I, like many of us, have been thinking about how to improve our message. One thing that struck me: millions of Americans apparently voted with little or no concern to our entitlement crisis. Voters aren’t stupid. I’m sure many, if not most, knew that a second Obama term and a Democratic Senate would lead to continued runaway spending. Yet they didn’t care. Why?
Then, I was reminded that many of my friends, who are 50 or younger, have long thought that they would never get a fraction of the federal entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, etc…) their grandparents receive and parents will receive.
Is is possible, then, that warnings about the entitlement crisis fall on deaf ears, because people aren’t counting on receiving those entitlements anyway?
The people I know don’t begrudge their parents and grandparents relying on SS, Medicare and other federal benefits. They feel they’ve earned them. And, for a while at least, they’re willing to pay taxes that fund benefits for their elders.
For themselves, though, they paid attention to Ross Perot in 1992, when he made the growing federal debt a national issue. They got the message twenty years ago that federal entitlements were on an unsustainable path. Then, they either planned accordingly and built personal financial plans that didn’t rely on federal benefits. Or, they did nothing. But, either way, they didn’t really expect to get the same benefits their parents did.
So, when those younger voters see Heritage Foundation charts that show, unavoidably, that federal entitlement spending cannot be sustained, they mentally shrug. They already knew that!
Moreover, I think these voters have silently resolved that they’re not going to allow their wealth to be confiscated to pay for unrealistic entitlement spending promises. Office-holders that try to make them pay won’t be in office for long. As Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit says, spending that can’t be sustained, won’t be. People will not stand by silently while their pockets are emptied, to pay the bills of older people who promised (and voted) themselves entitlement benefits and then sent the bill to their children.
I think many Americans are looking at the entitlement bills we’re running up for ourselves, and saying to themselves “Screw that—I’m not paying that.”
How, then, do we reach people who aren’t really scared by the entitlement bubble? People who expect that bubble to pop long before they retire?