Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

It’s for the Geezers . . .

Robert Samuelson reminds us (as if!) that the way to tell when most politicians are lying is to check whether or not their lips are moving. When the candidates cite the old saw, "It’s for the children!" for example, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s really for the geezers. Samuelson runs down the list of actual problems facing the nation and looks at the striking attempt (on both sides) to appeal to young voters with claims of concern for their futures. But when you discount the rhetoric and look at the actual proposals, no one is taking the real (and necessary) political risk of doing anything that could be characterized as desecrating the sacred cows of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security . . . to say nothing of retirement benefits promised to a huge class of aging government workers.

The insidious nature of this problem is that because the spending increases for the elderly occur gradually, the pressures on taxes and other government programs will also intensify gradually. A crucial moment to clarify the stakes and compel politicians to make choices probably won’t occur until it’s too late.
Samuelson notes that this tendency is most striking in Obama--the candidate who now commands the closest thing to "rock star" status among the candidates with young voters. In a thread below, our friend, Dan, reminds us of the great line from P.J. O’Rourke, "Age and guile defeats youth and inexperience every time." Dan was speaking of Obama himself. But the same thing may be said of his youthful supporters who think they’re voting their interests with this guy.

Though Samuelson thinks the situation can only get worse before it gets better (and this may be a numbers game in his mind--aging boomers outnumbering younger folks by so much and younger folks aging and getting past the point where reform may help them much) I have to believe that there will be a tipping point--perhaps not in this election--where there will be an opportunity to make a serious and a popular appeal to growing anti-boomer sentiment . . . a sensible sentiment that many boomers I know, are only too happy to share. If I were a boomer, I think I would quickly adopt it if I didn’t already share it. Why? Well, numbers be damned. Let’s just say that it will be a very bad thing (i.e., not in the real interests of older people or the country in general) to put "the children" at war with the interests of their elders. It’s a harsh thing to say but it’s also true (and apply this on a larger scale) . . . your children will someday pick your nursing home. And if liberals have their way, your children are also going to have more influence on the question of whether or not to euthanize you!

Discussions - 8 Comments

Another example of how the boomer generation is warping life in the United States.

Good post. I couldn't agree more. There's a great article in the latest CRB saying much of the same. I think the most obvious example of the Boomers' self-indulgence is the complete lack of urgency in addressing the approaching Social Security implosion (though examining any number of social issues will lead one to the same conclusion). It is becoming increasingly clear that a significant portion of my generation's tax dollars are being fed into a black hole from which they won't return.

My sons have promised to take care of me and sweetly quarrel over who "gets" to have mom. It's easy for them to say now. The only tattoo that appeals to me is "Do not resuscitate" across my chest.

My husband predicts that boomers will be issued T-shirts with targets on the back. If your generation or the next one, wakes up and disinherits our generation then the worry will be for the folks who had no children. Tradition might take care of us parents, as in that promise of my sons. What happens to everyone else? What would be wiser, do you think, to buy stock in nursing homes or crematoriums?

People who have kids (and/or a healthy spouse) who don't hate them will be the lucky ones. The single fastest growing demographic category is single men wo kids and spouse over 65. The reconfiguration of the welfare state is already well under way--it's no longer rich to poor or unfortunate but young to old. See my article, if you want, on caregiving and the American individual which can be found in the NEW ATLANTIS and in STUCK WITH VIRTUE.

People who have kids (and/or a healthy spouse) who don't hate them will be the lucky ones. That's right. But I think another thing to consider is the likely safe speculation that the number (or at least the percentages) of people without kids or spouses who love them is going to be larger among the boomers than it's been in any other generation. First there will be the single men (and I'd add, women--but more men) Peter mentions. But there are also so many families that have been torn apart by bitter divorces and other kinds of dysfunction that it is hard to see their children doing much more than is considered socially acceptable to help them. Kate's tattoo suggestion, while only amusing in her case, may not be entirely tongue-in-cheek for many of these folks. I'm not a financial adviser (ha!) but between the nursing homes and the crematoriums, I'd say you can't really pick a loser. There's no stock for loving in-home care . . . but I wouldn't be betting much on that one if there were. Every time I visit my old hometown, I am struck by the observation that yet another nursing home or assisted living facility is under construction.

Moral and social philosophers of a certain age would be well advised to start spending much of their time crafting articles and arguments about duty to one's elders. And many of these articles should take into account the smallness of the debt a significant portion of my generation have good reason to feel they owe.

Yes, everybody else gets the T-shirt and the consequences, if they are lucky. Like my mother says, I don't want to live in one of those places with all those old people. She had to be in the geriatric ward of a hospital for a few weeks this fall because her multiple meds were a mess. Watching the nurses hold doors closed on raving old guys and gals was a revelation. Fear, anger and distress over mental vagueness was part of the routine. The sweet ones might wander in for chats that made post modernist poetry sound logical and concrete. One man kept thinking the women he was seeing in beds were his wife, all of them, or rather, whichever woman was in the bed before him. He'd climb right in and pursue his own agenda. The ladies were not pleased.

Our guys will ALL be deaf, too, from playing their music at well above 85 decibels and what will be their songs of sweet memory?

Honestly, who needs the pain and confusion of a long life? I was serious about the sentiment of my proposed tattoo.

Every time I visit my old hometown What is happening in California? The rest of us consider that to be a main locus of the narcissistic single males in the country: Boomer-self-indulgence-land.

I have to say that I see more of these facilities under construction in Ohio than in California. There are plenty here, but it just strikes me that the number of these homes in proportion to population in Ohio is growing faster than here. I always wonder how these new homes will sustain themselves . . . are there THAT MANY people in need of their services? I am assured by those who know that there are. I doubt that it's actually true that there are more homes under construction in Ohio than here, but I see it more when I'm there. Perhaps that has more to do with the vastness of California--perhaps California can tuck them away out of sight?

I hope California is tucking those places out of sight. Otherwise, where are those old people going? Maybe they go to Arizona or Nevada. Those are cheaper places to live on a fixed income. My dad used to say they all moved to Oregon. If someone cut him off on the highway, or were driving with an aggravating slowness, he predicted, in most unkind terms, that they were Californians.

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