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Meet the Greedy Grandparents
Slate ^ | Dec. 10, 2003 | Steve Chapman

Posted on 12/11/2003 10:48:56 AM PST by luckydevi

When Social Security was founded, offering a federal pension at age 65, most of the people born 65 years earlier couldn't take advantage of it. They were dead. For the lucky ones who lived long enough to collect, the new pension system, founded in 1935, was meant as a modest support in the brief span before they passed on to glory. No more. Since then, life expectancy at birth in America has increased to more than 77 years. For the majority of people, that means lots of time being supported by the government. A working life is now just a tedious interregnum between two long periods of comfortable dependence.

America's elderly have never had it so good. They enjoy better health than any previous generation of old people, high incomes and ample assets, access to a host of medical treatments that not only keep them alive but let them enjoy their extra years, and a riotous multitude of ways to spoil their grandchildren. Still they are not content. From gratefully accepting a basic level of assistance back in the early decades of Social Security, America's elderly have come to expect everything their durable little hearts desire.

They often get their way, as they did recently when years of complaints finally induced Congress and the president to agree to bear much of the cost of their prescription drugs. From the tenor of the debate, you would think these medications were a terrible burden inflicted by an uncaring fate. In fact, past generations of old people didn't have to make room in their budgets for pharmaceuticals because there weren't many to buy. If you suffered from high cholesterol, chronic heartburn, or depression, you were left to primitive remedies, or none. Today, there are pills and potions for just about any complaint—except the chronic complaint that many of them are pricey. It's not enough to be blessed with medical miracles. Modern seniors also want them cheap, if not free.

That's on top of everything else they get. Retirement benefits used to be just one of the federal government's many maternal functions. But in recent years, the federal government has begun to look like an appendage of Social Security. In 2000, 35 percent of all federal spending dollars went to Social Security and Medicare. By 2040, barring an increase in total federal outlays, they'll account for more than 60 percent of the budget. And that's before you add in the prescription drug benefit. Most of the projected growth is due to rising health-care costs, not to the aging of the population, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Retirees eyeing this bounty feel no pangs of guilt, thanks to their unshakable conviction that they earned every dime by sweat and toil. In fact, economists Laurence Kotlikoff and Jagadeesh Gokhale say that a typical man reaching age 65 today will get a net windfall of more than $70,000 over his remaining years. A luckless 25-year-old, by contrast, can count on paying $322,000 more in payroll taxes than he will ever get back in benefits.

Why do we keep indulging the grizzled ones? The most obvious reason is that they are so tireless and well-organized in demanding alms. No politician ever lost an election because he was too generous to little old ladies. A lot of people are suckered by the image of financially strapped seniors, even though the poverty rate among those 65 and over has been lower than that for the population as a whole since 1974. But it's not just the interests of old coots that are being served here. Young and middle-aged adults tend to look kindly upon lavish federal generosity to Grandma because it means she won't be hitting them up for help. Paying taxes may be onerous, but it's nothing compared to the cost, financial and otherwise, of adding a mother-in-law suite to the house. Working-age folks also assume that whatever they bestow upon today's seniors will be likewise bestowed on them, and in the not too distant future. It's not really fair to blame the greatest generation for this extravagance. They are guilty, but they have an accomplice.

It's surely no coincidence that the new drug benefit is being enacted just as the first baby boomers are nearing retirement age. Nor can it be forgotten that the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired People—it's now just AARP—has lately broadened its membership to include all the boomers it can get its wrinkled hands on. AARP, to the surprise of many, endorsed the plan. And what a surprise it is that the prescription drug program, which will cost some $400 billion over the next 10 years, could balloon to $2 trillion in the 10 years following that—when guess-who will be collecting. You would expect taxpayers in their peak earning years to recoil in horror from a program that will vastly increase Washington's fiscal obligations for decades to come. In fact, they—make that we—can see that the time to lock in a prosperous old age is now, before twentysomethings know what's hit them.

Boomers have gotten our way every since we arrived in this world, and the onset of gray hair, bifocals, and arthritis is not going to moderate our unswerving self-indulgence. We are the same people, after all, who forced the lowering of the drinking age when we were young, so we could drink, and forced it back up when we got older, so our kids couldn't. On top of that, we're used to the best of everything, and plenty of it. We weren't dubbed the Me Generation because we neglect our own needs, Junior. If politicians think the current geezers are greedy, they ain't seen nothin' yet.

