We’re not broke ... and we must invest in young people or the old folks will lose
(Blog) Mark Trahant: We’re not broke ... and we must invest in young people or the old folks will lose
Google the phrase, “we can’t afford,” and some 209 million results pop up that capture our Great Public Debate. Articles range from a defense of any public program, schools, health care, fighting homelessness, to preservation of the U.S. military. On the other side of the Google divide different articles suggest we can no longer afford Social Security, Medicaid or just about any of the social programs operated by government.
But if you Google the phrase, “we’re broke,” there are only 92 million returns. The stories are far less divergent. The storyline, “we’re broke” seems to be sticking. It’s become accepted (although there are a growing number of logical challenges). Much of that discourse stems from the drumbeat from Speaker of the House John Boehner who along with fellow Republicans, often repeats “we’re broke” as an answer to just about any question. (Or “broke going on bankrupt.”)
However both the “what-can-we-afford?” and “we’re broke” arguments miss big it comes to answering the questions “Who are we? What kind of country do we want to be? And what’s really important to our future success?” Answer those first, then you can debate what resources are required to get there.
We can’t develop a national strategy if our policy choices are simply reactive. To me, the best public policy decisions reflect an understanding of where we need to go, matched by the data from existing demographics. We should start with who are we? That’s the critical question to answer before we debate resources
Who are we? We are divided by demographics. We are older and white; we are younger and brown. It’s those two trends that we must figure out before we answer any question about resources.
Consider New Mexico as the future of America.
“There are going to be more and more states that are going to look like New Mexico,” Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks international demographics, said in The Denver Post.
New Mexico grew 13 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 2.1 million people. The state’s Latino population accounted for 78 percent of that growth -- and now account for 46 percent of the population. It’s not a majority -- yet. And American Indians are nearly 9 percent of the state. Both groups have an average age population that is far younger than the rest of the country. Indeed, nationally, another way to look at the data is that Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, African American and Asian American populations will represent the majority of all children by as soon as 2023.
But the elderly are growing fast too. New Mexico’s 60-year-old plus population is now 18 percent and in by 2025 is projected to top 30 percent of the population. Elders are picking sun belt states like New Mexico to live. As demographer William H. Frey put it a few years ago for The Brookings Institute: “The aging of the baby boom generation makes pre-seniors this decade’s fastest growing age group, expanding nearly 50 percent in size from 2000 to 2010. Poised
to create a “senior tsunami” beginning in 2011, this group will be more highly educated,have more professional women, and exhibit more household diversity than previous generations entering traditional retirement age.”
Who gets to pay for this senior tsunami? Of course the younger people who will soon represent the majority of this country. But this becomes a thorny question when it’s framed by the discourse about being broke.
We’re already telling the future bill payers that we can’t afford to educate this cohort of Americans (unless they amass unbelievable amounts of debt). Or we can’t afford to keep them healthy. And we can’t afford to invest in new ideas that create jobs for this growing group of people (even when we know the current structure of jobs won’t be enough).
This is backwards. We need a new social contract -- a governing agreement -- that promotes the idea that if we invest in young Latino, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, then perhaps, just perhaps, they will agree to tax themselves enough to pay the bills for a society with a large population of older, whiter Americans. This social contract assumes the older population will, in turn, invest now in the future generations promise.
If we think we as a nation think we are broke now, imagine what it will be like if the next generation refuses to pick up the tab.
Other Blog Posts by This Author
Mark Trahant: How to stop the sequester: Win the next election
(Washington D.C.) -- A couple of weeks ago I was on Capitol Hill. In between meetings, I sat in the sun and watched tourists come and go. I also saw the First Amendment...
Mark Trahant: The politics of Republican vs. Republican
(Washington D.C.) -- Two years ago President Barack Obama met with House Republicans during their retreat in Baltimore. He said it was important to “visit the...
Mark Trahant: Cheap money: Why the debt-limit fight matters
(Washington D.C.) -- It’s easy to be gloomy about the prospects of the United States government. The country, after all, owes a boat load of money and the...
Mark Trahant: Congress’ fight over status quo means another shutdown of government
(Washington D.C.) -- The Idaho congressional delegation represents the divide that is the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Mike Simpson, from...
Mark Trahant: Supreme Court’s affirmation of ‘ObamaCare’ means a fundamentally different debate; Indian Health Care Improvement Act is permanent
(Washington D.C.) -- The entire debate over “ObamaCare” is now fundamentally different. It’s the law of the land that has been upheld by the Supreme...
Mark Trahant: Voter registration at Indian Health clinic is a way to boost number of Native Americans at polls
(Washington D.C.) -- Voting should be easy, almost routine. If it’s election day ... we should vote. It’s that simple because it’s the very foundation...
