John M. Grondelski writes on “connecting the generations” when we think about issues like youthful opportunity or planning for retirement:
America’s economic geniuses appear to assume that your situation in old age is your affair. Individually. No familial dimension. Certainly no corporate dimension after “pension reform” pushed responsibility for old age on employees. Uncle Sam’s role is conflicted: enhanced dependency (“pension reform” didn’t reduce tax bites much) on a system funded in such a way that, if it were not run by the government, would be an indictable Ponzi Scheme.
But if a system, modeled on youthful indebtedness followed by a lifetime of payoffs, deters or even prevents the young from taking greater responsibility for elders, the elders – two generations on from the “Great Society” that declared “war” on poverty – also increasingly face a situation where, having paid off debts, they are likewise deterred or even prevented from doing much for their kids.
With uncertainty about being able to rely on children, older Americans increasingly hold on to assets to provide for their old age, given that they are unaware of how many years they will have until the bucket will be kicked. Perhaps scheduled euthanasia should become an important element of financial planning?
Societal encouragement of economic models built on isolated individualism, which in practice pit generations against each other, is not just bad policy. From a Catholic social perspective, it’s inhumane and unjust because it is built on a false ideal of the person, shorn from relationality.
We are in need of an American family policy that moves beyond liberalism’s false vision of autonomy and right liberalism’s false vision of individualism. We need an American family policy, expressed through smart politics and economics, that prioritizes the family.