Much of the justification for various federal programs amounts to a notion of fairness. Understandably, people look to the government and its seemingly endless cash flow, and pitch their various ideas to politicians. Naturally, given the revolving door habits of DC, some things get funded for political reasons – but it’s true that others might receive money based on actual merits.
Perhaps some of these programs are helping people in a measurable way. And of course, many may be well-intentioned, yet yielding unintended negative consequences. But gauging the metrics of various federal initiatives is a task for a different time. What’s being delved into here is the irony of the “fairness” concept as it relates to federal spending – particularly deficit spending.
No matter how compelling the case for a certain amount of federal spending on any project may be, it’s important to consider the result of said spending in the aggregate. As former Congressman Hal Daub of Nebraska and college senior Dae Hemphill of The Can Kicks Back recently wrote at the Omaha World-Herald:
“Our $17 trillion-and-growing national debt is devastating the country’s ability to provide for our next generation. If our leaders fail to address our fiscal dysfunction, future generations face an uncertain economic outlook, with the potential of higher taxes, higher unemployment and a lower standard of living.“
As a 26 year old, it concerns me greatly that my generation is being treated like debtors for decisions we largely weren’t even around to make. Given the current trajectory of federal spending, we will be responsible for a national debt accrued allegedly in the name of “fairness” – but at what cost to millennials?
As Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy pointed out at Reason Magazine:
“There’s a new generation gap opening up, one that threatens to tear apart the country every bit as much as past confrontations over war, free love, drugs, and sitar music. This fight is about old-age entitlements and whether the Me Generation will do what’s right for the country and stop sucking up more and more money from their children and grandchildren.
Social Security and Medicare, which provide retirement and health insurance benefits for senior Americans, generally without regard to need, are funded by taxes on the relatively meager wages of younger Americans who will never enjoy anything close to the same benefits. From any serious fiscal or moral viewpoint, and particularly for the sake of helping those truly in need, Social Security and Medicare should be ended.
The demographic math is irrefutable: Entitlements are killing the safety net.”
Further delving into the problem, Gillespie and de Rugy note:
“Because it is on automatic pilot, spending on entitlements can grow without political consequence or fiscal conscience. Between 1975 and 2000, spending on all entitlements grew at an average annual rate of 3.96 percent, while annual GDP growth was 3.27 percent. Then the ratio really started to deteriorate: Between 2000 and 2010, entitlement spending grew 5.3 percent a year while the economy managed just 1.81 percent. The Great Recession has added a bit to that disparity (Medicaid rolls tend to swell during downturns), but it’s far from the whole story. The aging of the population and the expansion of Medicare to include prescription drug coverage—at a cost of $338 billion from 2006 through the end of 2011—are the major reasons entitlements grow faster than the economy. And given that the oldest baby boomers are turning just 66 this year, we haven’t seen anything yet.”
Unfortunately, the issue of government spending, particularly as it relates to demographic differences, isn’t limited to the United States. Take what’s happening with youth unemployment on a worldwide basis. Data reported via the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, shows that for young people, future prospects look bleak. As reported by the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail:
“Global youth unemployment is set to continue growing over the next five years, putting a generation at risk of lasting damage to their earnings potential and job prospects throughout their lives, the International Labour Organization has warned.
The UN agency said in a report released on Wednesday that it expected the worldwide youth jobless rate to increase from 12.4 per cent last year to 12.8 per cent by 2018.
The jobless rate for young people – defined as those aged between 15 and 24 – has risen from 11.5 per cent of the work force in that age group in 2007 as the economic downturn took its toll.
The ILO said the youth jobs crisis was worse than the data suggested because long-term unemployment was growing, along with part-time, temporary and insecure jobs. Young people are almost three times as likely as their older peers to be out of work, and many are giving up on the search for employment.”
While the youth unemployment problem looks worse for many European countries than it does the United States, it stands to reason that continuing to follow the same reckless spending policies that led these countries into crisis will yield the same results.
Ultimately, despite the rhetoric from politicians and their beneficiaries, there’s nothing fair about the generational warfare that Washington DC is waging for its own benefit at the expense of rising Americans – many of whom are not yet born. Until we come to our senses and accept that the politically easy route of deficit spending with abandon is also an economically devastating one, young Americans of several generations will continue to suffer the consequences.