Columnist Fareed Zakaria has an excellent article about how we’re doing exactly the wrong things needed for long-term economic growth. We’re cutting investment when we should be increasing it and we’re not touching entitlement programs that could use some reform.
But the part that really caught my eye was this bit on the disparity between what we spend on children versus the elderly:
As countries get rich, you might assume that they focus greater attention on their children. Not in the United States. The federal government’s expenditures on children have shrunk as a share of the budget over the past 30 years. In 1960, about 20 percent of the federal budget went to programs dedicated to the health, development and education of Americans under the age of 18. Today it’s 10 percent and falling.
By contrast, spending on the elderly has skyrocketed, doubling as a percentage of the budget during that time. Spending on Social Security and Medicare alone makes up close to 40 percent of the budget. In a decade, that share will rise considerably, perhaps to as much as half the federal budget. Whatever the exact percentages are – what you define as programs for children and the elderly can vary – the conclusion is clear: The federal government spends between $4 and $5 on elderly people for every dollar it spends on children.
Why is this happening? To put it bluntly, children don’t vote or make campaign contributions, and the elderly do both aggressively. Our political system is hyper-responsive to votes and money, so the natural consequence is that those who organize, vote and send in dollars are looked after. Maybe we need to let toddlers form PACs.
The whole article is worth a read and I encourage to check it out.