The most depressing bit of news out of Washington I heard recently was that the president couldn’t get Congress to come up with a bipartisan commission on debt reduction. The Republicans refuse to talk about tax increases, and the Democrats refuse to talk about cutting social spending. Result: gridlock. David Sanger writes that America’s spendthriftiness, combined with the political paralysis that keeps America from dealing with our indebtedness problem, will likely herald the decline of American power. Excerpt:
Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.
Or, as Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, used to ask before he entered government a year ago, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”
David Brooks writes today that older Americans, who are consuming a vastly disproportionate share of federal revenue ($7 for each dollar spent on children), are the only ones in a position to save the country from itself. He says:
Spontaneous social movements can make the unthinkable thinkable, and they can do it quickly. It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change. The young lack the political power. Only the old can lead a generativity revolution — millions of people demanding changes in health care spending and the retirement age to make life better for their grandchildren.
It may seem unrealistic — to expect a generation to organize around the cause of nonselfishness. But in the private sphere, you see it every day. Old people now have the time, the energy and, with the Internet, the tools to organize.
The elderly. They are our future.
Good luck with that.