University News

Speakers call on youth to spur economic reform

The talk emphasized today’s budget policy and its consequences for the next generation

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The event — the audience of which filled List 120 — aimed to unite people from across the political spectrum to address major policy issues, said Sam Gilman ’15, president and co-founder of Common Sense Action.

“My generation is stealing a whole lot of money and leaving your generation with a whole lot less of the economic pie,” Stanley Druckenmiller, former chairman and president of Duquesne Capital, told a nearly full auditorium yesterday afternoon in List Art Gallery 120.

Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, were the featured speakers at “Breaking Promises: The Young’s Declining Share of the Economic Pie,” an event hosted by Common Sense Action Brown University and the Office of the President, with co-sponsors from various political action groups across the political spectrum.

The Republican and Democrat teamed up to present statistics about the portion of the national budget allotted to entitlements for senior citizens and called the youth of the audience to put pressure on politicians to change funding policy.

In the past 40 years, transfer payments — government distributions of money, including social security — have jumped from 28 percent of government expenditures to 68 percent, Druckenmiller said.

“If you look at the budget for the United States … what you will find is that government spending is set to grow $1 trillion,” Druckenmiller said. Though there will be an $875 billion increase in spending on programs geared toward the elderly or poor — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — the amount budgeted for children will only increase by $6 million.

Canada, whose organization seeks to give children in Harlem opportunities to attend college and “live the American dream,” said he was appalled to discover that national fiscal policy might make this dream impossible for them.

“My generation set out to leave this (country) a better place than we found it,” Canada said. “In the end, (the next generation is) going to get ripped off. This is something to me that’s un-American, and I felt that we need to do something about it.”

“The one group in America you don’t have to worry about being taken advantage of are the seniors,” he added, noting that AARP has successfully elicited national support for entitlements and is set to maintain its influence.

The youth, who “don’t really vote and don’t really have a lot of financial power,” have been overlooked in terms of budget policy, Druckenmiller said.

Lack of government transparency about revenue and debt allows the issue to be buried, he added. The $17 trillion national debt jumps to $205 trillion when the calculation includes promised future payments on Social Security and Medicare, he said. “The only company I know that does their books like the (United States) is Enron.”

The crisis point might be more than a decade away, but “if you wait, the cost of fixing the problem (rises) exponentially over time” as interest on outstanding loans accumulates, Druckenmiller said, presenting several hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the problem of the country’s growing debt. Though a 55 percent tax hike could pay off all debt this year, a 65 percent increase would be needed if the country waits 20 years. In 30 years, taxes would have to increase by 72 percent to cover all debts, he said.

Young people have great power to spur large-scale change, Druckenmiller said. “Even though your generation doesn’t vote as much as mine,” young people’s advocacy has impacted President Obama’s environmental policy, and “we have gay marriage pretty much cascading throughout the country now,” he said.

“You guys need to put pressure on both parties,” he told the audience of students and professors. This way, one of the parties will see the issue of entitlement spending matters to voters and take measures to effect change, he said.

“We have time to address this, and we need to address it now,” he said.

The speeches were followed by a question-and-answer session, in which Druckenmiller and Canada addressed the issue of health care.

Though health care policy must be “worked out in the political area,” Druckenmiller said he believes the country should “get consumer choice back into the healthcare system” through direct customer payments, which would hold providers more accountable for prices.

Canada said he supports universal health care but still thinks the Affordable Care Act is fraught with problems.

“But I daresay if we put 20 young people from this college in a room, they would come up with ideas,” he said, adding that giving young adults more input in the future of health care is important because their generation will fund whatever plan is implemented.

Some audience members raised concerns that prioritizing youth could take needed money away from seniors.

“It’s really about equity, not about whether or not we should have entitlements,” which are necessary in some form, Canada said.

The event’s objective — which mirrors CSA’s overall goals — was to bring “Democrats, Republicans, students for liberty … and all other relevant political groups” together to discuss important issues, said Sam Gilman ’15, president and co-founder of CSA.

“We all realize that our generation needs to start a conversation and take action on these issues” to avoid the long-term consequences, he added.

CSA will discuss entitlement reform at its weekly meeting today, said Oliver Lyman ’15, director of policy for CSA. This discussion, as well as discussions about other current political issues, will be used to create an advocacy agenda for Brown CSA.

Students who attended the lecture said they appreciated the focus on numbers and facts rather than more generally biased statements.

Groups co-sponsoring the event included the Political Science Department Undergraduate Group, College Democrats of Rhode Island, College Republican Federation of Rhode Island, Brown Democrats, Brown Republicans, the Janus Forum, Brown Political Review, the Brown Political Forum, Brown University Students for Liberty and Brown Socially Responsible Investment Fund.

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  • ideology

    Geoffrey Canada is a known corporate shill peddling discredited educational mythology. Stanley Druckenmiller is a former venture capitalist spouting nonsense economics.

    Cutting Social Security and Medicare is good for the wealthy and no one else. Couching it in the guise of funding youth and bullshit about the debt (which is becoming less of a problem every day, if you look at actual numbers) is frankly absurd.

    These two represent a very specific ideology. Shame on the BDH and on “Common Sense Action” for pretending like they don’t, and shame on these two for trying to distract from the government takeover by the rich by waging bullshit generational warfare.

  • CORPORATE FINANCE

    You can’t ring the alarm about $205 trillion in future liabilities while completely ignoring the value of future assets. Obviously the present value of the United States’ assets now and forever into the future is more than $205 trillion.