January 9, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm
America is a nation at war. I do not mean the "War on Terror" - you can't wage war against a feeling. I don't mean the "War on Drugs" - you can't fight an inanimate substance. No, the war America is presently waging is one against its most helpless citizens. We are fighting a War on Youth.
The War on Youth is not so much a war as it is unmitigated slaughter. Young people can't vote until they turn 18, so there are minimal political costs with placing their future at risk. Sure, every candidate on the planet promotes their agenda with "Think of the children." But 99 times out of a hundred, that's just a smoke screen for further erosions of our liberty. If we really cared about the children, we'd stop demanding they continually sacrifice their future so that we adults can enjoy our present.
You might think I'm talking about the national debt. Sure, at $17 trillion and 100 percent of GDP for the first time since WWII, that's appalling and selfish. But it's just the tip of the iceberg. Things get really nasty when you talk about the "fiscal gap": The unfunded obligations of the U.S. government.
"Unfunded obligations" mean expenses the government is legally required to incur but for which no funds have been set aside. These include things like health benefits for seniors, retirement benefits, housing guarantees, deposit insurance, and "trust funds" for social insurance programs. It's difficult to get a handle on these numbers, but the estimates I've seen start at about $50 trillion and go up from there. Public debt pales in comparison.
How are those obligations going to be paid? If the requirements themselves aren't changed, it will require massive tax increases.
This is a double whammy for young people entering the workforce, since not only will they have to pay more taxes but the economy will be further crippled, making it still harder for them to find a job. (Youth unemployment is between 13 and 16 percent, depending on who you talk to, and that doesn't count the underemployed or those who have simply given up).
Oh, and did I mention health insurance? Under Obamacare, the better health of young people is seen as somehow unfair or unjustified, something to be rationed and reallocated according to the powers that be.
As the Washington Post noted in a recent above-the-fold story, for the numbers to work, at least 40 percent of Affordable Care Act enrollees need to be under 30.
They will overpay for insurance they don't need, to subsidize the elderly and less healthy who in the huge majority of cases should be paying more. Of course, young people don't have to sign up; they can just pay a fine.
But to allow them to make their own decisions about health insurance? That's crazy talk. After all, they're just kids!
None of this has stopped young voters from their overwhelming support of Democrats. Typically only half of them vote, but those that did voted over 2-to-1 in favor of Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Young people tend to be more concerned about who they can love, what music they can listen to, and what they can do with their bodies, than they are about their future. Not exactly a dream demographic for the GOP - at least as it is presently constituted.
But is it always right to ask the young to sacrifice for the old?
At what point do we say that we've done enough, that at some point re-establishing a future for our children is more important than expanding entitlements for adults? I'm not sure exactly where that point was, but we've passed it a long time ago. It is time now to think of the children. This time, for real.
Barry Fagin is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute in Denver; his views are his alone. Readers can write Dr. Fagin at email@example.com.