Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Big gap in spending on young, old

The numbers we present here

may seem very straightforward.

But they're not. As we discussed

them with experts all along the

ideological spectrum, several of them raised warning flags about taking

these figures uncritically.

For starters, choosing which factors to count, and which to exclude, can make a difference. As we see in these tables, adding in state and local expenditures greatly reduces — but certainly doesn't eliminate — the spending gap between elderly recipients and children.

And boiling it down to a zero-sum game between young and old can make it seem as if those were the only choices. Indeed, other portions of the federal budget could be targeted instead, from defense spending to interest on the debt. Or people might be willing to pay higher taxes for government to do more.

Perhaps most crucially, if you spend dollars on the old, that can indirectly aid the young, and vice versa.

Imagine you're a teenager. If the government didn't spend Social Security on your elderly grandfather or your disabled brother, your parents would have to pick up the slack — and your parents would have less money to spend on you. The reverse is also true: If your local government didn't spend money on your public school, your grandfather might have to shell out more money for your education, which would reduce the money he can spend on food and housing. Or perhaps you wouldn't be well educated at all and would be less likely to become a productive member of society. It has been estimated that spending three dollars for an elder saves one dollar for a child, and vice versa.

Finally, some experts suggest that the issue isn't spending on the elderly versus spending on children. Rather, it's a question of what policies can promote high employment and growth versus policies that promote consumption today.

Louis Jacobson, Times staff writer

Based on interviews with Eugene Steuerle, Julia Isaacs, Katherine Toran, Caleb Quakenbush (Urban Institute); Henry Aaron (Brookings Institution); Timothy Smeeding (University of Wisconsin); Douglas

Besharov (University of Maryland); Regan Lachapelle (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), Chris Edwards, Jagadeesh Gokhale (Cato Institute).

Big gap in spending on young, old 01/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 3:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005

    Bucs

    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  2. Crash at U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park kills one, shuts down traffic

    Accidents

    PINELLAS PARK — A man is dead after a crash between two cars at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and 70th Avenue N just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Pinellas Park police are investigating the death of a man during a crash on U.S. 19 early Saturday. (Pinellas Park police)
  3. Tropics watch: The latest on Harvey and what systems could hit Florida

    Weather

    While Eastern and Central America monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Harvey, two tropical disturbances are moving through the Atlantic.

  4. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge

    Bucs

    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]
  5. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.