CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The NYT Gives Voice to the Educated Ignorant Young

The NYT Gives Voice to the Educated Ignorant Young

Monday, 21 March 2011 03:58

Let's see, who is doing well in today's economy? Maybe the bankers at Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan with their below market bailout money and too big to fail subsidies? Maybe the defense industry with its huge mark-ups and no bid contracts? How about the drug companies who get handed hundreds of billions of dollars each year from government provided patent monopolies?

No, today's educated young are worried about being victimized by high living seniors who get Social Security and Medicare benefits. At least that is what Matthew C. Klein tells us in an oped column in the NYT.

The column bemoans the fact that the author and his highly educated friends see poor job prospects on the horizon. While there is much to complain about, if he really believes that the problem is generically people older than himself, rather than specifically the people who are a lot richer than himself, he has not gotten a very good education.

Comments (25)Add Comment
written by David, March 21, 2011 5:15
As a college educated 24-year-old looking for a job, I apologize for my misguided peer, Mr. Klein. We are not all so stupid.

I am a big fan of your blog, Professor Baker. Thank you for your work.
written by izzatzo, March 21, 2011 7:05
See Bubba, I told you why Glenn Beck is planning to target Dean Baker as the most dangerous person in America. It's not even a conspiracy. He just lays it out point by point how he intends to destroy America with free market socialism and communist competition. Get my chalkboard so I can show you how it works.
written by ralston mctodd, March 21, 2011 7:10
He was really doing pretty well until he got to the part about how it's all the fault of "entitlements." At least this is better than the standard line about how our young people just can't compete globally and the answer is more education.
What he actually wrote was:
written by AndrewDover, March 21, 2011 7:41

"As governments across the developed world balance their budgets, I fear that the young will bear the brunt of the pain: taxes on workers will be raised and spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable. "

Actually, federal governments are not attempting to balance their budgets, just lowering their deficits. So far, it looks like he will be wrong on taxes, and right on mortgages and medicare.

( Taxes on workers were lowered temporarily by 2%, and also by the extension of the bush tax cuts. )
written by PeonInChief, March 21, 2011 8:41
What's interesting is that these very same arguments--the young will be ruined by paying for elders' entitlements were made when I was a young, unwrinkled woman with only two gray hairs. They weren't true then and they aren't true now.
written by Tyson Fultz, March 21, 2011 9:26
Mark should be blaming the corporations which I'm sure he has been instructed to idolize in our current Ayn Rand-inspired utopia. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps boy!

The zero-sum mentality and the race to reach the bottom has killed off the jobs and industries in the US. Robber baron CEOs have gutted most of the companies who are just shells of their former selves for Wall Street traders to manipulate.

The death of the unions killed off wage increases, killed off apprenticeship training programs and the US government allowed those jobs to move to other countries almost overnight.

The rise of the 401k, the pension investments in AAA rated ponzi schemes and banking mergers killed off what little we did save for retirement.

College education results in a millstone of debt for a lot of graduates with no guarantees of a job.

Don't blame my mother and father for having the apparent bad taste and misfortune of living to 65
to claim some of the money they paid into the system for 45+ years.
Standing up for the young, Low-rated comment [Show]
The elderly
written by Stelios Theoharidis, March 21, 2011 10:50
Dean, While I believe that older and younger Americans deserve the current and more extended set of entitlements, the right has certainly pandered to the fears of the former demographic group to limit the development of substantive healthcare policies and reform in a wide variety of other areas. The reduced quality of care meme was a clear move to mobilize a concentrated and vocal group, seniors, against the general public interest. I can blame the PR firms, astroturf groups, politicians, lobbyists, and industry-funded think tanks for creating and framing these false narratives in the public discourse. However, I can not going to excuse seniors for being easily manipulated.
almost right
written by matt, March 21, 2011 11:16
I think he does have a point re: entitlements for elderly, it is just pooly expressed. The cost of health care in the last 6 mos. is one of the largest issues facing the U.S. This, sepatate from SS and other entitlement spending, is a cause for concern, for younger unemployed and others.
unfortunately, everyone's right
written by Albert, March 21, 2011 12:17
The blame lies with the rich corporate capitalists and rich government bureaucrats in bed with them, but the entitlements for the elderly (who put the rich in power) are also looming on the horizon. It is not one party "rather" than another.

