Federal policy decisions are frequently presented as issues of intergenerational equity. In some areas they clearly are, but others represent false dichotomies.
On the one hand, environmental policies and practices today clearly affect future generations. Climate change is probably the outstanding example. Fiscal policies too can have such intergenerational impacts. With the national debt at over $19 trillion, we cannot afford to finance expensive military ventures – in the case of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, as much $6 trillion – by borrowing and foisting the costs on future generations.
On the other, in the area of entitlements, policy issues are often unfairly posited as “zero-sum” choices between seniors and children. Social Security, Medicare and other earned benefits and federal assistance programs allow seniors to live independently, without burdening their families. Enhancing the health and education of our children through federal programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is an investment both in our families and in the future of the country. The two are complementary, both supporting family, societal and moral values.