Critical Condition

Policy vs. the Young

Robert Samuelson writes: 

One of our long-running political stories is the economic assault on the young by the old. We have become a society that invests in its past and disfavors the future. This makes no sense for the nation, but as politics it makes complete sense. The elderly and near elderly are better organized, focus obsessively on their government benefits and seem deserving. Grandmas and Grandpas command sympathy.

Everyone knows that the resulting “entitlements” dominate government spending and squeeze education, research, defense and almost everything else. In fiscal 2008 — the last “normal” year before the economic crisis — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (programs wholly or primarily dedicated to the elderly) totaled $1.3 trillion, 43 percent of federal spending and more than twice military spending. Because workers, not retirees, are the primary taxpayers, this spending involves huge transfers to the old.

Now comes the House-passed health-care “reform” bill that, amazingly, would extract more subsidies from the young. It mandates that health insurance premiums for older Americans be no more than twice the level of that for younger Americans. That’s much less than the actual health spending gap between young and old. Spending for those age 60 to 64 is four to five times greater than those 18 to 24. So, the young would overpay for insurance that — under the House bill — people must buy: Twenty- and thirtysomethings would subsidize premiums for fifty-and sixtysomethings. (Those 65 and over receive Medicare.)

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