While suffering through this federal debt-limit battle, think about something much more scary. Consider another story this week that relates to the financial crisis. Any tie-in may seem ludicrous, but bear with us.
The owner of McDain’s Restaurant in Monroeville, Penn., has banned children under age 6 to protect grumpy adults from the sights and sounds of babies.
“I’ve decided someone in our society had to dig their heels in on this issue,” owner Mike Vuick told the Wall Street Journal.
He is correct to call it an “issue.” The ban has unleashed praise from adults throughout the country who cannot wait to see this banishment become a trend. The Journal reports that just after Vuick announced the ban, his receipts rose 20 percent. Expect similar bans throughout the country. Old people used to dote over babies. Today they fuss about them.
Meanwhile, a foreign airline is banishing babies from first class — an ideal setting for parents with small children. Look for domestic airlines to follow suit.
Also this week, research of 2010 census figures showed that children under age 18 make up only 24 percent of the United States population — an all-time low. Of them, one in four is the child of a legal or illegal immigrant.
Those under 18 made up 30 percent of the population in 1980. In 1900, seniors over 65 made up only 4 percent of the U.S. population; by 2050, they will compose 20 percent.
As the average age rises, because millions of boomers passed on having kids, we may see growing intolerance toward children and their parents. Additionally, we will see an increasingly intractable crisis with government funding.
Members of our aging boomer population paid throughout their productive years for the retirements of older, smaller generations. Their Social Security and Medicare payments did not go into a lock box, where it awaits them. Their payments fed, clothed, sheltered and doctored their parents and grandparents.
So today, we have a dilemma. It is time for increasing numbers of boomers to do unto others as was done unto them. It is their turn to relax and enjoy life at the expense of America’s productive generations. Problem is, society cannot afford these retirements no matter what. Boomers did not produce enough workers to generate enough prosperity to tax. In this negligence, they ensured economic contraction. Something must give, and all options are ugly.
Here’s how economist Robert J. Samuelson put it: “Governing is about choosing, and in the budget debate, there are no popular choices. But the reality shaping them all is an aging society in which programs for the elderly are pushing the budget into growing disequilibrium.”
If we had merely a budget and debt crisis, as widely believed and reported, we could decide who should pay for whom, who’s entitlement should grow and whose should contract. It is far worse than that. We are at the dawn of a demographic catastrophe. Early signs are a political budget and credit-limit battle that seems impossible to resolve. It is brought to us by a generation that treats babies — society’s minority class of future tax servants — as second-class citizens. A wealthy culture that is too good for children destines itself to poverty.