- Last Updated: 12:29 AM, August 19, 2012
- Posted: 10:34 PM, August 18, 2012
BERLIN — Two things stick out here in Germany in August, even in the shadow of the euro crisis.
This country is in the midst of a huge construction boom. As was said of Thailand in 1996, the crane appears to be the national bird. But aside from the infrastructure face-lift that is going on, one is struck by another, more subtle reality: the German population is getting old. Really old. Japan-like old.
In fact, the median age here in Germany is 45.3 — the same as in Japan and more than eight years older than the average age in US.
Across the euro zone, the median age doesn’t drop below 40 in any country; it’s 43.8 in Italy, 42.8 in Greece.
Increasingly, the talk here is that the euro mess is as much about old vs. young as it is about rich nations vs. poor, Mediterranean vs. Teutonic. Quite simply, “Old Europe” is the problem — though not in the way former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meant it.
By any measure, the economic crisis has disproportionately fallen on the shoulders of the young. In Greece and Spain, 50 percent of those under 25 do not have a job.
The euro crisis is a generational one as much as a currency one.
And therein lies a talking point for the team of Romney-Ryan, as the debate over our debt and Medicare obligations heads into the fall. As the first Generation-X candidate on a presidential ticket, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) should sell the indisputable Medicare Math to the average American — who is now just 37 years of age.
Not only is this “average American” 28 years away from Medicare benefits he will likely never see, he is part of an unprecedented wealth vacuum that finds many Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers without any assets as they head into middle age.
The conventional wisdom prevails, i.e., that the GOP will have a tough time appealing to voters under 40, who are far more comfortable with our über-cool, hoops-playing president.
Then again, hundreds of thousands of young Germans felt that way four years ago when they rocked out with candidate Obama in Berlin’s Tiergarten park. They’re not talking much about Obama here anymore, but plenty are talking policy that fits in pretty closely with that of Paul Ryan’s.