Sorry, baby boomers: We’re going to have to cut your entitlements

Yet, neither political party seems interested in reducing benefits for baby boomers. Doing so, it’s argued, would be “unfair” to people who had planned retirements based on existing programs. Well, yes, it would be unfair. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a worse time for cuts. Unemployment is horrendous; eroding home values and retirement accounts have depleted the elderly’s wealth. Only 19 percent of present retirees are “very confident” of having enough money to live “comfortably,” down from 41 percent in 2007, reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

But not making cuts would also be unfair to younger generations and the nation’s future. We have a fairness dilemma: Having avoided these problems for decades, we must now be unfair to someone. To admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving baby boomers alone. Baby boomers – I’m on the leading edge – and their promised benefits are the problem. If they’re off-limits, the problem is being evaded. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent two-fifths of federal spending, double defense’s share…

Just because this is an awful time to discuss these questions does not mean they shouldn’t be discussed. The longer we wait, the more acute our fairness dilemma grows. We can’t deal with it unless public opinion is engaged and changed, but public opinion won’t be engaged and changed unless political leaders discard their self-serving hypocrisies. The old deserve dignity, but the young deserve hope. The passive acceptance of the status quo is the path of least resistance – and a formula for national decline.