I attended a Bat Mitzvah today. As is conventional for the Jewish tradition, the 13-year-old girl was encouraged to dedicate a major part of her life to helping the less fortunate and was in the middle of a project to assist some needy folks (collecting supplies for a local women’s shelter).
A variety of sources show that today’s 13-year-old will be, whether she wants to or not, spending her working years taking care of a lot more non-workers than her parents did. Here are some sources for the dependency ratio:
Furthermore, public employee pensions were not nearly as generous nor did public employees retire as early or live as long during her parents’ career-building years. Retiree health care costs were insignificant for governments.
If the girl is inevitably going to be paying heavy taxes to support retired public employees, interest on money borrowed for government deficit spending before she was born, interest on money borrowed to pay for wars that she wasn’t old enough to vote “yes” or “no” for (she’ll be paying for our Libya war, for example), etc., should we also try to guilt her into working extra hours to indulge in private charity? Suppose that she ends up paying 60 percent of her lifetime income in sales tax, property tax, income tax, gasoline tax, excise taxes, etc. And much of that will go so that others need not work. Can we say that she has done her share and the Jewish/Biblical obligations of charity have been fulfilled? If not, what if the government takes 70 percent of the fruits of her labor? Is there any amount that would relieve her of the obligation to engage in private charity?
[Separately, one of the guests at the event illustrated how challenging it might be for the young woman to carry her parents and grandparents, financially, on her shoulders. “We produce sheets for American retailers,” said the gray-haired New Yorker in a blue suit. “Everything was in South Carolina until about 15 years ago, but the unions made it impossible to deliver at the prices demanded by consumers. We were lucky because we were one of the first to move overseas, first to China, then Pakistan, and four years ago, when Pakistan became too chaotic, to India.” How many people did his operation employ in India? “We started working with a small company, with about 2400 people, but because of our orders they’ve grown to 27,000.” How many folks does his enterprise employ here in the U.S.? “Just one. You’re talking to him.”]