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Down with a Cold

The War on Elders (and Everybody Else) – Part 1 of ?

It's been an exhausting few weeks: the earthquake in Japan, a new U.S. military venture in Libya, the ongoing demonstrations and fighting in almost every middle eastern country, the ominous silence from Israel, the crucial protests in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and several other states and the stepped-up budget attacks from government and corporate elites on Social Security and Medicare. Have I left out anything big?

President Obama has decamped to Latin America and Congress is in recess so maybe they can't do too much damage for awhile. It's a good time to step back and survey the big picture.

Since its inception about eight years ago, this blog has been concerned with the lives of elder issues large and small. I try to have some fun with it while lobbying for better treatment of old people, passing on practical information, addressing the difficult issues of illness and mortality and above all, adhering to Time Goes By's bedrock principle: contrary to what western culture generally tells us, there is nothing wrong with being old.

When, in these pages, I have indulged my second passion – politics – I have sometimes felt guilty about straying from the blog's purpose. Now I have come to see that in our politics, everyone of every age is at risk.

We are not supposed to say so (“all men are created equal” and blah, blah, blah) but I am sure you have noticed that there is a class war going on in the United States. Actually, it is global.

Here, it started the moment the New Deal was in place. That era's oligarchy had lost their battle against President Roosevelt's progressive legislation, but by steady increments since then, they have just about won the war now.

Over the years, the elites have used many tactics and strategies to steal all the wealth of the nation. One is the classic, divide and conquer. Let's look at that as it is applied to a crucial elder issue: Social Security.

I noticed it for the umpteenth time yesterday in an Op-Ed in The New York Times by a 24-year-old complaining about the lack of jobs and opportunity for his age group of recent graduates [emphasis is mine]:

”I fear that the young will bear the brunt of the pain:” he wrote, “taxes on workers will be raised and spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable.

You and I know, of course, that “untouchable” no longer holds, but so deeply held is this belief among the young (old people benefit to the detriment of youth) that in the context of the young man's entire essay, his elder smackdown hardly stands out.

Why do the young believe this? Because it has been an argument repeated by the right for several decades in their ongoing offensive against Social Security and Medicare – an unrelenting propaganda machine pounding out the notion of “greedy geezers.”

That doesn't absolve a 24-year-old from doing his homework to find out how Social Security actually works but in his defense, colleges have dumbed down their courses for the past two generations and grade inflation has been flagrant for as long. So we cannot expect much critical thinking from our expensively “educated” youth.

The result, however, is an army of young people out to cut grandma's and grandpa's “entitlements” at the behest of an obscenely wealthy elite that is no more interested in the well-being of the young than they are in the current crop of “greedy geezers.”

What the young Op-Ed writer and his cohorts do not realize is that in blaming elders (instead of the wealthy elite) for their economic predicament, they deeply endanger their own futures.

How can it be otherwise? Salaries have been stagnant for more than a decade and there is no reason to believe that will change. Private pensions have been disappearing for even longer.

Any 401(k)s and IRAs that have recovered their value from the 2008 crash will be decimated again in the next crashes – certain to happen once or twice or more again over the next 40 years until the time that young man is ready to retire.

And who is to say he can even contribute to those programs. With low, flat salaries, huge college loans to repay, children to educate at astronomical tuitions, food and energy prices that are sure to rise dramatically in coming years, not to mention the cost of health care that unless we enact Medicare for All (doubtful), will be – already is - beyond the financial reach of most people.

So cuts or elimination of our “entitlements,” which many young people are convinced are necessary, will – if successful - doom their generations to an even more impoverished old age than so many of our own live with now.

The war on elders is also a war on youth - on everybody. More about all this tomorrow.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Mycology

Comments

All so very true. Young people are ready to brush us aside, if we don't fight them with our votes--allowing them time to also get old and see the light.
My latest analogy is elders and dogs. you don't often see old dogs on TV, in public, or anyplace. Puppies, however, are the perpetual rage. Same for elders: We are not on TV, we are not the buzz, and we are relatively invisible so not really seen in public. Like old dogs, elders are only seen by their family (and all too often as a burden, a baby sitter, or a financial resource/drain) or by their doctors/vets.

