The Myth of the Greedy Geezer

The following appeared today as an opinion piece on Al Jazeera English.

Old people are becoming everyone’s favourite scapegoat for America’s economic woes. Among the growing ranks of self-styled deficit hawks, Social Security and
Medicare are depicted as an intolerable burden to the nation’s already crippled
economy, which can only be saved through massive cuts to these so-called old-age entitlement programs. To advance this agenda, proponents of entitlement cuts have attacked not only the programs themselves, but the people who benefit from them – the selfish old folks like myself, who insist upon bankrupting the
country for the sake of their own costly health care and retirement income.

We in the over-65 set have become the present-day equivalent of Reagan’s notorious “welfare queens,” supposedly living high on the hog at the expense of the taxpayer. According to what I call the Myth of the Greedy Geezer, we lucky
oldsters spend our time lolling about in lush retirement villas, racing our golf
carts to under-priced early-bird dinner specials and toasting our good fortune
with cans of Ensure – all at the expense of struggling young people, who will
never enjoy such pleasures since the entitlement “Ponzi scheme” will collapse
long before they are old.

The fervour for entitlement-cutting remains strongest among conservatives, but these days, even President Obama is taking part, promoting the recommendations of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly known as the Deficit Commission (and to its opponents as the Cat food Commission, since that’s what old people will be eating when the Commission finishes its work).

The appointed chair of the Deficit Commission, Alan Simpson, is one of the primary promulgators of the Myth of the Greedy Geezer. A former Republican senator from Wyoming who is known for his colourful turns of phrase, Simpson insists that “This country is gonna go to the bow-wows unless we deal with entitlements, Social Security and Medicare.” The majority of the people opposed to such cuts, he claims, are “These old cats 70 and 80 years old who are not
affected in one whiff. People who live in gated communities and drive their
Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount. This is madness.”…

Read the rest at Al Jazeera.

One response to “The Myth of the Greedy Geezer

  1. Ridgeway

    you said that Social Security would not go broke for forty years. this was an unfortunate way of putting it as many young people read that to mean it will go broke before they can receive the benefits they paid for.

    in fact social security will never go broke. it can’t go broke. it is paid for by the workers themselves through the payroll tax, and there is no reason they should ever want to stop paying for it. the Trust Fund is NOT Social Security, and in its present form the Trust Fund is INTENDED to “go broke”.. that is run out of money when it has done what it was designed to do: help pay for the boomer retirement.. with the boomers own money paid in excess of the “pay as you go” contribution that is the normal way of funding Social Security.

    It happens that over the same time as the Boomer Trust Fund is being paid down, the life expectancy of the following generation will increase to a point where the present tax rate will not be sufficient to fund their longer retirement at the same monthly replacement rate as today’s beneficiaries.

    it will, however, be sufficient to pay benefits which are more in real value than today’s benefits. in this sense, Social Security can pay ALL benefits forever.

    If those people who are going to be living longer want to keep the same monthly replacement rate, they would need to raise their own taxes one half of one tenth of one percent per year… about forty cents per week in today’s terms.

    people who have been hearing the Big Lie about Social Security their whole lives will have a hard time believing that, but it is the number the Congressional Budget Office gives as option number three for fully funding Social Security.

    If nothing else, you need to be careful about the way you say SS is not going broke. It’s not going broke at all. But it would be even more important if you could find a way to tell the young people that Social Security will be there for them if they don’t let the Big Liars stampede them into letting the Liars destroy it “in order to save it.”

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