The fiscal cliff fallacy and the debt burden for our kids and grandkids


If you have young children or grandchildren, look at them and imagine signs around their necks: “I owe my government $52,000 — and each day I will owe more.”

While the number varies according to the parameters of data used in the calculation, it is a reasonable approximation of each U.S. citizen’s share of the current national debt, now north of $16 trillion.

And unless the kick-the-can-down-the-road Congress and administration bite the bullet and make some meaningful, realistic effort to enact measures to begin reining in the debt, today’s youngsters will face an even heavier burden as they enter the workforce.

The problem will be exacerbated by a continuing decline in the overall working population as more jobs become automated, the self-service society expands, and employers push for even greater productivity from fewer workers.

As ominous and onerous as the mounting debt may be, the greater worry for today’s young adults and the kids who reach working age in 2025 and beyond will be the availability of gainful employment in a business world trying to eliminate insofar as possible the costs associated with live bodies.

The glass-half-full view could be, “Well, that kind of environment will open opportunities for self-employment, for cottage industries that can grow and provide jobs,” while the glass-half-empty adherents envision a large segment of permanently unemployed, the continued erosion of the middle class that made America strong, and a growing social unrest as the numbers of poor escalate.

Toss into that witches’ brew the increasingly large elderly population, the cost of whose healthcare and subsistence will be borne by a continually declining workforce, and you have a not rosy picture.

Today, analysts say, 36 percent of the federal budget goes to Social Security and Medicare, and that will increase as more of the 77.5 million “baby boomer” generation becomes eligible for benefits.

There has been much ado of late about “the fiscal cliff,” with a lot of back-patting and self-congratulation by the Washington honorables at having reached a solution.

Which, of course, they did not. It was yet another smoke and mirrors exercise, which did zilch to rein in spending or reduce debt, but oh so coincidentally included nearly $70 billion in pork for a lot of special interests (millions for Puerto Rico rum makers, Hollywood movie makers, NASCAR racetrack owners, and on and on).

And they had the unmitigated gall to title it “The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” — even more a misnomer when it actually increased the tax bite on every working citizen by reinstating the 2 percent Social Security tax reduction that had been in effect the past two years  (which never should have been done because it only further added to the looming shortfall in the Social Security system).

So, when you see this or that Congressperson or administration official bloviating about their accomplishment in avoiding the fiscal cliff, just remember that IOU around your kids’/grandkids’ necks.


TAGS: Legislative
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