Those Crazy Kids

Mar 01, 2013

This morning, the Executive Editor of Business Insider tweeted a random thought that deserves a more thorough response than 140 characters.


Let's start with the economic assumptions in this 140 character encapsulation of liberalism.

Youths, as we will call them here, are currently financing the fiscal boondoggles that are America's entitlement programs. They felt the effects first hand upon receiving their first paycheck of 2013 only to discover a smaller amount of take home pay thanks to the expiration of a holiday in our Social Security financing mechanism, the payroll tax. The payroll and income taxes of the youths also go to finance that vast majority of the Medicare program.

And Heritage estimates that to close a massive hole in just one part of Medicare, the Part A Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will require an equally massive tax hike on, you guessed it, the very same youths.

As someone who qualifies as a "youth" in this context, I will admit that we often suffer from a dearth of long-term thinking. However, that does not excuse any of us from facing the longer-term effects of these programs.

Over the next 32 years, before most 20-somethings become eligible for Medicare and Social Security, the spending on those two programs, plus our other health care entitlements, will crowd out all other spending.

Remember all of the programs the President falsely claims will be decimated by today's sequester? There will not be a single solitary cent of revenue to pay for head start, food inspectors, airport security or weather satellites in the near future if entitlement spending continues unchecked. Surely, many youths allegedly hostile to entitlement reform care very much about these programs. Look no further than this past election for evidence of that.

Youths are, of course, the most transient and artificial of interest groups.

One day we will all be on those programs as well, assuming they survive, which is a big assumption at the moment. Do you, the youth, want to be trapped in a set of programs designed for the 1960s?

Medicare, for example, is meant to be a government guaranteed health insurance plan for those over 65. But you wouldn't know it from looking at the program, which is currently in four parts: a hospital benefit, a physician services benefit, a private combination of the two, and a private prescription drug benefit, all of which are financed in different ways.

This is a ludicrous way to run a health insurance plan.

Youths, imagine if a salesman offered you an auto insurance plan in four parts: Part A covered the engine and the premium was withheld from your paycheck, Part B covered the body of the car and you paid monthly for that, Part C was combination of A and B if you preferred, and Part D covered all the fluids, but you paid a third party for that coverage. Oh and if you actually got in an accident and significantly damaged your car, you'd need to get coverage for that from someone else.

Is this something that really appeals to the Twitter generation, or any generation for that matter?

Beyond the enormous economic implications of failing to reform entitlements, there is an even more troubling cultural assumption embedded here: "Do young people desire to take care of their retiring parents directly?"

The short answer is yes. At least they should want to if we are going to have any type of meaningful society.

Regardless of the amount of benefits the federal government offers our parents, we - the youths - have a duty to care for them. They are our family, our responsibility. Paying into entitlement programs that provide our parents with some financial security does nothing to eliminate the obligation we have to ensure their quality of life during retirement.

Can a faceless bureaucracy can really ensure that your parents are getting the health care they need, the health care they deserve? Does anyone really believe the government can guarantee they have the activities and friendship that every human needs? Can the government fill the void left in a parent's life by being abandoned by their children?

Conservatives envision entitlement programs that serve as insurance against poverty and operate in a manner that is better for both current beneficiaries and beneficiaries to come. We envision a vibrant civil society that encourages thriving families and communities that support their members at all stages of life. And that is a vision for America that has true and lasting appeal.