What if they had a fiscal crisis, and nobody came? What if the chump generation figures out the Ponzi scheme? Bob Samuelson thinks the fallout will be political:
... As baby boomers retire, higher federal spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid may boost Millennials' taxes and squeeze other government programs. It will be harder to start and raise families.
Millennials [ages 30 and younger] could become the chump generation. They could suffer for their elders' economic sins, particularly the failure to confront the predictable costs of baby boomers' retirement.
Samuelson asks the question in a political context, and that's how most analysts interpret the looming fiscal crisis, as if young voters will punish fiscally irresponsible representatives in Washington. My alternative theory focuses on the context of immigration. Already you may have heard about the millions of illegals who departed the U.S. when the Great Recession dried up job opportunities. A lot of crass nativists might think "Good Riddance!" but I wonder what they'll say when their own children seek greener pastures abroad in 10 or 20 years?
Consider: almost everyone younger than the Baby Boomers expects to get the short end of the fiscal stick. We were laughing about the unlikeliehood of getting Social Securiyt Checks when I was in high school in the 80s. So now that the reckoning is all but unkickable, do the Boomers think their kids and grandkids will just become fiscal serfs? Think again.
The consequences of U.S. fiscal calamity will go hand-in-hand with globalization. The world is in the early stages of globalization, but already member states in the EU are feeling the effects of combining tax competition with the right of movement. A 2006 BBC report noted that nearly 10 percent of Britons lived aborad, a million in Spain. Two emigrant types dominate: retirees and workers! Here's a more recent report from the OECD
... the share of immigrants in the OECD population almost doubled from just over 4.5% in 1975 to 8.3% in 2005. It is also noteworthy that 45% of immigrants living in OECD countries in 2008 came from other OECD countries.
The threat America faces is a world that competes for our greatest natural resource: it's young. If we make the tax climate hellish, the U.S. is going to suffer outmigration as places like Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile realize what an opportunity they have to cream our entrepreneurial talent. If we don't, and let the deficit spiral out of control, the dollar will fall and workers will go elsewhere for value reasons. There's already a migratory tension in Europe, waged primarily with favorable tax treatment for high net worth immigrants.
Go ahead and worry about the fiscal crisis of 2020, and worry about its implications across the generations. Just make sure you worry on a big enough scale. We all know that globalization will deepen, and the national borders that seem so tall and vital today will look more and more like borders among the 50 states of yesterday. Remind me again, how difficult does Texas make it on fleeing Californians to move in to their state?
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