Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America's Young is the title of a newly published book by Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Myer. Ms. Furchtgott-Roth, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the director of its Economics21 project, was kind enough to answer some questions about the book for FutureOfCapitalism.com:
1. Your book describes the way that in education policy and entitlement programs, older Americans have structured a system that gives them an advantage at the expense of younger ones. Given the systemic tilt that you write about — older people vote, while younger people don't — is there any chance that this system will change for the better? How would that happen?
Young people embrace many causes with eagerness and enthusiasm. They throw themselves into campaigns to end investments in fossil fuels, in favor of oppressed Palestinians, and in favor of gay and transgender rights. We want to show them that they are being disinherited so they will take up their own cause with equal enthusiasm. But this is not an intergenerational battle. Older Americans, both middle aged and seniors, are also deeply troubled that their children and grandchildren cannot find jobs and, in some cases, are still living at home. Our book aims to educate them too so that they can see the consequences of what are often well-intentioned policies. The solutions we propose for entitlement reform—gradually raising the retirement age and replacing wage indexing with price indexing—would exempt people over 55, so those currently in the programs would not see their benefits decline. Retirees have nothing to lose.
2. What would you think of lowering the voting age to 12 from 18 to help counteract the effect you describe?
I don't think that people under 18 are well informed enough to vote. We think that educating older and middle-aged Americans is a more productive strategy. People care about their children, and need to understand the consequences of government programs and regulations. Why should it take longer to get trained to be a cosmetologist than an emergency medical technician? Why should interior designers and tree trimmers need licenses?
3. Another example often given of how the current generation is taking advantage of future generations is the environment. Today's users of fossil fuels are said to be polluting the environment and contributing to climate change that will make life difficult for future generations. What do you make of that claim? Is it another example of the "disinherited" phenomenon?
It's the reverse—environmental regulation is hurting job opportunities by driving jobs offshore. The air is getting gradually cleaner every year without additional new regulations as people phase out old cars and buy new ones, and companies replace old plants and equipment with new. New proposed EPA regulations on ozone, mercury, and CO2 will result in fewer jobs in the United States as states are forced to put in place State Implementation Plans that will reduce numbers of power plants and factories. This will worsen greenhouse gas emissions, because the factories will move offshore to places such as China and India with fewer clean air requirements.