Intergenerational Conversations

Blog Post
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

On Facing the Future, Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby and “Economist Mom” Diane Lim, a Senior Advisor at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, joined me to discuss generational perspectives on fiscal and economic policy and the role of economists in policy making.

“When we talk about fiscal responsibility, we often say we should be good stewards for future generations,” Lim said. “But it’s not just being good stewards about the federal budget; its being good stewards with what we are doing with the economy more broadly.” 

When discussing children and the legacy we leave them, she said, with such high debt levels, we need to make sure the economy is growing fast and strong enough for future generations to be able to bear the resulting burden. 

“The intergenerational burden, and the threat of it actually materializing in terms of lower economic wellbeing for my children, it just becomes more real,” Lim said. “I often wish that there would be more intergenerational conversations in the policymaking world.” 

She said the topics of economic and fiscal policy are not necessarily attention grabbers, like other significant policy topics, and she expressed concern over the usual messengers, economists like herself.

“We are not known as being real-world, relevant people; it’s sort of like we talk in another language,” she said. “Part of the reason why fiscal responsibility has not been a prominent issue in the minds of the public is because the messengers of the issue are not good communicators with the general public.” 

She added that analysis by economists is delivered more in numbers than words, and the story that gets told is about the aggregate macroeconomy and the ultimate measure of a policy is GDP. To an ordinary person, that does not mean anything. 

“We don’t do a very good job talking about the stories about how these policies would affect individual households or businesses,” Lim said. 

Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.