Endless Curiosity

October 26, 2009

The Elderly are the Problem

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 8:29 am

“We have met the enemy, and he is the future us.” –with apologies to Pogo

Yes, the elderly are the problem. Or at least one of the causes of the problems this country faces.

We can say the ownership of politicians by corporations, our system of campaign finance, and our corporate-owned media(*) are causes of our problems, but I want to look closer to home – at the voters.

The elderly, as a group, have been against healthcare reform. They are against funding for schools. Yet many of the elderly were beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill which provided college and vocational training for returning G.I.s, and low-interest, zero-down-payment loans to buy houses. But now that their children are well beyond school age, they regularly vote against funding for schools.

Many of the elderly are beneficiaries of Medicare, often taking out far more than they ever contributed; in effect being subsidized by people younger than them. Yet as a group they are against healthcare reform. One of the classic images of the town hall meetings is of elderly people yelling about keeping the government’s hands of Medicare.

Then look at California and its financial mess. There are several contributors to the mess, one of the key contributors being Proposition 13, which locked property taxes. This was originally sold as a way of protecting the elderly on relatively fixed incomes from rising taxes due to escalating property values. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t have much sympathy for people who make hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars by doing nothing except own their houses. (California could have offered loans against the increase in property taxes, to be paid, with interest, when the houses were finally sold out of the proceeds of the sale. This would have protected theĀ  homeowners against ever-rising taxes as well as paying California.)

How can we protect ourselves from our future selves? One option would be to give every person in this country a vote so that the future of the young is not controlled so much by the elderly. Until the age of majority, the votes of children would be cast by their parents. Not a perfect system, but better than hocking the lives of those with a future in this country to those with little time left.

* The Bill Moyers quote from yesterday is the keynote address Moyers gave at the Fourth annual National Conference for Media Reform, and from an article he later wrote. Here’s the follow-on paragraph from the article.

[the quote]. Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And in our society, media provides the fodder. Our media institutions, deeply embedded in the power structures of society, are not providing the information that we need to make our democracy work. To put it another way, corporate media consolidation is a corrosive social force. It robs people of their voice in public affairs and pollutes the political culture. And it turns the debates about profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered.

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