Those who ideologically favor one group over the other tend to hope the "good guys" within their favored group (corporate or government) will lead us out of this mess. I am not so sure change will come from the corrupted centers of power. While we do need to work on that front, the bulk of our resources need to go to strengthening alternative and more local power centers at the regional and state levels.

Keep up the drumbeat, Dr. Baker. But consider the possibility there are limits to scale that the virtue of elites with integrity cannot overcome.
written by fuller schmidt, March 21, 2011 12:25
The media monopolies have gotten to your brain Aaron. Creating an equitable society is the only point of Dean's blogging. Do yourself a favor and google George Carlin's UTube on the American Dream.
Most of the Over 65 Are Not Wealthy
written by Dean, March 21, 2011 12:43

as several other people have noted, the point is not the young are doing well, it is just that they have picked the wrong target if they go after the elderly as a group. The typical household over age 65 has annual income of just over $30k. It is hard to argue that this is lavish.

Medicare is expensive, but this is because our doctors, drug companies and hospitals charge way too much, not because seniors get such great health care. People like Peterson have spent lots of money to divert class conflict into generational conflict.

If you want to get angry at someone who is older, get mad at Peter Peterson. He is both rich and elderly. But the overwhelming majority of the elderly are not in his income bracket.
written by aaron, March 21, 2011 1:12

Perhaps I'm missing some sarcasm here?
While I often agree with Dean's arguments, in this case he is criticizing a somewhat elitist article (and really, just about every young NYT oped writer seems to come from NYU or an Ivy) that is about how youth unemployment is a growing problem in the US, and in fact in most of the western world.

Then, in one paragraph, he claims that the young and workers are likely to bear the brunt of spending cuts. And that is what garners criticism.
written by harold, March 21, 2011 1:44
Mandatory retirement (with adequate pensions) would seem to be an prosocial and ethical thing to bring back, to make room for younger people to have jobs. --That and lowering the defense budget and top salaries through caps and taxation.
written by kharris, March 21, 2011 3:15
As for Baker's argument, well, pretty good until he changed it at the end. The people who grow rich through keeping gains to themselves and shedding the risk to the Treasury, those who think they have done something valuable by, as DeLong describes it, smearing themselves with glue and stepping into a stream of money, are rivals to the rest of us for welfare. But at the end, Baker just calls them "richer than us". That's probably not true, and certainly not wise or useful. In the same sense that not all the people of one warring country are enemies to all the people of the other warring country not all people richer than us are our economic rivals. The ones who are in the trenches, fighting for our money are our rivals.

On to the intergenerational argument. The structure of our system of payments to the elderly is problematic, but that doesn't make the young and the old enemies. It is medical costs, not Social Security, that is going to bust the budget. It is the decision to pay too much for medical care and to politicize it in a particularly US way that has let medical care in the US to be more costly and less effective than in other rich countries. Who is our nemisis in this story? I would argue that insurance execs and share holders are, as are the politicians they purchase for cheap. We are certainly a wealthy enough society to pay for quite good medical care for everyone. If there is a rivalry between the old and the rest, it is one that has been created for a reason, not a natural split.
No sarcasm that I can see Aaron.
written by fuller schmidt, March 21, 2011 3:19
The debate is a stand-in for the debate about increasing aggregate demand, which would benefit young workers. And if I'm missing your perfectly covert sarcasm, why bother in this forum.
But there is a flipside too ......
written by Matt, March 21, 2011 3:44
The powers have always looked to create division, be it a generation war or a class war.

But the old have done it to the young as well. They have convinced senior citizens that they no longer should pay property taxes and support the schools because they no longer have children.

In addition you have older workers that have sold away the protections to younger workers in order to save their own nest eggs at the expense of younger workers.

It's the same coin ... it is not only what is taught to the young, but what is used to scare the old too.
written by urban legend, March 21, 2011 4:33
Some of the young seem not to understand that they are going to be old someday, and that we who are fighting against the anti-Social Security people are trying to protect it for them. Nobody's even suggesting taking away anything from us who are already there. You are our kids -- my family is fighting the out-of-college employment fight, too -- and we want you to have the same lifetime benefits we had or, preferably, better ones.

