State lawmakers already face a choice between the well-heeled, high-voting old and the financially insecure, politically homeless young. The biggest items in state budgets are typically education, health care, and pensions, and the latter two heavily subsidize the elderly. As states devote more and more money to entitlement programs that largely benefit older people, they have to raise taxes on younger, working people, cut education spending for the youngest, or both. Any new entitlement programs, such as Obamacare or the national preschool program President Obama wants, further exacerbate this tension. These, and other better-publicized realities including Social Security and Medicare (where retirees get not their own money but what current young folk are forced to contribute), escalate the nation’s spiraling financial and structural instability. The result is tightening economic entrapment for young people.
A main tenet of the American Dream is leaving the world a better place for the next generation through hard work and self-government. There are still opportunities to reclaim it: ending government pensions as we know them in favor of flexible, 401(k)-style accounts; rapidly expanding private school choice, which educates children far better at typically less than half of government school spending; and so forth. But the window is closing fast.