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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Los Angeles Times Effort to Promote Generational Conflict Flunks Reality Test

Los Angeles Times Effort to Promote Generational Conflict Flunks Reality Test

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Friday, 04 January 2013 07:55

At a time where the most obvious conflict over resources has been the enormous upward redistribution to the top 1 percent, the Los Angeles Times is working to promote conflict based on age. A piece on the budget battle was centered around the claim that the Republicans base of support is disproportionately older people who depend on Social Security and Medicare whose interests are pitted against those of younger voters who support the Democrats:

"At its core, the debate over the size of government and how to pay for it pits the interests of the huge baby boom generation, now mostly in their 50s and 60s, against the needs of the even larger cohort in their teens and 20s. With limited government money to spend, how much should go to paying medical bills for retirees versus subsidizing college loans, job training and healthcare for young families with children?"

In fact, the government is not up against any resource limits as the markets keep trying to tell people by lending the government vast amounts of money at extremely low interest rates. If the economy were near full employment, then the deficit would be less than 2.0 percent of GDP, a level that can be sustained forever.

Over the longer term deficits are projected to be a problem, but this is because of the projected explosion in health care costs, not the aging of the population. If U.S. per person health care costs were comparable to those in any other wealthy country we would be looking at long-term budget surpluses, not deficits. This suggests that there is a conflict between the interests of the public at large and the health care providers (e.g. the drug, insurance and medical supply companies and high paid medical specialists), but not between generations.

Finally, it is important to note that the cuts that have been proposed for Social Security and Medicare, such as raising the normal retirement age or the age of eligibility for Medicare would primarily hit the young, not people currently receiving benefits from these programs. Polls have shown that seniors often support these programs because they want to ensure that their children and grandchildren get the same benefits that they enjoy, not out of a selfish impulse to protect what they have.

Comments (11)Add Comment
Urban vs. Rural is Real Divide
written by Robert Salzberg, January 04, 2013 8:34
It ain't old vs. young, it's rural vs. urban or future vs. past.

Look at the electoral map, urban areas vote Democratic and rural areas vote Republican.

When it comes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the more Republicans talk about what and how they'll cut, the more older Americans turn away from Republicans.

...
written by PeonInChief, January 04, 2013 9:22
When they cut benefits by raising the retirement age or eligibility for Medicare, it's by design that the impact is really felt by people who won't be eligible for 30 years. How many young people are thinking about the difference between 65 and 67, and Medicare? In fact, the test for our generation is whether we protect the retirements of the next generation or capitulate as the older generation did in 1983.
...
written by skeptonomist, January 04, 2013 9:48
I've reviewed the basic demographics here:

http://www.skeptometrics.org/RealDemographics.html

The percentage of working-age people in the population stays fairly constant - it will be about the same in 2050 as it was in 1900. What is changing is the nature of the non-working people who must be supported, from children to old people. The way things are structured, this inevitably means a shift in the tax burden from state and local taxes for education to federal taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

What is actually happening is that state and local budgets and payrolls are continuing to grow except for the temporary setback of the recession. Apparently about half of this is for education. Meanwhile, for certain reasons* which have nothing to do with the welfare of children, there is strong pressure to cut SS and Medicare. Thus if there is intergenerational warfare, the youngest generation is winning (or would be if they actually get the benefits). Of course the whole idea is phony; the real driving forces are the benefits going to several big-money interests, not generations of working people.

*Plutocrats want to cut SS because a) Wall Street wants to get its hands on the retirement money flowing through the program; b) payout of the Trust Fund will mean higher income taxes; and c) privatization would mean an instant windfall for those who now own stocks. The private insurance and health-care industries want to avoid anything like a single-payer system (if health-care expenses are reduced, they lose an enormous amount of money).
...
written by skeptonomist, January 04, 2013 10:01
If the $2.5T+ surplus in the Trust Fund is not paid out by the time all baby boomers are gone, they will have been cheated. Working boomers built up this surplus with payroll taxes, while higher-income people were getting income-tax cuts. Failure to honor this obligation would mean a huge upward transfer of money. The transfer would be class-wise, not generation-wise. I can't remember having seen any sort of article in the main-stream media which points this out, or the actual reasons why big-money interests want to cut entitlements. They always talk about "generational conflict" or "ideology".
The problem is medical overpricing, indulged by highly privledged Democrats
written by Rachel, January 04, 2013 10:24

$89 for a routine office to an MD in the US, vs $29 in France, $40 in Germany. Over $26000 for angioplasty in the US, vs about $6000 in France and Germany. So the intervention is grossly overpriced, but the prevention is overpriced too.

But the highly privledged leaders of the supposedly more liberal party seem to have no problem with the lack of competition and the egregious overpricing. (Redistributing income from the working class to lobbyist-protected professionals, what could be more natural?)

With "liberals" like these around, who needs Grover Norquist?


