Monday, April 2, 2012

Mr. Romney Wedges The Youth Vote

Generational warfare is a variant of ye olde Marxist class warfare, and therefore automatically suspect as a tactic, but I think this time the class warfare card is being appropriately played:
"...I don't see how a young American can vote for a Democrat." The Democratic Party "is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation, mounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for," Romney said. While Democrats are perpetrating "the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind," The government's record-breaking debts "are not frightening to people my age, because we'll be gone," Romney argued, but "they ought to be frightening to death to people your age!"

Washington's staggering spending binge is entailing a burden of fearsome proportions on the millennial generation - voters in their late teens and 20s. With the government more than $15.5 trillion in debt and continuing to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends , Generation Y is in for a prolonged economic beating. The national debt now exceeds the entire annual output of the US economy. Millennials will be paying for it through higher taxes, slower growth, reduced public services, fewer jobs, lower incomes, and a more uncertain future than their parents or grandparents confronted.
By "to my generation", I presume Mr. Romney is speaking about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and not talking about "crony capitalism" where the middle class is squeezed for the benefit of the politically connected rich. Intergenerational wealth transfer has been a bipartisan staple of political vote-buying for the last 80 years, and it is good to see a mainstream politician finally go after the morally dubious nature of this class of entitlement spending. I think the President is quite vulnerable on this issue, partly due to unfortunate timing (he is in charge when the bills are coming due), but also partly due to the words from his own mouth. Why should young people who have been clobbered by the mancession in these trying economic times and many of whom have had to move back in with their parents have whatever wealth they're able to scrape up be "spread around" at the point of a gun to their parents and grandparents,* who are likely to be many times more wealthy than they?

* Granted, Boomers paid for their parents and grandparents too, but for far shorter of a period. Their bill was far smaller than the one that awaits Xers and especially Millennials.

Thus I think Mr. Romney's overt playing of the generational warfare card, and subtle invoking of the rich-envy card, will serve him well in his attempt to pry the youth vote away from Mr. Obama in the upcoming national election.

But Mr. Romney's campaign isn't just playing standard Marxist class warfare politics here. It really *should* make Xers and Millenials fighting mad that their tax monies (and that of their children and grandchildren) are going to subsidize Boomer retirements, just as it should have made Silents fighting mad that they and their Boomer children and Xer grandchildren were going to be taxed to support dear old born-in-1890 Granny in her sunset years--after she had paid nothing or little-to-nothing into the system. Of course, one difference back then was that life expectancies when Social Security was created in the 1930s were much lower, thus "retirement" was nothing like the 20-30 year partial- or total vacation--less if male, more if female--from productive labor that we have today. Another difference is that, frankly, the entitlement state has swollen to such an extent, first by FDR's New Deal, then by LBJ's Great Society, that it would probably make Bismarck blush in shame. And John Galt shrug the burden from his shoulders.

So: Mr. Romney is inviting Xers and especially Millenials to ask "why?". What I would really like to see him do is parley this wealth-transfer issue into an attack on the whole entitlement spending edifice--and couch it in terms of liberty and freedom. However, I suspect that he's far too moderate (and astute) of a politician to do this; it is to his advantage to play class politics to gain young people's votes, but it would not be to his advantage to overly antagonize all those Boomers like him who would see their payout get cut. After all, politicians who pay Paul with Peter's money can always count on Paul's support, even if it means that Paul, the politician, and poor, trapped, tapped-out Peter go off the fiscal cliff together.


Professor Hale said...

...through higher taxes, slower growth, reduced public services, fewer jobs, lower incomes, and a more uncertain future

He left out inflation. But that would primarily hit anyone who has saved money... like their parents. So the kids get zero inheritence too.

Nor is it just retirements that are breaking the bank. When medicade first started, granny was just getting heart meds. Now every geezer gets a hip replacement, a cancer treatment, a knee replacement, and a whole bunch of high cost support for normal illnesses.

The fact is, there are only two ways out of our current crisis: spend less or inflation. Spending less can only happen if the govt renegs on past promises like social security, medicare and medicade.

Professor Hale said...

other than pointing out that X-ers should not have any loyalty to the Dem party, I notice that Mittens isn't saying he would do anything different that would deserve their loyalty.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Agreed, PH. I don't see Mr. Romney doing anything substantive to get our country out of this situation other than inflate inflate inflate...which destroys the savings of the parents the most and Xers next. Millennials, not so much, for they haven't been working/saving for as long.

Also your observation that Mr. Romney isn't promising anything special to young folks that would win their loyalty...only that they should be angry at their quite astute.

Justin said...

The budget has to be reduced by, what, 40%, in order to be balanced? Yikes, to contemplate what that would look like is pretty scary.

Inflation eventually hits the wall of people unwilling to invest in the dollar. When that happens, the budget will have to be balanced.

The phrase "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind. There is no pretty way out of this.

chris said...

Folks, you all are bankrupt. When I hit 70 (2030) and look around I better have some dollars.

(Which is why I am putting well over 5% of the salary into the University Pension Scheme. Don't trust governments, do trust institutions that have been around for over a century).

Where there is a federal state (German, Australia, Canada, US) the central gov't will only be able to afford defense and justice (and maybe not even that -- Soviet Russia could not).

You owe too much. The rudder of the ship of state is broken. Obama may be able to ruin the country first -- he is already prolonging the recession -- but you all are heading for hyperinflation or bankruptcy.

Or both.