Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Maybe the president is right for once: of the young and our trust for the government

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo does a great job of countering the nekkid emperor's continuing assertions that social security is falling apart and will die a swift and inglorious death unless he swoops down and saves us from ourselves (like he did in Iraq). He quotes the president on the youth perspective on the whole mess:

> Today the president said: "Most younger people in America think they'll >never see a dime [from Social Security]. Probably an exaggeration to a certain >extent. But a lot of people who are young, who understand how Social >Security works, really do wonder whether they'll see anything."

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: January 09, 2005 - January 15, 2005 Archives

Josh explains quite well why the president is wrong, and I agree with his points, but in a different way the president is right (although it doesn't support his assertions): most young people don't expect social security to be there for us.

But not because we think the system itself is flawed, but rather because we know there are folks like the president in the government whittling away at anything that is good and precisely for that reason we do not trust the government. Period. I believe that there are any number of programs that work amazingly well and should be expanded, but if I go away and come back later I don't trust that things will still be where I left it. After Nixon and Reagan (and in certain ways Clinton; the first bush just really didn't seem organized enough to change a table setting) and Vietnam and the Iran-Contra crap, faith in our government isn't exactly soaring and this isn't an attitude that we acquired; we have been raised with it. Our default expectation for the government is failure.

We have to be heartily convinced that any program that we have not had personal, direct interaction with is good and no twenty-something knows anything of social security personally except that some of our money goes there from every check. We are not a generation that believes in institutions or public figures.

But we love the things we feel we can trust (institutionwise, I personally only really allow myself the indulgence of trusting National Geographic, which may seem silly or trivial, but you have to hang on to something and I think I have picked well) and don't have an aversion to stability. We just expect otherwise.

Just look at how we approach employment. I do not expect to hold a single job for the rest of my life. I do not expect to stay at a single company or organization. I have already work at more varied things than can be counted on one's hand, and I think the same is true for most of my peers. How many different jobs did our parents have by 27?

So maybe lil' bush is right for once; we do not expect social security to be there when we get old. We expect him or someone like him to manage to destroy it long before then.

No comments: