The recent economic crises can be blamed on many persons and institutions. But the Baby Boomers running Wall Street and political institutions from 1992 to 2008 must bear a large share of the blame. Now, as Michael Kinsley correctly states (“The Least We Can Do,” October Atlantic), these Boomers are confronted with our huge private and public debt.
Kinsley suggests a radical change in the estate tax as a way to pull ourselves out of this hole. As a longtime Democratic policy adviser, I suggest instead that we must do it the hard way, starting with entitlement reform. Discretionary public spending for marginal purposes must be reduced. Pentagon spending, likewise. Tax rates should be lowered, and fewer brackets used, while billions in “tax expenditures” extended to favored sectors and companies should be erased. Are Boomers up to doing this? We shall soon see.
Ted Van Dyk
I think Michael Kinsley is shortsighted and premature in his dismissal of a national-service program as a partial remedy for our increasingly fragmented and, frankly, degenerate society. For one, an NSP, while mandatory, wouldn’t aim to replace our current soldiers. Instead, qualified people already in the NSP could opt into formal military training for concurrent service. While less efficient, our existing system—effectively a mercenary army deceptively recruited from the lower classes—is far more damaging to a putative republic. Is an NSP social engineering? To be sure. But that’s precisely what the mandatory sacrifice of the World War II draft did for America: engineer a vastly better human being than our purely consumerist and demand-nothing society does now.