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The Generational Gap

Two articles about the rich, mainly white elderly and the poor, very diverse young appeared in the New York TImes today. 

In an article  called “Share the Wealth” Ezekiel Emmauel,  suggests that those who don’t need Social Security, and many of us do not, should be able to put it away in some kind of fund to be shared between our own grandchildren and those of others. He notes that most of us are reluctant to give up our benefits because they tend to disappear into a black hole. He thinks that most grandparents would be happy to sacrifice a little if they knew it was going to their own family. So what we do not take would go into Social Security numbers that we choose. Of course it won’t pass any time soon but it is a pretty nice idea all the same.

In an article called “Old vs. Young” David Leonhardt traces the gap that has developed between young and old, which is wider now in both economic and political terms than anytime in the last 50 years. The young are more liberal and less religious, interestingly more optimistic despite being poorer. Those over 65 who constitute 13% of the population get 50% of the federal benefits, much of which is paid for by borrowing on the backs of the young.

Its a topic that I come back to again and again in my government accounting classes. It is an issue that Scott Burns and Larry Kotlikoff talked about in their book The Coming Generational Storm  and revisited recently in their book The Clash of Generations. In my  mind it is the biggest challenge facing America, the least understood, and the most neglected in political debate.

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