Walter E. Williams

Because of failure to heed the limitations of the U.S. Constitution, which has produced runaway federal spending, our nation sits on the precipice of disaster. Former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, co-chairmen of President Obama's debt and deficit commission, in a Washington Post article "Obama's Debt Commission Warns of Fiscal 'Cancer'" (July 12, 2010) said that "(A)t present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans -- the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries."

The commission added the current budget trend is a disaster "that will destroy the country from within" unless checked by tough action in Washington. The tough action required is spending cuts in programs, including the so-called nondiscretionary, eating most of the federal revenues.

According to the Census, around 80 percent of Americans 65 and older own their own homes compared to 43 percent under 35. Twenty-three million households, or 37 percent of all homeowners, own their homes free and clear, and most of these are seniors aged 65 and older. According to the Federal Reserve Board's 2007 "Survey of Consumer Finances," the median net worth of people 65 and over is $232,000, those under 35 years have a net worth of $12,000 and for those 35-44, it's $87,000.

For good reason, older people have accumulated more wealth than younger people; the primary reason is that they've had more time to do it. There is no logical case that can be made for using the tax system to force Americans with less wealth to subsidize those with more wealth. But it's not clear who is subsidizing whom. Consider an elderly widow, say 70 years old, with a modest retirement income of $18,000 living in a $300,000 house that's fully paid for. She might receive local property tax forgiveness, medical and prescription drug subsidies and other federal, state and local subsidies based upon her age and income.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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