San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/11.
by David Crane
I have been wondering when young people would march.
For three decades, older people have been stealing younger people’s futures.
In the 1980s, tax cuts and increased spending produced deficits that might not have mattered to Dick Cheney then but are costing his grandchildren now.
In the 1990s, a Housing-Finance Complex of politicians, government-sponsored enterprises and banks enabled an explosion in private and public debt.
Later that decade came retroactive pension increases for public employees, while the 2000s brought prescription drug benefits for seniors, tax cuts despite increased spending and stimulus spending of little benefit to the young.
The result: More than $60 trillion of federal, state and local liabilities, the cost of which is both severely reducing spending on programs or services of benefit to young Americans and setting them up for a future in which virtually all of their tax revenues will go to servicing the Baby Boomer generation’s debts.
My father, a World War II veteran, was a member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation,” but I’m wondering if his son is a member of the UnGreatest Generation. Where are our sacrifices? Nowhere to be found, as we continue to spend excessively on our seniors, near-seniors and public employees, to borrow gargantuan amounts to do so and to under-tax ourselves.
AARP’s latest e-mails read “No cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits. Period.” Others oppose tax increases, while public sector unions block retirement reforms and even honest accounting. Those are not the actions of a great generation.
Young people should treat this situation as their Vietnam War. Back then, the older generation literally sacrificed thousands of young lives through fatal mismanagement of a Cold War battle. Today, my generation is sacrificing young people’s futures by refusing to cut entitlements, pay for our spending instead of borrowing, raise our taxes or invest for their future.
But the Occupy movement seems confused about where, and for what, it should march. While Wall Street played a major role in the financial crisis, that crisis could not have happened without the crony capitalism practiced by political officials in Washington, as Gretchen Morgenson documented in her book, “Reckless Endangerment.” And while Occupy is right to support the higher taxes proposed by Warren Buffett, the movement must not overlook his admonition that the federal government, over time, must cut spending by 10 times what that tax increase would bring in.
In California, state legislators cut spending on higher education in favor of more powerful political constituencies, yet student protests have been rare and directed at innocent parties or hijacked by employees demanding more compensation.
Even in Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, students fail to ask the state legislators from their district – surely elected in part to stand up for UC and its stakeholders – why they voted to cut higher education three times this year while boosting compensation for state employees and not passing a corporate tax law revision that would have been good for jobs and revenues.
Everyone knows what needs to be done: cut entitlements, reform public-sector retirement benefits, raise taxes and boost spending on infrastructure and research.
All that’s missing are courageous legislators to enact that legislation.
Young people are right to protest. They should march on Sacramento, Washington and other political capitals, where the real causes can be addressed.
David Crane is a member of the UC Board of Regents, a Stanford University lecturer and president of Govern for California, a 501(c)(4) organization in support of courageous legislators.
Link to full article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/30/INBF1LLQ3F.DTL