"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don’t Coddle The Elderly

How old is elderly? It depends, of course.  Most 70-somethings who pump iron, run half-marathons, suit-up in Italian-style biking outfits, and surf the California coast do not consider themselves old at all. This guy is 79 and if you ever called him an alter kocker, he would knock your block off. 

Most 20-somethings would retch at the sight of this bag of bones, all wrinkled and juiced, trying to pretend he’s younger than he really is. Why don’t these decrepit, useless, moribund people stop dawdling at lights, tying up traffic, taking up whole lanes at the supermarket with their walkers, and taking forever to board the bus.  They can’t see and can’t hear.  They stumble, bumble and get big ugly purple bruises. What use are they?

Worst of all, they simply won’t get out of the way.  Politicians simply hang on for dear life as though it were their right to rule the world for ever.

Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger are still doing action movies.  Old Hollywood guys think it is cool to hook up and show the world how hunch, totter, and wobble are still cool.  They are not cool.  They are stupid, ugly-looking, and not funny at all.

Add to all this is the fact that the elderly are sucking up federal monies like they were going out of style.  They are the beneficiaries of almost half of all federal dollars.

Young people are up in arms as well they should be.  It may be OK to smile at grandma when she makes no sense whatsoever, but another thing to have her and her old cronies rob the treasury blind.

It gets worse.  Old people make and accumulate money more than young people.  As Robert J. Samuelson reports in the Washington Post (11.5.13):

The numbers are instructive. From 2007, the year before the financial crisis, to 2010, median income for the families under 40 dropped 12.4 percent to $39,644. For the middle-aged from 40 to 61, the comparable decline was 11.9 percent to $56,924. Meanwhile, those aged 62 to 69 gained 12.3 percent to $50,825. For Americans 70-plus, the increase was 15.6 percent to $31,512.

Old people don’t take the criticism lightly. They claim that they have worked hard for their money, been judicious in their savings, and have been part of generations which have made and kept America great.  They deserve every penny they get.

I was at a lunch recently with some older, liberal friends who ‘celebrated diversity’.  It was wonderful to live in a part of Washington which was comprised of white and black, Latino and Asian, gay and straight; and most importantly, old and young, one friend said.  Older Americans contribute mightily to the community. “We are passionate about ideas, books, and art.  We have travelled, eaten in the best restaurants, and seen culture up close and personal.  We have a lot to pass on to the young”. 

Most 20-somethings, on the other hand, think old people have absolutely nothing worthwhile to pass on at all.  All they do is bang on about The Sixties and smoking dope .  Big Fucking Deal.  They are responsible for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.  They are capitalist pigs who bleed poor people. Their ‘good old days’ aren’t worth a shit.

The problem is that old people today are going to live even longer.  A man aged 65 today is likely to a whopping twenty years more; and he will continue to drain the public coffers until he topples over.

The one bright side of all this is that with a little jiggering young people can help to reverse the flow from young to old.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while only 16 percent of Americans 65 and older work today, 27 percent worked in 1950. Increased federal benefits have been one reason why fewer older Americans are working. They are coddled  But they could, can, and should work. In fact the same guy pictured above pumping iron more than likely has a well-paying job as an accountant, and has no intention of quitting.  Raising the retirement age a few years to say, 68, makes ultimate sense.  Many older Americans do not need government largesse, especially not for the twenty years or more that they are going to live.

The AARP is perhaps the most powerful lobby group in the country.  It has a membership of 400,000,000 and is worth billions.  Thanks largely to AARP, discussions about Social Security and Medicare are off the table and will unlikely get on it for many years to come.  Many older people who know they are getting a free ride at the expense of the young, find it hard to get off the royal barge.  The checks keep rolling in, and whether or not they represent a big chunk of their retirement income or a drop in the bucket, they love them.

As someone of ‘a certain age’, I want all of us older Americans to move over, free up the traffic lanes for speedier, quicker thinkers with more energy, ambition, and ideas.  We have had our day, done our duty, and contributed one way or another.  If we are thinking clearly, we reject the old saw circulating in retirement communities (‘You’re only as old as you feel’) and look at the numbers. If we are 70, regardless of how good we feel, we still have very few years left; and, like it or not, we will soon fall apart and disappear.

Retirement is fine and dandy. Temporary good health and physical conditioning, a brain that still works, and a big government check in the mail every month, takes the sting out of the equation 85-75=10.

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