New argument: you, personally, will get screwed if debt issues are not fixed.
Now, that's been the argument I've preferred, mainly because I don't think The Children (TM) will be directly harmed by this nonsense, and not by the largest magnitude. It's going to be the Boomers who will be hardest hit, because there's so many of them, and they're getting old and will not have as much flexibility to do anything. And there won't be so many of The Children (TM) to take care of them as it is.
But let us go to a current Weekly Standard piece on this argument, from Meghan Clyne:
But while “our children” are the favorite—and often the only—reason offered to whip debt now, this rhetorical standard seems stubbornly ineffective. Our debts are still here, still growing, with no solution in sight.
Why does this ubiquitous line fail to spur Americans to demand fiscal reform? In part because it is poorly suited to those who most need convincing: younger Americans. This group was essential to reelecting Barack Obama, who has overseen an expansion in publicly held federal debt greater than all his predecessors combined. Indeed, younger voters preferred Obama to Mitt Romney by a 23-point margin. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of national exit-polling data, younger voters also strongly prefer more expansive government: 59 percent of voters aged 18-29 said “government should do more to solve problems,” compared to 35 percent among the 65-and-older group. And while Pew has found that younger adults are more likely than older Americans to say that providing Social Security and Medicare benefits at current levels will place too great a financial burden on younger generations, even the 18-29 cohort still believes that preserving Social Security and Medicare is more important than reducing deficits, 48 to 41 percent.
Republicans have clearly got some explaining to do. But simply lamenting that a failure to curb spending today will unfairly burden our “children and grandchildren” isn’t likely to cut it. A great many of these younger voters don’t have children, and convincing them to forgo the benefits of government spending now for the sake of someone else’s kids is a hard sell. Some may, for the moment, want to preserve generous Medicare and Social Security benefits for the sake of their own aging parents and grandparents. And many of them may not even want children of their own: Demographic trends suggest that today’s younger Americans are relatively unconcerned about producing children and grandchildren, let alone their fiscal situation. The young women who supported Obama because he forced employers to fund their preferred methods for not having children seem particularly unlikely to be persuaded by calls for generational forward-thinking.
Clyne, while concentrating on this youngest adult group (and I'm older than they, but I'm sitting in the trough of the Baby Bust, which got re-labeled as Gen X, and so there are more of those young adults than there are in my particular cohort), does get around to pointing out that the problem is not for some hypothetical unborn generations, but will unfold while the Boomers are still around:
Unfortunately, that sense is false. Our staggering debt will start causing serious problems well within the next 20 years—this generational window. And it will hit today’s younger Americans—not their offspring—hardest.
Then she goes on about personal debt, not only national debt. Thing is, the author of this piece, as per many others, assume that entitlements for Boomers will continue to be paid, even if no reforms occur, and that the full bill will land on those of working age.
Well, no. Sure, spikes in interest rates will hurt (if they occur, and looking at what has happened in Japan — low rates for two decades — gives one a hint that perhaps there is something demographic pushing along the macroeconomic environment), and so would a contraction in employment. But those of us square in middle-age, which is where these Gen Y/Milliennials will be in 20 years, have all sorts of flexibility. We still have productive years to go, and thus will be able to weather such a situation better than the ones who will really see their standard of living drop: old folks.
But let's get back to why this author is targeting young adults: because the Republican candidate did so poorly with that group. So I wondered — is it something new, or is this a very old trend?
I couldn't get the stats for 2000 or 2004 (or 1984 and 1988…little help anybody?), but here's a table with some very interesting info:
|Year||Percentage voting for Republican, age 18-29|
So Romney did better than McCain in this age group. I would really, really like to see the info from 2000 & 2004 to see if the low percentages in the past 20 years are due to youth's propensity to be liberal, or because of the specific candidates on offer.
But I don't think the "You, personally, are going to get screwed in 20 years" is going to be that big of a seller for the youth crowd anymore than "Won't somebody PLEEEEEASE think of The Children(TM)?!" The concept of themselves 20 years from now is just as inchoate to them as the children they will or will not have by that time.
"One possible answer is they just shouldn't retire," she says. "They should just wait. If you claim Social Security benefits at 70, instead of 62, your benefits are 70% higher. Some people can't (put off retirement). But many people can do it, and you should plan to do that."