Data from the International Federal of Health Plans 2011

Never Have So Many Retirees Benefited From So Few Workers
written by Last Mover, January 04, 2013 11:28
Any economist can see the death spiral link between declining population growth and workers, and the coming economic collision between young and old.

The younger generation has graciously accepted it has been taken hostage down the path of serfdom by the older generation, and decided to accomodate the outcome with the greatest sacrifice of all, to have less children in order to finance the final days of a good life for their elders.

The trade off is rational. Better for the living to live longer than than the unborn to be born and crowd out the already living. Like the younger generation, any economist, any pundit, any journalist can see the obvious, that both groups cannot be funded. One must go so the other can survive.

The older and bolder Greatest Generation gives thanks to the younger generation for pledging to be meaner and leaner with fewer of newer of themselves, choosing to live lives of squalor in order to subsidize their elder counterparts under the worst and most expensive health care system in the developed world.
wedge
written by Peter K., January 04, 2013 11:28
Salzberg: "When it comes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the more Republicans talk about what and how they'll cut, the more older Americans turn away from Republicans."

The fact is Republicans keep killing deals with entitlement cuts in them. When Obama and the Democrats propose these cuts maybe they're just trying to give the Rethugs some rope to hang themselves. But they won't.

Still it's unnerving when Obama proposes cuts.
...
written by watermelonpunch, January 04, 2013 4:42
suggests that there is a conflict between the interests of the public at large and the health care providers

That's what I've thought.

When they cut benefits by raising the retirement age or eligibility for Medicare, it's by design that the impact is really felt by people who won't be eligible for 30 years

I did see somewhere a proposal where I realized my spouse would be impacted... just 15yrs from now... I can't remember where I saw this though. But I distinctly remember thinking about how my spouse's age was where it would be cut off and bumped up.

The private insurance and health-care industries want to avoid anything like a single-payer system (if health-care expenses are reduced, they lose an enormous amount of money).

What I would really like to read about is some real information on who exactly is benefiting, and how much, from the U.S. having such high health care "costs".

I guess what I'm wondering is if it's a case where there's a main enemy of health care being reasonably priced, and just a bunch of other industries/people who go along with it to get a cut of the action. Or if there's one particular industry benefiting while everyone else is over a barrel... I just haven't been able to get a clear focus on what is going on. Beyond that it's just really bad for the end-user/consumer (ie: patients, American citizens).

If anyone has any recommendations for reading material on that, I'm interested, please!

$89 for a routine office to an MD in the US, vs $29 in France, $40 in Germany. Over $26000 for angioplasty in the US, vs about $6000 in France and Germany. So the intervention is grossly overpriced, but the prevention is overpriced too.

Yes, this drives me nuts. A family member had an appendectomy in 2011, without insurance, and it cost $26,000. I found out that apparently in our state (PA), insurance companies actually are probably paying more like 18,000 for the same thing. And that the prices vary dramatically throughout the U.S. (more than to account for by cost of living differences). And in Germany, the average price is only $8,000 for this routine surgery.

The fact is Republicans keep killing deals with entitlement cuts in them.

Yes, because conservative Americans (general public) like the IDEA of entitlement cuts... But when you get down to specifically cutting something, they suddenly notice reality and think, OMG NO.
In the meantime harping on about balancing budgets & being financially prudent, and pointing fingers of blame at imaginary masses of "lazy people getting free money"... gets attention... and support. But nobody wants to let the hammer actually drop because then the truth would come out.
Well that's my guess at any rate!
...
written by jay, January 04, 2013 7:18
It's not uncommon for the media to make young people look lazy to justify the lack of action to create jobs, and make old people seem like financial burdens in order to justify taking away social security and medicare. Simultaneously, you have people apathetic about a jobs bill because the assumption is that anyone that works hard enough can get a job, and old people are mooching off the general public so we need to cut "entitlement programs" because the elderly no longer work for healthcare and a modest income. It's really atrocious. During the campaign, I noticed Paul Ryan tried to pit young Republicans against older people.
...
written by watermelonpunch, January 05, 2013 5:20
@ jay
Your comment conjured up visions of a potential Onion-type story where, in order to solve the unemployment issues, a politician tries to push the idea of a mandate that adult children be responsible for unemployed 50+ yr old parents, while his opponent campaigns against him on the platform of lowering minimum wage for people under 30 who live with & mooch off their parents & therefore can handle working for way under a living wage.
ha ha

What I'm saying is ridiculous of course, but it's like as time goes on politicians seem to be stuck further & further within their own house of mirrors where they're biting off their noses to spite their faces and calling it cosmetic surgery.
NYTs op-ed
written by ljm, January 06, 2013 12:18
Today at NYTs online, op-ed on claims it's worse than people think and the trust fund will run out of money sooner. It's like a full on attack not unlike the WMD in Iraq line that was circulated throught he media and then wasn't true. Can you debunk yet another one of these?

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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