A gigantic off-loading of budget pain from old to young. Medicare and Social Security will be protected exactly as they are for Americans now over age 55. Younger Americans, on the other hand, will find Medicare progressively less generous, with the heaviest burden of adjustment falling on the youngest of all.
In the past, such pay-it-forward economics could be justified on the premise that—thanks to economic growth—the next generation would be richer than its predecessors. But that assumption has been breaking down as the benefits of economic growth have been claimed by fewer and fewer Americans. Virtually all of the productivity gains since 1979 have flowed to the top 1 percent of income earners. As a result, today’s 20-somethings face a future in which most of them may well fail to attain the living standards of their parents.
If it’s uncaring for society to neglect the old, it’s outright suicidal to cannibalize the life chances of the rising generation. Yet that is precisely what has been happening, before our collective eyes and with our collective assent.