Friday, August 05, 2011

Generational War

The deal made in Washington between Congress & President Obama is a pretty bad one all round. Cuts are an integral part of the deal but the three sections of the US budget than consume the most wealth- social security, health spending and defence- have all been ring fenced so the cuts will hit everything else very severely.

The amount the United States spends militarily is excessive and much of it is wasted as money is given directly to defence contractors who in return create jobs in the constituencies of key politicians.

Entitlements- Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid- are protected in order to preserve the interests of older voters- at the expense of the young. Any attempts to reform them have hit the political buffers whereas efforts to increase them get bipartisan support.

This isn't the only example of government policies that benefit the old at the expense of the young- the housing boom also created a de facto transfer of wealth from the young to the old.

There is no obvious moral imperitive to transfer wealth to older people who are on average considerably wealthier already than younger people (these aren't targeted benefits that help the poorest pensioners but universal ones). It is certainly not a pragmatic approach in a society that is getting older.

However older people actually pay attention to politics and vote- so they are far more valuable than the young- which is why politicians bend over backwards to help older voters.


Laban said...

"the housing boom also created a de facto transfer of wealth from the young to the old"

In the sense that those who bought early found themselves sitting on a pricy asset, yes. But with the exception of a few downshifters, their heirs got the cash, not them.

I'd say it was more of a transfer from the poor to the rich - in the sense that values inflated so much that home ownership is no longer within reach of the poor - which it was, say, in 1979.

I bought a 2up2down house on a 3K wage then for 9.5K, added a bedroom and bathroom 10 years later, sold for 60K in 1996 to buy a 4 bed detached with an acre of land for 130K.

On a salary of, say, 45K I could just about afford to buy back my old cottage (assuming anyone would give an old man a 20-year mortgage) - it sold for 200K five years ago, probably 175K now.

I could never afford to buy the place I live in.

Ross said...

"I'd say it was more of a transfer from the poor to the rich "

Yes, the generational aspect is a side effect of that (since people are usually wealthier at 50 than at 30).

Anonymous said...

Hooray for us . The youf are workshy layabouts.

Ross said...

Some are. Although they tend not to suffer too much as they get benefits.