How the Fiscal Cliff Battle Is Really Just a Battle of Demographics

Washington’s battle over the fiscal cliff is best understood as a confrontation not only between Democrats and Republicans, but also as an early skirmish in what could be a decades-long struggle for resources and influence between the Brown and the Gray.

That’s a phrase I’ve coined, drawing on the work of demographer William Frey, to describe the two giant generations that will dominate American life in the coming decades. The Brown is centered on the racially diverse Millennial Generation (generally defined as young people born between 1982 and 2002) and the even more kaleidoscopic cohort (sometimes called The Homeland Generation) born after them. The Gray is centered on the preponderantly white baby boom generation moving into retirement, plus the older Silent Generation that is already there. …

Politically they are on a collision course. Polls show the Brown generally believe they need public investment, particularly in education and health care, to move themselves and their children into the middle class; meanwhile the Gray has grown increasingly skeptical of the taxes needed to support such programs and dubious of public spending on anything except the Social Security and Medicare programs that directly benefit them. [cont.]

Ron Brownstein, National Journal