There’s a war going on. While there are no bullets being fired, no blood being spilled, and no bodies lying on the ground, there are millions of casualties. You almost certainly know one of them. You might even be one of them.+
What “war” could I be speaking of? It’s one of numbers and laws, accounting gimmicks and misguided policies, false promises and wishful thinking. It’s called “generational warfare,” the act of taking from the young to give to the old, without a shred of regard for the former, and with widespread support from the latter.+
This issue has been on the radar of free-market types for generations. The latest examination comes in the form of a new book by the Manhattan Institute’s Jared Meyer and Diana Furchtgott-Roth, titled Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young.+
There have been many attempts to make this argument in the past, but they often fall flat when it comes to most important point: one of simple accounting. When talking about things like the national debt, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of how the national debt and accompanying tax burden will impact future generations.+
This book, however, excels by making this major point both powerfully and briefly, backed by plenty of statistics, before moving on to the myriad other ways wealth is transferred across generations. The authors raise and debunk many “common knowledge” arguments that one encounters when talking to average US Americans about issues of debt and taxation.+
For example, in a distinction that separates the best commentary on fiscal policy from the mediocre, they succeed in defeating the pervasive argument: “I paid into these entitlement programs like Social Security, so I should get my money back.”+
Yet the book is about far more than debt and taxes. It addresses two other notable intergenerational transfers as well: education and the job market. On education, the authors examine both the nation’s mountain of college debt, fueled by student-aid programs, and the failure of public schools to provide quality education.+
Meyer and Furchtgott-Roth explain how teacher tenure laws and restrictions on private and charter schools keep children from getting the best education possible. Their explanation of how firing practices push talented young teachers out the door when school budgets are tight, even as low-performing older teachers keep their jobs, shows how existing laws directly harm the young in favor of well-off older teachers.