'Generational Equity' event focuses on federal budget crisis

Few issues can bring Duke University and UNC students into the same room, but Memorial Hall was packed with people from both campuses Wednesday night as students listened to a legendary investor and an education leader discuss the crushing reality of the country’s federal budget crisis.

This reality, he said, will fall on the shoulders of younger generations.

“If you were to put the debt we owe our seniors back on the balance sheet, we would be $205 trillion in debt, not $17 trillion,” said investor Stanley Druckenmiller.

“This is the most unsustainable situation I’ve ever seen in all the analyses I’ve ever done. We need to fix this problem now. Every day we wait, more and more of the burden will fall on future generations.”

Druckenmiller and acclaimed educator Geoffrey Canada, who published a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on the unsustainability of government spending, spoke at an event hosted by the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, “Generational Equity: The Impact of the Federal Budget on Young Americans.”

The two could not have come from more opposite backgrounds.

Susan King, moderator of the event and dean of UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, introduced Canada as coming from a life of urban poverty, while she said Druckenmiller grew up as a middle-class child whose success in investment shot him into the one percent club.

After teaming up with Canada to help fund the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing educational opportunity for kids, Druckenmiller has begun work to increase awareness about generality inequity, causing news outlets to refer to him as a class warrior.

Druckenmiller said Canada’s promise to his students in Harlem hinges on the federal government changing the way it addresses entitlement issues.

“Geoffrey promises three-year-olds that if they stay in school, they’ll have a job waiting for them,” Druckenmiller said.

“If we don’t change, that’s not going to happen.”

Druckenmiller said the problem is rooted in how the government’s entitlement system forces current workers to finance seniors through programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“Last year, Washington said it wasn’t going to balance the budget on the back of the elderly,” Druckenmiller said.

“And they’re not — they’re balancing it on the back of our kids.”

Canada said that fixing the problem means some would have to make minor sacrifices.

“You’re going to have to tell someone, you’re going to have to get a little less now, maybe a little less later,” Canada said. “No one is interested in doing that.”

Druckenmiller said he does not look at the problem as old versus young.

“We’ve got burden sharing that needs to be done here,” he said. “It’s current seniors and future current seniors.”

Linking generations is an issue UNC students have already been discussing in class.

“One of the things we read about in urban planning is bringing age groups together through things like education,” said environmental sciences major Emily Bowe. “I think we could do this in other areas.”

Druckenmiller said the nation should treat the entitlement dilemma like it approaches environmental problems.

“It’s a ticking time bomb, and neither party should get your vote before you show up at the polls.”


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