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.