Monday, April 05, 2004

Talkin' About M-m-m-my Generation

Lipitor. Xantax. Viagra. Who cares?

Why aren’t there more domestic policy proposals that meet the needs of Gen Xers? Why aren’t we (born between 1965 and 1980) demanding social policy that meets our needs, rather than the needs of our parents? Why is the prescription drug program for the elderly the only recent major public policy?

As Gen Xers become parents, they need policies that will alleviate the high costs of raising children. (See the recent article in Washington Monthly, pointed to me by Matthew and Russell.) The article notes that parents with children under 18 accounted for 39 percent of all votes cast in the last presidential election, while persons over 65 accounted for only 14%. They should be making a stronger case for themselves. The Washington Monthly article proposes a substantial tax relief and extra benefits to married parents who raise their children. I’ve got a few more ideas.

Home costs are out of reach for the first time buyers and the young. We need assistance programs for this group and additional housing built in major metropolitan regions.

Nursery school is no longer optional with the growing pressure on young students, the need to compete in the new economy, and the number of working mothers. However, only a few states offer subsidized pre-K. You don’t want to nursery school to be mandatory? Fine, make it optional, but you know that 99.9% parents would take advantage of it. Even mediocre programs, like my son’s, allow him a chance to socialize and learn about classroom rules, which will give him a big head start in Kindergarten. And even mediocre, part-time programs right now are extremely expensive.

Gen-Xers who don’t have children or homes also have distinct interests from AARP’s constituency. Most of my friends are absolutely certain that they will never receive social security benefits or the amount will be too small to cover the rent. They resent the deductions in their paycheck that won’t benefit them. Serious plans need to be put into place to reassure this skeptical and vulnerable generation about retirement.

School loans are a growing burden. Many Gen-Xers are still paying off the costs of graduate programs, which are required by many workplaces. Loan forgiveness programs should be put into place.

This prescription drug plan is going to cost $534 billion. What other things could we be doing with that money?

Read This

Strike the housing proposal. Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune just pointed me to an article in Washington Monthly that says the whole market is going down the toilet and then won't the family that out bid us yesterday (for the fifth time) be sorry.

(And thanks, Maureen. Looking forward to the Farscape finale.)

David Brooks may paint life with broad brush strokes, but he is certainly entertaining. Read his article in the Times on the restless American spirit which drives us towards the soulless suburban developments. He describes different types of suburban communities ...

Then a few miles away, you might find yourself in an entirely different cultural zone, in an upscale suburban town center packed with restaurants -- one of those communities that perform the neat trick of being clearly suburban while still making it nearly impossible to park. The people here tend to be lawyers, doctors and professors, and they drive around in Volvos, Audis and Saabs because it is socially acceptable to buy a luxury car as long as it comes from a country hostile to U.S. foreign policy.

Here you can find your Trader Joe's grocery stores, where all the cashiers look as if they are on loan from Amnesty International and all the snack food is especially designed for kids who come home from school screaming, ''Mom, I want a snack that will prevent colorectal cancer!''

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