By contrast, the sequester completely exempts Social Security and Medicaid, and only slightly nicks Medicare with limited reductions in payments to doctors and hospitals. This comes after Obama and congressional Republicans, in their 2011 deficit-reduction deal, already agreed to tightly cap discretionary spending for the next decade, while sparing entitlements.

These decisions will deepen the budget’s generational imbalance. In 1969, payments to individuals (mostly entitlements) and spending classified as investments in the future (such as education and research) each constituted one-third of the federal budget. Today, payments to individuals have doubled to more than three-fifths of the budget, while investments have plummeted below one-sixth. The Urban Institute calculates that the federal government spends about $7 per senior for each $1 it spends per child.

As American society ages, these trends will only worsen. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that if the 2011 spending caps and the approaching sequester are implemented, the discretionary spending that funds government’s key investments would equal just 2.6 percent of the economy by 2023, easily the lowest level on record. Meanwhile, entitlement spending and interest costs would soar past 17 percent of the economy. Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum, speaks for many Democratic experts, too, when he frets, “We are letting our past crowd out our future.”…

A generationally equitable debt solution would combine entitlement and tax reform with continued public investments in education, research, and other areas that could expand opportunities for future workers.