Age & Reason
Brussels and Hollywood: Same Fiscal Goal
Friday, March 11, 2011 - 10:24am
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Incredible as it may seem, America’s glitzy, commercial and ever popularized Hollywood now finds itself in common pursuit with the drab and highly intellectual EU meeting in Brussels right now over solutions to populations aging and the global debt crisis.

Top EU ministers are convening on Friday to try to resolve the growing financial crisis that has already engulfed its periphery members. The meetings will re-open an earlier failed reform agenda, proposed by Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France. This budget reform proposal was modeled after Germany’s tough but successful economic policies, and one of its chief tenets was increasing the retirement age to 67 across the euro zone. Merkel and Sarkozy reasoned that adapting to the demographics shifts of the aging era would prove critical in solving the debt crisis.

In Hollywood, top TV executives are already adapting to America’s changing demographics. The TV industry, which “has operated on a currency of youth” for years, according to the Wall Street Journal, is now working to appeal to older audiences, “because the average viewer of prime time hits 51 this year.” This “currency of youth” had become the norm, as this is the age group that “advertisers traditionally consider most likely to buy new products [and] switch brands.” But all that is changing. Baby boomers, unlike their parents, are active consumers, buying everything from iPads and flatscreens to luxury cars. And Hollywood is cashing in.

There are two lessons here. One, the EU needs to follow the U.S.’s lead in adapting markets to aging populations. Hollywood is just the latest example of what we do best: Keep businesses one step ahead of the curve and profit from new and oncoming consumer and demographic changes. The second lesson, however, is one that the U.S. can learn from the EU. Even with politically heterogeneous members, the EU is pushing tough, unpopular, and necessary reforms, especially when it comes to entitlements. It remains to be seen to what extent EU members can band together to meet the debt and aging challenges. But Friday’s summit is a step in the right direction, and the U.S. could follow their tracks to create sustainable debt solutions, even if the solutions are unpopular.

The status quo won’t cut it in the 21st century. It’s a new world now, populated by a new demographic, but the fiscal nightmare of aging populations need not ruin us. With smart, tough planning and decision making, we can wake up from this nightmare and act urgently to avoid the crisis.

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Executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., is also managing partner at High Lantern Group and a fellow at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College.