A Politics of Investment

The current issue of National Journal has a pathbreaking article by Ron Brownstein, "the Gray and the Brown."  that I think is one of the most important articles I've read all year.  This is one of those preverbial "must reads."  The article grew out of a forum Brownstein and National Journal hosted recently at the Newseum, and I am honored, and excited to have been able to participate in both the forum and the piece itself.  To give you a flavor of the article's remarkable argument, I offer up this passage which concludes with some quotes from me:

"A Titanic Battle"

What's clear is that demographics aren't going to provide much relief from these pressures for decades. As the minority population ages, it will make up a steadily increasing share of seniors over the coming decades, Frey notes. But the minority share of the youth population will continue to grow at a comparable pace. So, the chasm between the mostly white senior population and the mostly minority youth -- the cultural generation gap -- could remain as large as it is today through 2030, before narrowing slowly in the decades thereafter.

If anything, the nation's evolving demography may wind these tensions even more tightly. While the share of the population represented by young people is expected to stabilize at just under one-fourth, the senior share is projected to steadily rise from about one-eighth today to one-fifth by 2040. By Frey's projections, that will slowly shrink the working-age population -- those who provide the tax base for young people and seniors alike -- from about 63 percent of the society now to 57 percent by 2030.

In that world, the generational and racial implications of the choices between tax cuts and spending reductions, and between public spending aimed at the old or the young, could grow increasingly explicit and explosive. Rosenberg isn't alone in believing that the way the United States sorts through those options will powerfully shape not only its economic but also its social future. "The challenge for us in the next few years is creating a politics of investment during a time of potential austerity to make sure that we're ... funding the future and not the past," Rosenberg says. "This is going to be a titanic battle not only at the federal level but at the state level as well."