbours a little better, the children and grandchildren of these people have fought, or will likely fight, an average of five wars in their lifetime. Wow, people. What a major reality check. Are we really making our children fight our wars?
    This talk is not about creating intergenerational divisions; it’s about creating a precedent of responsible behaviour now so that generations can learn to think about one another before they act; so that we can start to break a vicious cycle of selfishness and think more about the generations that will come after ours. Really, it’s about turning the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to their children.

  6. It seems to me that the government and our elderly generation should not be treated as synonymous. I have grown up learning that the only way I can financially survive in this world is if I live to a strict budget that outlines spending habits supported by my limited means. What’s more, I learned that lesson from my parents and grandparents.

    I don’t think it’s wise to suggest that “the older generation” is spoiling the future for “the younger generation.” The older generation, in most cases, has taught us younger adults what we know of living responsibly. In my opinion, the real problem is current government trends that supposedly justify reckless spending and a ceilingless “debt ceiling.” We are breaking under the weight of a government that seems to think itself exempt from basic household strategies such as saving and living within your means.

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