THE DOUBLE PLUG....

THE DOUBLE PLUG. Folks really should read the Dean Baker article that the shadowy figures known as "The Editors" plug below. Baker takes on a couple of the canards meant to scare us into fearing a society with a whole lot of old people, most importantly the "how will we support them!?" fear:

We know that, barring an economic catastrophe, workers will be far more productive in 2035 than they are today. Technology will continue to improve, computers will get better, workers will be more educated. Even if productivity growth were to fall back to its slowest pace on record (1.5 percent annually), workers in 2035 would still be producing 50 percent more on average than workers do today. This means that two workers in 2035 would be as able to support a retiree as three workers are today. If productivity grows at the same rate as it has over the last decade (and during the period from 1945 to 1973), then workers will be almost twice as productive in 2035 as they are presently. In this scenario, two workers would be far better able to support a retiree in 2035 than three workers are today.

On the other hand, wages have stopped keeping up with productivity, so it'll be a bit harder to monetarily aid our elders. Nevertheless, Baker's right, and he's also spot-on in noting that the country will be less crowded, will produce less pollution and greenhouse gases, and awesome vacation spots currently monopolized by wealthy boomers will once again have vacancies. Which will be awesome. On a related note, after Baker whets your appetite for graphs and data on the boomers, I highly recommend heading over to The Century Foundation, where they've compiled a simple, easy-to-read guide explaining the issues and problems inherent in an aging America. Given all the scare-mongering and doomsday prophecies you generally hear, TCF's reasoned tour of the trends is a welcome corrective.

--Ezra Klein

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