We talk a lot these days about global warming and the war in Iraq, but it remains that, by far, the greatest threat to future living standards lies with a long-neglected, but much-anticipated development: the retirement wave that began just this year, as the first baby boomers claimed Social Security. Over the next 19 years, boomers will be joining the retirement rolls at an average of 11,000 a day. Because most haven't saved very much, and because health costs have been, and are expected to continue rising much faster than wages or Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, boomers stand to be more dependent on those who follow than any generation before them. Unless our leaders develop the foresight and courage to address this generational challenge, today's twenty-somethings, who are now just entering the workforce, will face a future of stagnant or declining living standards. Their children could do even worse.
The great tragedy of our democracy is that young people, who have the greatest stake in policies designed to reflect society's long-range interests, tend to have the shortest-term political horizons. That has to change. Hopefully that change begins right now, with YES.