Mark Trahant: State of the Union, Part 2: A call for votes and resources from America’s first nations
(Washington D.C.) -- The National Congress of American Indians every year releases its “State of Indian Nations,” an alternative prospect for the Congress...
Mark Trahant: State of the Union, Part 1: It’s time to invest in young people
(Washington D.C.) -- Presidents are required to be optimistic.The American people expect it -- and reward those politicians who know their lines. President Barack Obama...
Mark Trahant: Repeal of Affordable Care Act is not a likely election outcome
(Washington D.C.) -- A question for any Republican running for any federal office: If you are successful repealing “ObamaCare,” what happens to the Indian...
Mark Trahant: Health care remains the 2012 election riddle
(Washington D.C.) -- This election ought to be about one issue, a referendum on health care reform. Republicans say it’s about repealing Obamacare. Every candidate...
Mark Trahant: Winning the day: Indian Country’s election year begins now
(Washington D.C.) -- Happy New Year. Or, I should say, happy election year. From now on the national election for president (as well as the house and the senate) shifts...
Mark Trahant: Not a bad federal budget, only consider it as a transition plan
(Washington D.C.) -- I’ve been writing a lot lately about the Era of Contraction -- the shrinking of the federal government -- and what that policy means to Indian...
Mark Trahant: Why the payroll tax fight matters
(Washington D.C.) -- Congress has a long to-do list to complete before the end of the year. It must enact a budget, either a real one, or for most federal agencies, a...
Mark Trahant: President Obama says Indian Country is at a turning point. But heading in what direction?
(Washington D.C.) -- Politicians are required to be optimistic. It’s the first tool in their bag. And a president of the United States is even more optimistic than...
Mark Trahant: ‘Big Deal’ is the coming federal budget cuts
(Washington D.C.) -- Last December hundreds of American Indian and Alaska Native leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. for the second White House Tribal Nations...
Mark Trahant: Congressional legacy: A failure to govern
(Washington D.C.) -- A simple statement from the two co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “After months of hard work and intense...
Mark Trahant: Whooshing past the strict congressional deadline for difficult budget choices
(Washington D.C.) -- The United States Congress is debating two important principles. There is the idea that a strict deadline forces action. (Or, more accurately, as...
Mark Trahant: Why vote? Because even imperfect elections still matter
(Washington D.C.) -- We know democracy’s slogan: “Elections matter.” Or if that doesn’t work, draw on so many other oft-repeated phrases that...
Mark Trahant: “Termination, Self-Determination and now Contraction: Navigating a new era.”
(Oregon) -- Thank you for inviting me to speak this morning. This is a particular honor for me. When I was a kid I used to spend time here in Portland with a man I...
Mark Trahant: Remember health care reform? Law, funding remain on separate and unequal tracks
(Washington D.C.) -- Remember health care reform? The Republican presidential candidates all promise repeal just as soon as they win the White House. But we ought to ask...
Mark Trahant: Budget cuts will repeat a tragic history
(Washington D.C.) -- Tribal leaders went to Capitol Hill last week to make the case to protect American Indian and Alaska Native programs from the deep federal spending...
Mark Trahant: Looking at the federal budget as metaphor
(Washington D.C.) -- There are many ways to look at America’s shift into the Era of Contraction. Budget numbers tell part of the story. Words of elected leaders...
Mark Trahant: A road less traveled, a journey through the Era of Contraction
(Idaho) -- I drove across the Northwest this past weekend. A 1,700-mile trip from Idaho to Seattle, returning via rural roads in Washington, and freeways in Idaho and...
Mark Trahant: Era of Contraction (like termination) begins slowly; tribes have time to find new resources
(Washington D.C.) -- It’s nearly impossible to know when a new political era has begun for certain. Congress enacted House Resolution 108 on August 1, 1953,...
Mark Trahant: President must sell a complicated jobs program to a simple-minded Congress
(Washington D.C.) -- President Barack Obama must sell a complex idea to a Congress that prides itself on simplicity. This Congress, namely the House Republicans, were...
Mark Trahant: It sounds reasonable: Just cap the spending. Only reality is harmful to people & budgets
(Washington D.C.) -- It sounds reasonable: Why not just cap federal spending? Make every agency operate with the money that’s already there. This notion has common...
Mark Trahant: Administration proposes to ‘double down’ on federal spending cuts
(Washington D.C.) -- So far, most of the government’s austerity movement has been theoretical. We know the federal budget is shrinking, but the evidence of that...
Mark Trahant: A hell of a way to run a country ... full speed traveling in different directions
(Washington D.C.) -- It’s a hell of a way to run a country. Last week a federal appeals court ruled at least one major provision of the the Affordable Care Act is...
Mark Trahant: The Federal Budget Is The March of Folly
(Washington D.C.) -- The late historian Barbara Tuchman described the ineptness of government decision-making in her book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. She...