But responsible middle-aged sorts may yet be brought to their senses when they realize that their usual impulse to get all they can will sooner or later collide with another boomer obsession: the insatiable desire to furnish our kids with every advantage known to humanity. Load Social Security with more obligations than it can bear, and our precious offspring will be squashed under the weight. To fund all the obligations of the Social Security system, payroll taxes will have to more than double by 2040—on top of whatever it costs to buy all those prescription drugs. At that point, our children will realize the trick we've pulled and start to hate our guts. That would be a cruel blow to a generation that thinks of itself as the most wonderful parents in history.

To avoid that fate, boomers need to recognize the need to stop writing checks that today's youngsters will have to cash. With the eager help of our own parents, we've created an entitlement that is fast becoming unaffordable. To bring Social Security into conformity with reality, we'll have to resign ourselves to a higher retirement age reflecting our prospective vigor and life expectancy. We'll have to accept more stringent controls on Medicare spending and take more responsibility for our own medical needs. We'll have to abandon our assumption that the point of the health-care system is to keep each of us alive forever. At some point—don't worry, not anytime soon—we will have to embrace a duty to stop functioning as a fiscal burden on our children and start serving as a nutritional resource for worms.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Government; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: medicare; prescriptionswindle; socialsecurity
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To: thoughtomator
Too funny. Gen-x ers are already in their 40's.
What goes round comes round...the gen after you will be saying the same things about you. about the truth ?

You are picking on the wrong generation.

We didn't start the mess...our folks, with the help of FDR, did.
I was born in 1949. I was 15 when LBJ had enacted Medicare. That's MY fault ?
It's MY fault for using a sytem inplemented by my folks ?

Nice try. Buy a book.
81 posted on 12/11/2003 1:40:27 PM PST by stylin19a (is it vietnam yet ?)
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To: freedumb2003
Hahahaha Yeah right. Now pull your head out of your ass and tell em again WHO it was that wanted the Drug coverage?
Sure as hell wasn't us. Yeah like I said GREEDY WHINEY PARASITES.

Ideals? Hmm Johnson's Great Ideas huh? Lets see, free love, Roe V wade, dope, draft dodging, borrow and stick the future generations with the bill, integrated schools, Federal housing, welfare, expanded SSI services, minority preferences, affimative action were all part of the great society for sure.

Yeah, great ideals. It all came home with Your generations answer. Bill Clinton.
82 posted on 12/11/2003 1:42:02 PM PST by Area51 ((Big Time RINO Hunter!)
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To: stylin19a
Too funny. Gen-x ers are already in their 40's.

Ummm... Maybe for sufficiently incorrect values of "GenX". Every definition I've ever seen would have GenX currently roughly between the mid- to late-20s and late-30s.

83 posted on 12/11/2003 1:42:43 PM PST by tortoise (All these moments lost in time, like tears in the rain.)
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To: stylin19a
Your folks fought WWII and kept America free. What did the boomers do to redeem their faults?
84 posted on 12/11/2003 1:43:21 PM PST by thoughtomator (The U.N. is a terrorist organization)
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To: stylin19a
Please, no logic. The kids are too angry with mommy and daddy or Uncle Ernie to see straight.
85 posted on 12/11/2003 1:45:24 PM PST by wtc911 (I would like at least to know his name)
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To: freedumb2003
Well, you're onto something. Certainly rap's use of samples justifies socialism and enslaving the young to the old.

86 posted on 12/11/2003 1:45:36 PM PST by Skywalk
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To: pogo101
87 posted on 12/11/2003 1:47:27 PM PST by holdmuhbeer
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To: thoughtomator
Your posts are spot on target.
88 posted on 12/11/2003 1:52:10 PM PST by malakhi (Do, or do not. There is no try.)
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To: Area51; freedumb2003
Interesting to note that A51 thinks that integrated schools are one of the evils that have befallen our country since the sixties.

Would it be expecting too much of the kiddies to expect them to know that you were too young to even vote when these things came to be?

Growing up (I'm a couple of years younger than you, but only a couple) we knew tons of kids who were truly messed up. They usually blamed their own parents, you know, the gods of the Greatest Generation. We used to hope that these bozos would never have kids of their looks like a bunch of them did.

89 posted on 12/11/2003 1:53:30 PM PST by wtc911 (I would like at least to know his name)
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To: freedumb2003
Of course, you should always check this kind of thing with a tax accountant. These things change from year to year -- particularly with regard to the reduced tax rate on dividends (I believe there is a sunset provision in this tax law that ends the reduced tax rate after 2005 or 2006).
90 posted on 12/11/2003 1:53:41 PM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Skywalk
Why,thank you for sharing all that !

(Pity I won't be around when you reach the "greedy" age, and start howling for your "entitlements".)

