Gen X Can't Afford to Wait Until Boomers Are Out of Power


This post is part of our forum on Michael Kinsley's October cover story exploring the legacy of the Baby Boomers and what they owe the country. Follow the debate here.

The nasty tone of Lisa Chamberlain's comments is a bit hard to understand, since we seem to agree about most of the issues she raises, to the extent that I understand them. I struggle to find matters to challenge her on.

She suggests that entitlements are not a problem--it's the "inability of the political leadership to manage them responsibly." Actually--unlike the rest of what the government spends money on (fighting wars, regulating the environment, dispensing judgment)--there is very little "management" involved in Social Security and Medicare. They are largely a matter of writing checks. And no degree of "management" can produce or save the billions of dollars that we will need to keep these programs solvent.
Can the Boomers Save America?
Yes, of course, Gen-Xers are going to get screwed by this even more than Boomers as the bills come in. That's in fact the point of the piece: Boomers ought to clean up the mess and relieve subsequent generations of that burden. Chamberlain says that this is "like most Boomer ideas, totally unrealistic." I agree that it's almost totally unrealistic, especially if the potential beneficiaries dismiss it out of hand. But does anyone have a better idea? Furthermore, I don't know on what basis anyone can say that "most Boomer ideas" fall into the same category. Name three.

Peter Orzsag's proposal to keep the Bush tax cuts for everybody for two years and then make everybody--not just the rich--go back to paying the higher pre-Bush rates is interesting and pretty gutsy, and (guess what?) almost totally unrealistic. In all probability, we will keep piling on the debt for a few more years until some crisis like a Chinese refusal to take any more IOUs forces us to stop. This will be just in time for Generation X to start paying it down. Good luck.

The debate continues here.

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Michael Kinsley is a longtime political journalist and commentator. More

Michael Kinsley is a longtime political journalist and commentator. He has an accomplished record in print, television, and online. He graduated from Harvard, went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, and came back to study at Harvard Law. While in his third year of law school, Kinsley began working at The New Republic. He was named editor and wrote that magazine's famous TRB column for most of the 1980s and 1990s. He also served as editor at Harper's, managing editor of Washington Monthly, and American editor of The Economist. Kinsley was a panelist on CNN's "Crossfire" from 1989 to 1995. In the mid-1990s, Kinsley started working for Microsoft and became the founding editor of the company's online journal, Slate. He worked as a senior writer and columnist at The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire in 2010. In 1999, the Columbia Journalism Review named him Editor of the Year, and in 2010 he was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. He is famous for defining a gaffe as the moment when a politician tells the truth.
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