Mark Trahant: Yea! The President and Congress found compromise in a deadline deal ... now let the real debate begin
(Washington D.C.) -- There’s nothing like deadline to produce a deal: The president and congressional leaders reached an agreement over the weekend to increase the...
Mark Trahant: Dental health therapist program is the essence of excellence and self-determination
(Alaska) -- Conan Murat has a tough schedule. About every other week he packs up a portable dental office, checks his groceries, sleeping bags and other supplies, then...
Mark Trahant: Summer reading add perspective to current debates about American Indian policy
(Idaho) -- The debt ceiling negotiations are deep underground. While there’s plenty of action on the surface, posturing, mostly, there are also quiet talks about...
Mark Trahant: Country’s problems are too complex for 140 character answers or political slogans
(Washington D.C.) -- Last week President Barack Obama held his first town hall on Twitter. A really great idea and I plunged in with this question: “#AskObama...
Mark Trahant: Throw away the old playbook: Tribes and counties are better off working together as neighbors
(Washington D.C.) -- Idaho’s Bannock County is considering an ordinance that would create an “overlay” zoning district on the Fort Hall Indian...
Mark Trahant: States and tribes better off working together in this new Era of Constriction
(Washington D.C.) -- The new Era of Constriction -- shrinking all levels of government -- is both an opportunity for tribes and a threat. First, the problem....
Mark Trahant: How bad is the economy? We’re halfway to a lost decade
(Washington D.C.) -- How bad is this economy? Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote in The Financial Times this week that the United States is now halfway to...
Mark Trahant: Where are Indian Country’s jobs?
(Washington D.C.) -- Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics started a frenzy when it released its latest job report, showing that only 54,000 jobs were added to the...
Mark Trahant: Will Indian Country be excited by President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012?
(Washington D.C.) -- Canada just finished its national elections and the governing Conservative Party expanded its majority in parliament. Last week Prime Minister...
Mark Trahant: Republican divide about Medicare should reopen the health care reform debate
(Washington D.C.) -- Republican Party unity on the issue of a massive restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid (if there is such a thing) ended this weekend. Presidential...
Mark Trahant: Tribes should develop foreign policies to counter U.S. policy of contraction
(Washington D.C.) -- Nobel winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is trying to change the national debate about the deficit, the role of government and the impact of those...
Mark Trahant: Debt limit debate matters to Indian Country
(Washington D.C.) -- Sometimes it’s easy for Indian Country to ignore the huge challenges facing the United States. After all, there are so many immediate and...
Mark Trahant: The family math doesn’t work when it costs $100 to fill-up a pickup truck
(USA) -- A few weeks ago Bloomberg News reported that Saudia Arabia is investing $100 billion in renewable energy sources. In other words the country with the largest...
Mark Trahant: There are a lot of tall tales told about taxes
(Washington D.C.) -- Tall tales are fun. Most of us love the story about the day we scored perfect on a test, caught the biggest fish or won a bunch of cash at the...
Mark Trahant: Bringing stories about sex abuse in Alaska Native communities into the light
(Alaska) -- It’s trite to write that winter days are short this far north. And it is remarkable watching the sun skate through the sky in such a hurry to disappear...
Mark Trahant: Ryan proposes a fundamental change to Medicaid -- and it would be bad
(Washington D.C.) -- The national budget debate is multi-directional. Most of the story, so far, has centered on this year’s federal spending, basically how to...
Mark Trahant: A year after health care reform the discourse of termination returns in the battle of ideas
(Washington D.C.) -- Just over a year ago President Barack Obama signed the health care reform bill into law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That...
Mark Trahant: We’re not broke ... and we must invest in young people or the old folks will lose
(Washington D.C.) -- Google the phrase, “we can’t afford,” and some 209 million results pop up that capture our Great Public Debate. Articles range...
Mark Trahant: Japan reminds us about the inevitability of chaos
(Idaho) -- Like most people I watched the events in Japan unfold on cable and through Facebook throughout the weekend. It’s great to see posts from friends and...
Mark Trahant: Contraction policy will cost Indian Country thousands of good paying jobs
(Washington D.C.) -- Finally the economy seems to be creating jobs again. Last week a federal jobs survey showed an increase in 222,000 private sector jobs, a full year...
Mark Trahant: Test of values: Strategies for Native communities to weather Congress
(Washington D.C.) -- This week represents, perhaps, the most important week of lobbying for tribal nations since the end of the termination era. At a variety of meetings...
Mark Trahant: What is ‘Plan B’ for tribes if there is a federal government shutdown?
(Washington D.C.) -- Is there a Plan B? That is the question tribes, Indian organizations and government agencies should be asking -- and answering because it...
visionary sponsor advertisement
Most Popular Stories