It is a fight between ordinary Americans and the rich, period. It's not because they are rich per se, but because, selfishly, they are using their ability to control government (1) to prevent it from doing anything to limit the absolute discretion to use the corporate form of business governance to essentially steal from the corporation and enrich themselves to the extent they want, (2) to prevent the non-rich from forming organizations that would improve their ability to claim larger wages and benefits in the first place, and (3) to keep from paying as much in taxes as the country needs them to pay for government to do what the majority of Americans want it to do.

There could be a few other issues, but by far that's the big one. The American rich are selfish and greedy, and they are using government to get everything they want.
written by Jay, March 21, 2011 5:15
I would posit that a lot of people that don't have their benefits on the line have made similar statements. The job situation is bad out there for young people, especially those that incurred substantial student loans for an education to only be told they don't have X year's of job experience doing something incredibly specific.

However, the problem isn't our elders. They would probably love to be retired if the past two bubbles didn't destroy their nest eggs. It's the sorry state of labor rights, management that cost cuts to make up for lazy strategy, political appointees in regulation with obvious conflicts of interest or loyalty concerns, exploitation of foreign labor, condonation of anticompetitive business practices, financial dishonesty, and political representation that collects donations or consulting gigs from the very businesses that promote all of those problems.
written by Tempus Fugit, March 21, 2011 6:20
The young should be wary of being manipulated by those grotesquely wealthy.

The 10% unemployment rate is not going to be halved by getting people to retire, people who still have useful contributions to make. It's going to be halved when the Fed gets off their butts and stops protecting the banks and their insanely wealthy clientele.

Us normal people do care about our kids, and we want jobs for you just as much. We understand that this burst bubble is not only costing your generation jobs, but it will have a life-time effect of lower wages and stunted careers. If we were actually in the position of power to do something, we would. Obama's treasury team is to blame in part for continuing the misguided policies of the past.

But to blame me or my parents, who wish the same security for our kids, and grandkids, and greatgrandkids, well that's not just ignorance but it's a mindset manipulated by the wealthy, a strawman that will make no difference in the outcome if it were allowed to change. Don't fall for it, kids, they're baiting you!
written by Cry me a River, March 21, 2011 6:47
Young people are angry because the economic policies older people voted for have led to current account deficits and deficits. You already spent your social security on wars, tax-cuts and cheap oil and imports. Why didn't you save your tax-cut money? Why didn't you save the money you were saving from not paying more for tube socks? That's what you voted for?!

Anyhow, there is never a good reason to be vindictive, no matter how little they seem to care about the future of the nation. We are all Americans and share sacrifices equally...yeah, even if the Boomers don't know that... The Baby Boomers will already suffer double for their mistakes. Housing prices are still contracting and the stock market is very volatile. QE will cause inflation which will eat up their fixed income budgets. Cutting social security is not a good option. Medical inflation needs to be handled through reform. The next ten years will suck for young people, but afterward it will be ok.
written by Ivan Karamazov, March 21, 2011 7:30
This article makes the American people look like a bunch of children playing musical chairs. When the music stops - and there aren't enough chairs - we fight amongst ourselves.

Instead of fighting amongst ourselves we need to locate the individual removing the chairs - grab the chairs that are left - and deliver several well-placed jabs. (Remember the last scene with Joe Pesci at the end of Casino?)

Or maybe that's just me.

* Full disclosure: I'm in my early twenties.
written by Min, March 21, 2011 9:13
The young get old, but the poor do not get rich.
written by harold, March 22, 2011 12:44
I am not young and greedy for a job. In fact my spouse and I are retired. I also admired my father in law when he retired at seventy to make way for younger people though mandatory retirement had been abolished in his profession and he could easily have continued to work productively. He did it because he felt it was the ethical thing.

It is in enlightened self-interest for young people to support adequate pensions and social security for older people because they have parents and grandparents whom they don't want to see on the street or humiliated by dependency on them. The social safety net benefits everyone and helps the economy.
what a disappointing example of precocious youth
written by quidproms, March 22, 2011 1:18
The elderly paid for their entitlements--that's why they are untouchable; skipping over a little nuance about projected ballooning health care costs. The mortgage interest deduction is not much lost revenue--Poterba and Sinai write it would be well under $100 billion--compared to the other sources of revenue that the rich are ripping off from the rest of us. No wonder this kid and his peer group can't get jobs--they just aren't as talented as they imagine themselves.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.