PS: FYI, I started working-and contributing to SS-at the age of 14. I retired at 63-could have waited another 2 years and increased my ill-gotten gains,but decided to save some for the greedy whiners who would follow.

91 posted on 12/11/2003 1:54:30 PM PST by genefromjersey (So little time - so many FLAMES to light !!)
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To: tortoise
gen-x arguably is considered those born between 1965-1981. There are those that think that declining birth rates is the start of gen-x, which would make it 1961 not 1965.

I choose the later, hence the older X'ers are in their 40's,
92 posted on 12/11/2003 1:54:56 PM PST by stylin19a (is it vietnam yet ?)
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To: 45Auto
Other than that, I want every effing dime, or there's going to be trouble.

*VBG*Very good. And I will take it as early as I can get it, to make sure I get as much of it as I can, before it runs out. I still won't get out of it what I put into it.

My luck I'll have a stroke and die early. Nothing ever works out.


In God We Trust…..Semper Fi

93 posted on 12/11/2003 1:55:00 PM PST by North Coast Conservative (never take a gun to a gunfight that doesn't start with at least .40 cal)
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To: thoughtomator
spawned gen-x ers.
94 posted on 12/11/2003 1:58:06 PM PST by stylin19a (is it vietnam yet ?)
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To: Area51; freedumb2003
Snap many boomers (%) were old enough to vote for Johnson in 1964 or for Nixon in 68?

Answer...ZERO in '64 and @ 1% in '68.

A51, one more under-educated, hate-filled permanent adolescent struggling through the oedipal thing. Good luck.

95 posted on 12/11/2003 2:01:50 PM PST by wtc911 (I would like at least to know his name)
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To: Cicero
It's not their fault. It's the fault of FDR and all the greedy politicians ever since who wanted to give the voters a chicken in every pot but didn't want to pay for it.

Not exactly. On the Social Security issue, three generations of Americans have systematically elected liars and defeated truth tellers. Future generations are under no obligation to redeem the corrupt bargains made by their predecessors.

96 posted on 12/11/2003 2:03:12 PM PST by sphinx
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To: thoughtomator
The real emotional pathology that needs investigation is the astonishing narcissism of the baby boomers.

Excellent point. Ironically, I believe this narcissism is rooted in nothing more than accidents of history. Baby Boomers were coming of age just as monumental changes were occurring in our economic, political, and social order (the civil rights movement, space travel, the movement of large segments of our population from the cities to the suburbs, etc.). What makes these "accidents of history" from the Baby Boomers' perspective is that they really didn't have anything to do with these things, but they are the defining moments of their formative years.

This, by the way, is one reason why I refused to pay a nickel to see the movie Saving Private Ryan -- not because this self-described tribute to "The Greatest Generation" wasn't worthwhile, or well-deserved, but because a jack@ss like Steven Spielberg did us all a great disservice by making a movie like this instead of making a blunt, accurate movie as a "tribute" to his own generation.

97 posted on 12/11/2003 2:04:01 PM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: luckydevi
Isn't slate an ultra left wing liberal media? Apparently the bleeding heart left wing liberals bleeds only for those who are on welfare, but would like to terminate old people as soon as they qualify for social security. This article exposes the left wing liberals evil agenda.
98 posted on 12/11/2003 2:07:03 PM PST by desertcry
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To: genefromjersey
Some of these children are just sooooo angry. My kids and their cousins aren't this way at all....wonder what we did wrong?

btw...first fica payment at age seventeen, know what all the $$ since would be worth if invested privately?

Enjoy your retirement and make it last.

99 posted on 12/11/2003 2:07:23 PM PST by wtc911 (I would like at least to know his name)
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To: optik_b
I'm sorry if some people are going to have to work harder to pay me the money that the effing political bastards stole from me under the auspices of a damn law that was passed before I was born. The facts remain: The SOB's stole money from me over my working lifetime that is by now well over six figures, and I want every damn penny of it as promised. Its not money that I gave freely in a charitable way; I worked for it and it was taken (robbed, stolen, theft, get it?) from me more or less at gunpoint by a bunch of two-bit, pompous, pimp-bastards who call themselves Congressmen and who, by the way, don't pay a dime into the SS fund. I am not a philanthropist; I need that money in retirement and I damn well better get it because its mine. If you want to call that "greedy" go ahead. It won't change one damn thing. I already said that I would be willing to settle for only as much as the @sswipes stole from me (without interest) as long as they write me a check and stop taking any more out of my paycheck.
100 posted on 12/11/2003 2:09:17 PM PST by 45Auto (Big holes are (almost) always better.)
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