The rapid aging of the American population may be one of the most significant culture-shaping forces over the next generation. Between 1989 and the year 2000, the 50-and-older group will grow by 18.5 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Americans under age 50 will grow by only 3.5 percent. The median age will climb steadily (from 33 in 1989 to 43 in 2040). Perhaps most significant, the ratio of working-age taxpayers to elderly people will shrink from the current 5:1 to only 2.5:1 in 2030. In the words of columnist Ben Wattenberg: "All that change will echo in every cranny of society: budget deficits and future Social Security short-falls, labor and customer shortages."