We’re roughly three groups of Americans: young, middle-aged and old. We have fancy names now: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, but we know who we are.
If we’re in our 20s or 30s, texting all the time on our smartphones and looking for more feedback and responsibility at work with less interference from both religion and our elders, we’re the youngsters.
If we’re in our 40s or 50s, changing jobs every other year, still listening to some punk rock and heavy metal and still wanting to change the kind of world we saw on “Welcome to the Doll house” — we’re the middle-aged
If we’re in our 60s, 70s or 80s, thinking about retirement but wondering how in the hell to do it now that the recession has sucked up all our savings, and remembering the good old days after World War II when America was vibrant and rich -- we’re the old folks.
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OK, but what do we have in common? A beautiful, productive, unbelievably rich country, that’s what we’ve got. We’ve got big cities and small towns, mountains and deserts, lakes and streams, and over 325 million people eager to continue making this the best country in the entire world. I’ve been in the Far East, the Near East, and all over Europe. Believe me, nothing compares to the good old U.S. of A.
But we’ve got a problem. A big problem. We owe $18 trillion in debt. It’s the largest debt in the world for a single country. Our federal government took in only $3 trillion in total revenue last year, and then spent it like a bunch of drunken sailors. How are we going to pay off that debt? How long do you think China and Japan will wait for their shares?
A third of that money is owed to us, to our Social Security and other trust funds. Over the next 20 years, the Social Security Trust Fund won’t have enough to cover the retirement benefits promised to Baby Boomers. So besides the foreign governments lunging for the throats of our government bureaucrats, we’re going to be screaming ourselves -- as soon as our liberal media decides to focus on this scandal. And the response will have to be: More taxes.
All of us are sick of taxes. Even Donald Trump does everything he can to lower his tax bill. But if our government can’t stop spending, (and it never has) the only answer is to tax. But what kind of a tax would we endorse? How could we ever trust our government officials to organize and execute a tax we’d approve?
Last week, my wife and I asked our favorite waiter, Jonathan, how he’s going to pay back his $18 trillion debt. Jonathan is currently working his way through college, and he didn’t hesitate to answer. Trillions of dollars didn’t seem to frighten him at all. He described a “fair tax” that sounded like a “D-SPLOST.” A federally sponsored D-SPLOST -- voted on by all -- that would be used exclusively for the deficit.
Now Jonathan is too young to remember how our politicians robbed our Medicare Fund to pay for other things, and he probably doesn’t yet recognize that our Congress sometimes acts like a bunch of irresponsible teenagers. But he will; he’s thinking. And I have a feeling his generation will put restrictions on our legislators that we failed to do.
So we have a country to be proud of, and three groups of Americans:
The old folk. Gray-haired men and women with fond memories of a great country and who are not ashamed to fly our flags, sing our songs and tell our stories because we fought the wars that kept us free.
The middle-aged. Balding men and dieting women who raise our families and go to work every day and worry constantly about the youngsters who are coming up behind them.
The youngsters. The future of our country, of our states, of our cities and towns. Eighty million young men and women who will inherit our successes and our failures and who will transform this country into their own digital image.
And you know what? With 80 million Jonathans, I’m not worried at all.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is www.billcummings.org.