In some respects, the 2016 election has been a steampunk campaign. Donald Trump, in particular, has proposed a vision of the future that starts in the distant past. He thrills rallies with promises to revive the pre-1970s steel industry and promises a bright future for coal miners.
This may be a successful framing device on the campaign trail. But Trump's tone here is starkly opposed to his reputation as a business genius. The typical chief executive is intensely present-focused (sometimes even to a fault). Whereas Trump promises the past and calls it future, most business leaders prefer to talk about the future as if it’s the present, like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who conjure images of Mars colonization and the instant delivery of any product.
What if presidential candidates took a CEO approach to future-planning? Perhaps they'd spend less time talking about America’s old industries and more time talking about America’s old people.
Of the many significant forces shaping the U.S. economy—including globalization, automation, and housing supply—none is so inevitable and invisible as the sheer march of time for today’s adults. In the 1950s, at the height of the U.S. manufacturing supremacy, less than 10 percent of the country was older than 65. That share will double to 20 percent by 2050. The greying of America will touch every station of economic and political life: the size of the labor force, the jobs the economy will require, the ethnic makeup of the country, and the productivity of the workforce. In short, aging affects everything.