Remember the “generation gap”? If I remember, we were a big part of that in the 60’s and 70’s. Time moves on, as they say, and it seems that we are part of another generation gap that may present us with some interesting opportunities and challenges. Certainly, within a Jewish values context, there is a lot to consider.
Two recent articles take a look at a growing “gap” between our generation and that of our children.
The economic book of our youth has changed the demographics of money within older adults. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania wrote on the growing economic divide of the generations, citing that our children’s generation will not fare as well as ours. “The story of older Americans is completely different. In 1959, over a third of those over 65 were poor; today only 9 percent are. Contrary to campaign rhetoric about old ladies on fixed incomes, many social security recipients are quite well-to-do: the median income of married couples between the ages of 65 and 69 is $61,000, and a quarter of these households bring in more than $100,000 each year.” (“Share the Wealth”: N.Y. Times. June 24, 2012)
In the same issues is a articles from a different view that really speaks to a similar issue. David Leonhardt wrote a piece on the gap between the generations, stating that the gap may be wider than when we were young. Leonhardt’s approach looks a little more at the economic impact of current life to draw the distinctions. “Over all”, he writes, “more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65. Some of these benefits comes from Social Security, which many people pay for over the course of their working lives. But a large chunk comes through Medicare, and contrary to widespread perception, most Americans do not come close to paying for their own Medicare benefits through payroll taxes. Medicare, in addition to being the largest source of the country’s projected budget deficits, is a transfer program from young to old”. (“Old vs. Young: The Gap is Back”; New York Times. June 24, 2012)
Dr. Emanuel’s challenge to this reality is to consider establishing funds or programs that would allow our generation to transfer money to our children’s generation. It would be sort of a generational pool which would aid younger people. Would you be willing to set aside a segment of your income to be held for use by young people in their 20’s or 30’s who are struggling to pay off college loans, find a job, establish a career?
Will this be a new form of social-mitzvah in the decades before us?
Interesting to think about. Economics, as well as politics, make for new challenges. And, as Jews, do we not have an obligation to make sure that those less fortunate than us have the ability to better themselves?
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.