We've Got a Choice: Schools or Nursing Homes?

Robert Samuelson doesn't think our economy is strong enough to pay pensions
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2013 1:43 PM CDT
We've Got a Choice: Schools or Nursing Homes?
Firefighters protest outside the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, in Detroit, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

If anyone tries to tell you that Detroit's bankruptcy is an isolated incident, "don't be fooled," writes Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post. The truth is that for governments across the country, "the scramble for scarce resources is intensifying. Schools compete with nursing homes." Underfunded pensions and Medicaid are costing ever more money, even as tax bases appear set to weaken, and that's money that can't be spent on the next generation.

"We live in a world of finite resources," one state treasurer says. As pension payments rise, "you have less money for infrastructure, education, affordable housing." The problem, Samuelson explains, is that "spending on the elderly rises more or less automatically," and the public abhors specific actions taken to reduce it. "Our system favors the past over the future. Things could be done to mitigate the bias. ... But it's first necessary to acknowledge the bias and discuss it openly." Click for Samuelson's full column. (More Detroit bankruptcy stories.)

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