Stick­ing it to the young? Yes they can

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Just be­tween you, me, and the old, the late mid­dleaged and the early mid­dleaged — isn‘t it ter­rific to be able to stick it to the young? I mean, imag­ine how bad all this eco­nomic-type stuff would be if our kids and grand­kids hadn’t of­fered to pick up the tab.

Well, OK, they didn’t ex­actly “of­fer” but they did stand around be­hind Barack Obama at all those cam­paign ral­lies help­ing him look dy­namic and tele­genic and earnestly chant­ing hopey-hopey-chang­ey­changey. And “Yes, we can!” Which is a pretty open-ended com­mit­ment.

Are you sure you young folks will be able to pay off this mas­sive Mount Spend­more of mul­ti­tril­lion-dol­lar debts we’ve piled up on you? ”Yes, we can!”

We thought you would say that! God bless the youth of Amer­ica! We of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion, the boomers and Gen­er­a­tion X salute you, the plucky mem­bers of the Brok­est Gen­er­a­tion, the Gloomers and Gen­er­a­tion Y, as in “Why the hell did you old coots do this to us?”

Be­cause, as politi­cians like to say, it’s about “the fu­ture of all our chil­dren.” And the fu­ture of all our chil­dren is that they’ll be pay­ing off the past of all their grand­par­ents. At 12 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, this year’s deficit is the high­est since World War II, and pri­or­i­tizes not eco­nomic vi­tal­ity but mas­sive ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment. But hey, it’s not our prob­lem. As John May­nard Keynes ob­served, “In the long run we’re all dead.”

Well, most of us will be. But not you youngsters, not for a while. So we’ve fig­ured it out: You’re the ul­ti­mate credit mar­ket, and the rest of us are all pre-ap­proved!

The Bailout and the Tarp and the Stim­u­lus and the Multi-Tril­lion Bud­get and Tarp 2 and Stim­u­lus 2 and Tarp and Stim­u­lus Meet Franken­stein and The Wolf Man are like the old Satur­day-morn­ing cliffhanger se­ri­als your grandpa used to en­joy. But now he doesn’t have to grab his walker and tot­ter down to the Rialto, be­cause he can just switch on the news and ev­ery week there’s his plucky lit­tle hero Big Gov­ern­ment fac­ing the same old cri­sis: Why, there’s yet an­other ex­cit­ing spending bill with 12 ze­roes on the end, but un­for­tu­nately there seems to be some ques­tion about whether they have the votes to pass it. Oh, no!

And then, just as the fate of an­other gazil­lion dol­lars of pork and waste hangs in the bal­ance, Arlen Specter or one of those lady se­na­tors from Maine dashes to the cliff edge and gives a help­ing hand, and phew, this week’s spenda­palooza sails through. But don’t worry, there’ll be an­other ex­cit­ing episode of Tril­lion-Buck Rogers of the 21st Cen­tury next week!

This is the big­gest gen­er­a­tional trans­fer of wealth in the his­tory of the world. If you‘re an 18-year-old mid­dle-class hop­ey­changer, look at the way your par­ents and grand­par­ents live: It’s not go­ing to be like that for you. You’re go­ing to have a smaller house and a smaller car — if not a base­ment flat and a bus ticket. You didn’t get us into this catas­tro­phe. But you’re go­ing to be stuck with the tab, just like the Ger­mans got stuck with pay­ing repa­ra­tions for the catas­tro­phe of World War I.

True, the Ger­mans were ac­tu­ally in the war, whereas in the cur­rent cri­sis you guys were just goof­ing around at school, doz­ing through Di­ver­sity Stud­ies and hop­ing to ace Anger Man­age­ment class. But tough. That’s the way it goes.

I had the plea­sure of talk­ing to the stu­dents of Hills­dale Col­lege last week, and en­deav­ored to ex­plain what it is they’re be­ing lined up for in a 21st cen­tury Amer­ica of more gov­ern­ment, more reg­u­la­tion, less op­por­tu­nity and less pros­per­ity: When you come to take your seat at the Amer­i­can ta­ble (to use an­other phrase politi­cians are fond of), you’ll find the geez­ers, boomers and X-ers have all gone to the men’s room, and you’re the only one sit­ting there when the waiter presents the check. That’s you: Gen­er­a­tion Checks.

The Teleprompter Kid says not to worry: His bud­get num­bers are based on pro­jec­tions that the econ­omy will de­cline 1.2 per­cent this year and then grow 4 per­cent ev­ery year there­after. Do you be­lieve that? In fact, does he be­lieve that? This is the guy who keeps telling us this is the worst eco­nomic cri­sis in 70 years, and it turns out it’s just a 1 per­cent de­cline for a cou­ple more months and then party time re­sumes?

And, come to that, wasn’t there a (notably un­pro­jected) 6.2 per­cent drop in GDP just in the last quar­ter of 2008?

What­ever. Growth may be lower than pro­jected, but who’s to say all those new pro­grams, agen­cies, en­ti­tle­ments and other boon­dog­gles won’t also turn out to cost less than an­tic­i­pated? Might as well be op­ti­mistic, right?

Youth is wasted on the young, said Bernard Shaw. So the geez­ers ap­pro­pri­ated it. We love the youth­ful sense of liv­ing in the mo­ment, without a care, without the bur­dens of re­spon­si­bil­ity — free to go wild and crazy and splash out for Tony Danza in din­ner the­ater in Florida where we bought the condo we couldn’t af­ford.

But we also love the ide­al­ism of youth: We want to help the sick and heal the planet by vot­ing for mas­sive un­sus­tain­able gov­ern­ment pro­grams.

Like the young, we’re still find­ing our­selves, but when we find our­selves stuck with a med­i­cal bill or a fore­clo­sure no­tice it’s great to be able to call home and say, “Whoops, I got into a bit of a hole this month. Do you think you could ad­vance me a cou­ple of tril­lion just to tide me over?” And if there’s no one at home but a cou­ple of sec­ond­graders, who cares? In sup­port­ing the po­lit­i­cal class in its present be­hav­ior, Amer­ica has gone to the bank and given its kids a mas­sive breach-of-trust fund.

I men­tioned a few weeks ago the calami­tous re­al­ity of the U.S. auto in­dus­try. Gen­eral Motors has 96,000 em­ploy­ees but pro­vides health ben­e­fits to more than a mil­lion peo­ple. They can never sell enough cars to make that math add up. In fact, sell­ing cars doesn’t help, as they lose money on each model.

GM is a wel­fare project mas­querad­ing as eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. And, af­ter the Obama trans­for­ma­tion, Amer­ica will be, too.

The young need to rec­og­nize that this is their fight. They need to stop chant­ing along with the hop­ey­changey dirges and do some­thing more ef­fec­tive, like form the anti-AARP: The as­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­cans who’ll never be able to re­tire.

Mark Steyn is the au­thor of the New York Times best-seller “Amer­ica Alone” and is an in­ter­na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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