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We wrecked the planet but if the young just read the Washington Post, they will only blame us for the national debt!

from Dean Baker

You have to love Robert Samuelson. He writes a column noting that baby boomers are leaving the workforce, and some are dying off, leaving the country to our children and grandchildren. He concludes the piece with a comment on the national debt.

“To boot, there’s also a massive federal debt. Good luck.”

Given the enormous damage that we have done to the environment, our children and grandchildren would be enormously forgiving if all they blamed us for is the national debt. Of course, since we (baby boomers) will all be dead at some point, we will also be passing on the bonds that constitute the national debt to our children and grandchildren.

Most kids will not be inheriting bonds, due to the inequality of wealth, but at some future point the debt will be held by the children and grandchildren of Bill Gates and his ilk, making the debt an issue of intra-generational inequality, not inter-generational inequality. But even beyond this logical point, the burden of the debt is also relatively low these days, around 1.0 percent of GDP, as opposed to 3.0 percent of GDP in the early 1990s. So it’s hard to see what the big deal is.

Also, Samuelson consistently ignores (like all deficit hawks) the implicit debt that the government creates by granting patent and copyright monopolies. These government-granted monopolies raise the price of items like prescription drugs, medical equipment, software, and other products by many hundred billion dollars annually above the free market price. Yet, the deficit hawks want us to pay no attention to this burden. If I were more cynical I would think they were getting money from the interest groups that benefit from these monopolies.

Anyhow, if the only thing our kids think we did was wrong was run up a large government debt, then we failed big-time in giving them a decent education.