Apparently, apples don’t fall far from the tree

July 22, 2014

Millennials’ Political Views Don’t Make Any Sense,” the headline blared on The Atlantic website.

Just in case the headline wasn’t clear enough, the subhead added, “That’s not a harsh assessment. It’s just a fair description.” The story concerned a recent poll of Millennials, defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. It was conducted by the Reason Foundation.

Later, I saw two Fox News newscasters chuckling and rolling their eyes over the same poll results.

No wonder. Get a load of some of the responses: 65 percent of Millennials want to cut government spending.

But, 62 percent would like to spend more on infrastructure and jobs.

Here’s another: 66 percent of Millennials agree that “when something is funded by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.”

But, just as many think the government should guarantee food, shelter and a living wage.

Those silly, young Millennials. We Baby Boomers have done our best to raise them, educate them and help them become good citizens capable of making rational decisions.

But look what’s happened. They’ve become just like us! How is that even possible?

I mean, seriously, if there’s anything Baby Boomers shouldn’t be doing, it’s poking fun at the delusional politics of succeeding generations.

If Millennials have learned to resist logical choices, it’s because they learned from the masters.

Consider the past dozen or so years. We got into two wars and, for the first time in history, did not raise taxes to pay for them. We put both on the national credit card.

In earlier wars, Americans were called on to make sacrifices. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, President Bush called on us to continue shopping.

(Some contend Bush never said this, but in a December 2006 news conference, the president spoke of charting a “new course” in Iraq and then pivoted to the economy: “And I encourage you all to go shopping more.” You can find the transcript online.)

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

I battled my way through the trenches at Target and Walmart, son, armed only with my trusty Visa card.

If Bush had been more eloquent, he might have said, “The price of liberty is eternal shopping.”

And shop we did. Until the bottom fell out in 2008.

Now look at our current politics. At both the state and federal levels, we face huge shortfalls in our highway trust funds. The reason is obvious. Gas taxes haven’t been raised since the 1990s. Through inflation, we’ve effectively cut taxes at the pump.

The result: our roads are deteriorating and every year we delay will mean it will be that much harder to catch up. As a practical matter, we never will catch up. We used to be a world leader in the quality of our infrastructure. Now we’re slipping.

In Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell proposed a 10-cents-a-gallon increase in the gas tax. He might as well have called for a tax on air for all the support it received.

At the federal level, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware has been among the few willing to discuss raising the federal gas tax.

Carper called for a gradual increase from 18.4 cents a gallon to 30 cents a gallon. He even recommended tying the gas tax to the rate of inflation, an idea quickly dismissed as too logical. “Multiple bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund have added more than $54 billion to our nation’s debt since 2009,” Carper pointed out in a statement.

Carper’s plan went about as far as Markell’s.

But this summer, the federal Highway Trust Fund faced bankruptcy. That would mean the fund would be unable to meet its commitments to reimburse states for their road projects. That would bring a halt to projects nationwide.

Something had to be done. And something was. Sort of.

Congress came up with a new bill that would allow companies to set aside less money to fund their pensions.

In the short term, this would mean companies would report higher profits and pay higher taxes, with the money going to Highway Trust Fund.

In the long term, it’s a bizarre, half-baked way of solving exactly nothing.

We’re simply stealing future tax dollars. Eventually, those pensions will have to be properly funded, which will mean lower profits and lower taxes and, well, who cares? It won’t be our problem.

Naturally, the plan has received bipartisan support. It passed the Republican House and is expected to pass the Democratic Senate.

Pay attention, Millennials! This is how rational, tough-minded Baby Boomers tackle a problem. We kick the can down the road for the next generation.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.