Monday, February 18, 2008

Mom, Dad, the Kids and Medicare––Would an Obama Presidency Energize Young Adults to Demand Entitlement Reform?

Barack Obama has made this election-year different. Not since the 1960s have young voters been so energized. One college town after another has voted big for him.

On entitlement issues like Social Security and Medicare, the political debate has always been dominated by what senior voters want. They have been the big and effective voter block that have managed to insulate these programs from any serious discussion about reform.

At the same time, younger voters have until now largely stayed home--conceding the entitlement debate to older voters that are getting or are about to get these benefits.

This week, USAToday reported that the 2007 federal government's cost of senior benefits (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) is now at a record $27,289 per recipient! Since 2000, that cost has increased 24% more than the rate of inflation.

While the number of US citizens over age 65 have held constant at 12% since 2000, the baby boomers start to turn age 65, and therefore qualify for Medicare, in 2011. They began to qualify for Social Security this year at age 62.

So, just as voters of younger age appear ready to return to the political debate in big numbers and become a factor, in 2007 Mom and Dad's entitlement benefits accounted for 35% of all federal spending--up from 32% in 2004.

USAToday says that the cost of senior benefits for every non-senior household is $10,673 a year. That's what each of these younger households are paying out for seniors.

So, two things are happening:
  • Senior entitlement costs are big and getting bigger--more than $10,000 per non-senior household.
  • Younger people are beginning to engage in the political system in big numbers for the first time in a generation.
What does this mean for the entitlement debate that has so far been dominated by AARP and the big reliable senior voting block?

Is it possible that the baby boomer's children are finally ready to say, "Wait a minute, we're the ones who have to pay for all of this!"

Would an Obama presidency turn the entitlement debate from being a constant defense of these entitlement programs to one where an energized younger generation finally, now ready to vote in big numbers, tells us they want entitlement reform?

If they are smart.
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