2005 February 23 Wednesday
David Brooks On Irresponsible Old Age Entitlements

Reacting to the news that the new Medicare drug benefit cost has risen to $724 billion for the next 10 years David Brooks of the New York Times is predicting the rise of a young millionaire in Ross Perot's mold to make a run at the White House on the platform of cutting back old age retirement entitlements.

That means we're going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions.

That means that as we spend the next year trying to get a grip on one entitlement, Social Security, we'll be launching a new one that is also unsustainable.

Over the next few months we will be watching a government that may be millions-wise, but trillions-foolish. We will be watching a government that sometimes seems to have lost all perspective - like a lunatic who tries to dry himself with a hand towel while standing in a torrential downpour.

It is refreshing to read in the New York Times that old age entitlements programs are going to eat the federal budget and that passing more big entitlements under these circumstances is irresponsible.

Brooks says the well organized old folks are screwing over the young and unborn.

We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution.

We ought to be treating the physical aging of the US population as a huge economic problem that should be solved rather than serve as an occasion to further expand the already unsustainable entitlements programs. The population needs to spend more years working and to save more money while working.

To enable people to work longer we need a much more rapid rate of medical advances to produce treatments that will slow the rate of aging and delay the onset of debilitating medical conditions. A more rapid rate of advance in medical research would produce cheaper and better treatments and also allow people to work longer.

Another way to increase the size of the working age population would be to accelerate the rate at which children - especially adolescents - are educated. Video recordings of college level lectures and lectures on useful job skills should be made available to all late grade school and high school students. Standardized tests for college-level courses should be available to allow high school students to get college credit for mastery of subjects. Students should be able to learn 12 months a year at their own pace watching lectures any time of the day or night. If kids could do this then some would take the opportunity to shave years off the time it takes to get a higher education or to gain specific skills useful in the job market. Earlier entry into the job market would increase the size of the skilled labor pool and increase the tax revenue available to fund old age entitlements.

Military hawks who want a large aggressive US military out there in the world please read my lips: Your beloved military is going to be cut down to feed the monstrous old age entitlements programs. The United States is going to cease to be a global power because it is not going to be able to afford to maintain a large navy and bases all over the world. Hawks ought to treat the aging of the US population as a national security threat and measures to accelerate medical research and education should be seen as important to American national grand strategy.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 February 23 04:28 PM  Economics Demographic


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