Why do we spend so little on generations under age 45?, asks Dr. Paul Kershaw or readers of The Globe and Mail.
“As a generation of retiring parents risk watching their kids and grandkids fall behind, what do we make of current policy priorities in Canada?…The federal government spends more subsidizing livestock and agriculture than it does subsidizing moms and dads to spend time with a new baby. Provincial governments spend nearly as much subsidizing agriculture as they do child care (other than in Quebec).
“Why do we spend so little on generations under age 45? Part of the answer is that we are spending more elsewhere – including on older generations.”
The author identifies major areas where government spending or taxation favors the Boomers, principally in pensions and health care. Then he posits that, “Spending on older Canadians doesn’t have to come at the expense of spending on younger generations.” Well, short of across the board tax increases, Yes it does. Oh…I see where this is going.
“We now collect 5 per cent less of our economy in taxes than we did in the year 2000. That’s an $80-billion annual tax cut…Data show this massive tax cut hasn’t helped the average young family to bridge the gap between stagnant wages and high housing costs.” He points out that cutting taxes while increasing payouts to Boomers has walloped young families. Hard to argue with that.
But what’s the fiscal solution – restore tax revenues to where they would have been, sans cuts? Or trim benefits to Boomers by a similar amount and passing the benefits to our kids (in the form of greater incentives for saving, more affordable housing, lower cost student loans, dental care, child care, etc.)? (I need a separate Post to elaborate on this list.)
Neither of those fiscal solutions is going to be very attractive to Boomers, especially those who continue to pay taxes. Since taxes are legislated and legislators are elected and Boomers are a big part of the electorate and Boomers have traditionally voted in their narrow self-interest, I don’t think either of these “solutions” is likely to come about within the current mindset. What’s needed is a new mindset on the part of Boomers who are in a position to make a difference. I’ll need yet another post to flesh that one out.
Dr. Kershaw is an associate professor of public policy at the University of British Columbia’s Human Early Learning Partnership. His work specializes in “inter-generational inequities” – my kind of guy. He’s got a blog, A Canada that Works for All Generations,