Tuesday, February 22, 2005



Elder abuse is a crime in this country, punishable by heavy jail time. People who take advantage of older Americans by trying to sell them phony stocks, or aluminum siding they don’t need, are dealt with harshly as well.

Trying to bilk grandma out of the family home by getting her to sign everything over to you while she’s non copus mentus is also a big no no.

Why then is it OK for the Republican Party and this Administration to pit generation against generation in its drive toward dismantling the last bastion of economic freedom for the elderly, Social Security?

I see in the email I hardly have time to even skim any more that right wing propagandists have hired advertising wizes from the anti-Kerry Swift Vote Veteran ads to bash AARP, the organization dedicated to representing the needs of older Americans.

The Center for American Progress, in its on line publication Progress Report quotes the New York Times as reporting that “the right-wing lobbying group USA Next is planning to sink $10 million in commercials and other back-room tactics to hit the AARP. ("They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, the group's president. "We will be the dynamite that removes them.")”

Aside: I’m over 50, and so eligible for membership in AARP. Anyone over fifty is. If you think you might live that long, and chances are you will and a lot longer, consider joining. It isn’t always right (think prescription drug benefits; AARP caved to the Drug companies lobbying for monopoly control over drug prices for seniors with AARP’s blessings. Ah, the power of advertising!), but with a burgeoning membership of Boomers, it could start being a real power for change in this Country.

Anyway, conservative columnist David Brooks, in a recent New York Times editorial, continues the war against seniors. They’re taking the food right out of the mouths of their children, he says. Actually he says “The living and well-organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn.” Blaming the AARP for a gigantic transfer of wealth to old people.

Well, get a grip, Mr. Brooks. Unless you plan on popping off young and leaving a beautiful corpse like rock stars are prone to do (and I suspect it’s too late for that), you too will someday be one of the vampire class you decry.

He goes on to note that between 1990 and 2015, the percent of federal spending on those over 65 will burgeon from 29 to more than half. Duh, read your statistics. We live in an aging time. More government spending merely reflects the aging demographic. And more tax give-aways to the rich will only add to the poverty level of America’s new Senior Class.

And what does he say is driving this give away of funds? Not Social Security, but prescription drug benefits. Costing the federal government more than $700 billion over some unspecified period of time. (See the above paragraph about the government giving up the power to shop around for lower medicine costs.) Can you say Drug Lobby children?

David Brooks either can’t or won’t. Instead, he’d prefer to blame old people.

We spend a lot of printer’s ink talking about “class warfare” in this country, pitting the rich against the poor. What about generational war? Or are they the same thing?

Wealthy billionaires whose golden years are spent on the golf links in some trendy retirement community while their social security checks are sweated off the brows of struggling youth, account for the tiniest fraction of the over 65 population. For most seniors, social security is the only thing between them and cat food.

Allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices, allowing seniors to buy drugs from cheaper places like Canada and stopping all these scary ads that push pills like diet soda on older Americans to convince them asking their doctor about the next breakthrough in arthritis medication will slow down the aging process and make them sexy and rich (and getting back out on those well tended golf links, no doubt) would go a long way toward stopping this kind of generational warfare.

In his article, David Brooks predicts a new Ross Perot will rise up to challenge the status quo, rail against interest groups, like old people, and lead a moral youth crusade for truth justice and the American way of wealth.

But he won’t be Ross Perot this time, he’ll be a young stallion, healthy, wealthy and well connected. I doubt anyone over 50 would ever pick up that gauntlet. Those with the means to set up their own private accounts already have them. Those who benefit from tax give-aways don’t need prescription drug benefits.

The rest of us, old or young, urban or rural, working or unemployed, retired or hoping to be able to retire some day, most likely will. At the very least, unlike with the issue of gays, disabled or other so called “interest groups,” most of us have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who we’re not quite ready to turn into the enemy. Who will remind us by their very presence in our lives, that we too will one day be thankful for a government that serves the people, not the drug companies, the ultra rich and conservative pundits.