Those running for office or holding office during the coming years, will determine the fate of the American Empire. In this video, what entitlements, demographics and a new superpower portend for those running for office and who will lead in the years to come.
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It was my recent privilege to speak to a group of young leaders at the Luce Foundation in New York about the challenges they will face when their generation is running the country. I share today some of what I told them, for it also affects those running for office, and all who live in the United States.
There is one constant in the American story. Every generation has been called to fix a problem that could not have been anticipated when they were born:
- Those born in the 1840’s had to fight a civil war unforeseen at the time.
- Those born in the 1890’s fought a world war ignited by the murder of a political figure in a foreign country 4,000 miles from America soil.
- Those born in the early 20th century had to slog through a depression, and fight a war ignited by a another madman in Europe.
- Those born in the 1940’s lived through the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, and many were asked to fight the most unpopular war the United States has ever waged.
None of these events I mentioned were foreseen when they were born. Today’s young generation will face problems that are unknowable, and unforeseeable.
They also face stark challenges that the baby boom generation has been unable to fix, and it will require some leadership skills that my generation has never been able to muster.
They will profoundly affect the course of the United States in the 21st century.
- The first is the cost of Entitlements.
- The second is the changing demographic makeup of the United States.
- The third is a rising superpower that 50 years ago was a bit player on the world stage.
Entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are consuming an ever greater share of the federal budget. Congress has mandated those bills be paid, regardless of the tax revenue collected by the federal government, regardless of the imperative or necessity of other programs funded by taxpayers.
Fifty years ago entitlements and interest on the national debt ate 38% of the federal budget. Today they consume more than 60%. They will continue to grow upward toward 80% in the near future, crowding the funds available for education, the law enforcement, roads, bridges, and our national defense.
Today’s young generation will have to make some hard choices my generation does not want to make.
About whether to reform entitlement programs. Or absent that, raising taxes to pay for them; Or absent that, borrowing money to pay for them, on top of the trillion dollar annual deficits we will soon have.
Demographics: Then there are the demographic challenges, starting with the size of the baby boom generation.
Problem #1- There are 75 million people in the United States born between 1946-1965. Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day, collecting social security and Medicare. They have voted themselves the most generous old age safety net ever afforded any generation in American history. They will live longer than any generation in American history.
Back when social security was started most people died before they were 73. A lot of them are going to live well into their 90’s. And the longer they live the more they will cost younger generations that are paying the bills.
Problem #2- the number of wage earners who are paying the bills of the beneficiaries.
Back in 1945 there were 42 workers for every person on social security. It was a good deal for the government. 42 workers paid a small portion of their salary to provide a social security check to a retiree, who drew a check for about five years before they died. Today there are only 2.5 workers for every person on social security, and many of those 75 million baby boomers are going to collect a social security check for 25 years instead of five.
Problem #3- is our declining birth rate
White Americans don’t make babies the way we used to. Birth control came along when I was a teenager. Because white Americans have had fewer babies than our parents and grandparents, we are leaving behind fewer workers.
Last year, more white Americans died than were born. We are going to need more taxpaying immigrant workers to support the generous entitlements we voted ourselves. A lot Americans that don’t want to hear that, but that is a truth about our changing demographics. Japan just threw open its doors to half a million new immigrants to support their aging population.
Finally, we face a challenge from a rising superpower.
In the early 20th century, there were 10 superpowers. By the end of the century American was the only one left. Today there are two: The United States and China.
China is on the rise. By some measures, it has already passed the United States in economic might. It is a nation with 1.4 billion, compared to our 325 million.
We have had a trade deficit with China since 1985. Last year it was more than 400 billion. They have used this massive transfer of wealth to build airports, roads, bridges, highways, housing, cities, skyscrapers.
They have created a massive middle class eager to improve their standard of living, creating demand for more of the world’s resources.
China has also rebuilt a once sorry army into a military superpower, and the day is coming when they will claim dominance over vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, not just the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
These are the known challenges the baby boomers we are going to hand off to the next generation. And then there are the unknown, and the unknowable.
The leadership skills of the next generation will determine the fate of the American Empire. We need to wish them well.
If are planning on running for office and hope to hold office in the coming years, you too will have to lead, and resolve differences in communities and a country that is more polarized today than it has been in my lifetime.
You will also need to elevate our current level of discourse, and rise above the hatred that poisons our politics.
If you are running for office and are looking for help, please visit my website at Jay Townsend.com
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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