The sidelining of elders has been going on for a long time. Unfortunately, those of us now on the receiving end of ageism probably practiced it when we were young and ignorant too. I admit I was a little irritated by the tone of that op-ed you refer to, it was as if this current generation has a monopoly on dashed dreams and expectations. They don't.

I think young people are getting screwed, just as old people are. For the most part the winners are those who don't have to scrabble for a living. The rest of us are getting screwed and are being led to believe that old people or young people or immigrants or some other equally screwed group are to blame.

At 52 and still working I'm constantly annoyed at our management's worry about how the "young people" seem to be leaving our association.

My organization is going through rough times, having had to lay off about 20 people in the last 6 months and instituting 4 furlough days for everyone for this fiscal year (ends August 31). So we very well may have more unpaid days after that.

Since January, three 20-somethings have left and management is worried. None of these folks were any kind of wunderkinds. Isn't that what young people do? Heck, when I was in my 20's, I had 5 jobs, from ages 23-30.

I frankly told my Executive Director that management should be worried about the long timers such as myself. Folks who have been here 15-20 years with institutional knowledge of the organization who see much younger folks being promoted to management positions while the rest of us (me included) sit back and wonder why.

You are right it's a class issue or, at least, an economic issue which aligns with class. And almost everyone is hurting or nervous about the future.

Glad you're not afraid to use the word "class"--that, and the word "corporation" are the elephants in the room. Since my writing is set in the era of Roosevelt, I miss both his cleverness and his canny analysis of his enemies.

And he knew they were real.

My son is one of those younger people who seems to agree with the Repub's stance. I told him that he may change his mind when I'm living in his basement with my cats & dogs and unable to contribute to the household expenses. (This is assuming I'm allowed to move in.)

Although young people can be twits -- like this writer -- there's polling that says that huge percentages of them want to preserve Social Security (such as this from AARP.) I fear what we are seeing is a complete lack of confidence among the young that ANYTHING they hold dear -- jobs, the country as a good place to live, even the heating planet -- will be there over their life span. It's hard to blame them.

That's the deep effect of the Great Recession and the class war on most everyone.

There is a class war -- and I intend to go down fighting! I hope as many of us as can will come along. What else is there to do?

We can't blame the young for their attitude. The right wing have been very clever in their methods of subtly sending the message that Social Security and Medicare are the problem. Now they are no longer being subtle.

On the other hand, the left wing have been very poor in counteracting the messages sent by the power brokers. We have never made our case and have never taught our young to think critically. It's time for us to use the power of the Internet, as you are doing Ronni, to teach them the facts. They are not going to get the facts from the media or the wimpy Democrats.

Maybe all elder bloggers should band together and have a 'blog day' on one subject and let the media know about it. If we could create enough excitement about a movement going on we might get some publicity. For example the 'subject of the day' might be 'the truth about Social Security' and the fact that it does not take one dime from the tax payers or add one penny to the deficit. Another subject might be to point out the facts about the upper 2% having more wealth than the rest of us put together. We know these things, but the young do not.

Elders on Facebook and those that tweet and twitter would probably reach more of the youth than a blog. Combined we might make a dent in refuting the lies now so prevalent.

Just wondering.

I'd agree that there is a class war that it being won by the ultra-rich. But it's worth noting that by reframing it as an age war, you're missing the reality of voter demographics and by only thinking of social security you're ignoring medicade/medicare, which is the wedge that has been used to push older americans into the arms of the GOP.

Young voters have continued to strongly support the Democratic party. Under-30 was the only demographic that voted Democrat across the board in the mid-term elections. The big swing in the mid-term elections from 2008 was the 65+ voters. It's worth noting that white 50+ voters are also the mainstay of the Tea Party movement.

Young people's problems will arrive even sooner than old age because they will have to support aging parents in the absence of livable SS and Medicare benefits.

'an army of young people out to cut grandma's and grandpa's “entitlements”'

Should this happen I would expect older people to keep on working to fill the income gap they would have. The consequence is a lot less jobs for the young.

