Try as one might to justify the current system of entitlements in terms of an intergenerational social compact, the arithmetic teaches that the nation cannot afford the current system, and a compact that cannot be kept is meaningless. Without systemic reform, the real intergenerational effect of current entitlements will be crushing debt and destabilizing inflation for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Today's leadership challenge
Among today's most important leadership challenges: how to preserve society's basic commitment to the poor, the disabled and the elderly through fiscally responsible means that acknowledge contemporary demography, preserve dignity and encourage honest self-betterment.
Such leadership would make healthy economic growth a priority. But it would also grasp that a viable social compact involves much more than economic improvement. It requires healthy and broadly held social norms that replace expectations of entitlement with opportunities for ownership. It would unleash the full potential of civil society to address social ills. And, it would honor, celebrate and support committed parenthood. The leadership capable of shaping such cultural norms requires both an understanding of the challenges and an abiding respect for those affected. We hope that both attributes will emerge in this year's election.
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