I confess, when I was that writer's age I was envious of anyone who could "sit home" and get a chunk of money every month. I had no concept of how hard and long anyone had to work for it...All I knew was I was scraping by while they seemed "privileged" (even if they were just getting a small amount..I still didn't like that they "didn't have to work". My experience was narrow and I didn't know (yet) what it was like to work for decades to earn a SMALL monthly check for my elder years. And fortunately, I didn't have a writing gig where I could complain over it... because I would have sounded as heartless and uniformed as this guy.

The young-old conflict probably was ever thus. I well remember railing against the injustice of elderly family members "living it up" (as I perceived it) on Social Security and other pensions while I struggled to fill a host of needs of my new wife and young son.

Seeing those deductions from every paycheck was a constant reminder of how the oldsters lived well without working, while we youngsters suffered.

Now I know I didn't get it back then. Perhaps some types of wisdom come only with age, as several of the comments here indicate.

Can we narrow the young-old gulf? Perhaps not. But we can do our duty by politicking and turning out to vote to ensure the continuance of Social Security and other systems that we know the young will prize in the future, even if they dislike paying the tab now.

What I resent is the notion that old people don't care about what happens to the young. We personally have made huge sacrifices for our children and are continuing to help support them and their grandchildren, financially and in other ways as well. We do not resent this at all but are glad this is within our means.
And we do care about the future of everyone's children.
But this does not have to be a zero sum game. Unless, of course, the rich continue to suck up all the wealth and leave us without the resources we need to care for ourselves and others.

The messaging that needs to be repeated over and over is how much revenue we're losing in the form of corporate welfare. I harp on this so much on my blog I'm beginning to depress myself (not really).

Being informed about corporate welfare and spreading the word will chip away at their armor as they have chipped away at social welfare programs. Google "corporate welfare" and you'll find a plethora of informed websites with hard evidence of this loss of revenue.

A study by the Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005. SOURCE

Not Hannukah...perhaps you meant Passover?

The word "Entitlement" bothers me. When it is used by social services, it gives off a condescending aura. As if social security is a kind of charitable giving to older citizens. This money is ours. It is returned to us after many years (during which some people our age never lived long enough to collect it). Had that money been invested safely instead of spent, we would not be forced to justify receiving it. It is the legislators of the past twenty years who owe everyone an explanation, rather than those who brought this country great success.

Money for Elders: Jobs for Youth. An aging population, especially the infirm elderly, will provide many job opportunities for the young (as well as for the not-so-young). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition:


"Ten of the 20 fastest growing occupations are healthcare related. Healthcare will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry, largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population. Most workers have jobs that require less than 4 years of college education..."

Like it or not, most Americans will be employed in service jobs which can't be exported (although such jobs could be filled by immigrants if the native-born distain the work). To the young I proclaim, "I am not your enemy. I am your paycheck!"

Why don't they just line us up when we turn 65 and shoot us?! And why ARE the Democrats so wimpy now? We need another FDR and Truman. I thought Obama would be a blessing, but he seems cowed and humbled, approaching Republicans and Tea Partiers with too great deference, as though he's afraid to rile them.

I so agree that we're in a class war and right now the privileged classes are clearly winning. Classof65, you've got a point (actually, several!). I have to laugh when I think back to Sarah Palin's condemnation of so-called death panels. Hey, Sarah, don't you know that's the right wing's solution to the problem of us pesky older people? They just won't admit it. They also conveniently forget that THEY will be old, sooner than they think.

As long as the ultra-rich plutocrats can keep the rest of us fighting among ourselves--young against old, white against black, pro-choice against pro-life (the Repubs aren't exactly pro life AFTER the baby is born)--they'll keep on winning! If we ordinary Americans are to have any chance at all, we've got to put aside our differences and fight like H*** to take OUR country back!

I think the message that leads thinking astray for many young and older people who support this transfer of wealth to the wealthy is that the rich will create U.S. businesses and jobs here. So we must give them more money, big tax breaks. In a way it's another version of that very successful "trickle down economics" approach (she said sarcastically) -- but voters are buying it.

Unfortunately, what new jobs are being created are largely low paying jobs.

Recently, I was surprised to hear generally well-informed elders (under 70 yrs) saying young people couldn't get jobs because Boomers aren't retiring, which could lead to a generation war.

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