What Battle of the Ages?

Wealthy brat children not satisfied that their lives of luxury were handed to them, not earned, along with free-market ideologues, now try to convince low and middle-income people their age that their parents, not the plutocracy in this country, are their true enemies in the fight to secure their financial futures.


In a recent AARP Bulletin article, Tom Dunkel argues against what seems to be a common theme among some these days that pits elders against their children in the fight to claim Social Security and Medicare benefits, paid for from the payroll tax deductions of income earners’ paychecks.  Though Mr. Dunkel uses a couple of the erroneous arguments used by those who want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare as a government program do, the gist of his story illustrates that any animosity between the Boomer generation and their children is more a fabrication than a fact.

What Mr. Dunkel gets wrong is not unlike those who perpetuate the myth that Social Security is going bankrupt.  The belief that the Trust fund will be “depleted” by 2033.   The truth is that by 2033, even if Congress takes no action between now and then to offset revenues and expenditures, the SS trust fund will still be solvent enough to pay out 75% of benefits, and will be able to continue to do so for another 20-25 years.

He also misrepresents the facts when he claims that “Social Security and Medicare gobbled up 38% of the federal budget in fiscal year 2012.”  He’s taken to task on this by one astute blogger showing that Social Security, on paper at least, has a surplus and Medicare’s deficit is fixable if only Congress will act.

The real problem is these Trust Funds have no actual cash because several generations of political leaders replaced all these funds with Treasury notes and IOU’s – adding to our national debt.  Accordingly, any need to draw money from surplus assets would require more government borrowing of funds to pay for the funds already borrowed  –  or, raising taxes which would result in Social Security and Medicare benefits being taxed twice.
But to add insult to injury, Congressional leaders have consistently criticized the so-called “Entitlements” as a budget busting item and yet in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 this same Congress temporarily reduced the payroll tax for Social Security by 2% and agreed to “replicate to the extent possible” revenues that would have occurred in the absence of this payroll tax by transferring funds from the General Fund.    SOURCE

For this Mr. Dunkel could rightfully be accused of aiding and abetting the enemy; those who would rather see the revenue of these government trust funds go into private sector investments like IRAs and Mutual funds.  It is their intent to create a perception that such privately managed tools are more likely to create greater wealth over the long haul, hoping the youth today will view the FICA deductions from their paychecks as something forced on them to spend money on the current elder generation.   This approach seeks to anger young wage earners and get them to feel as if their “freedoms” are being deprived of the means to secure the financial future of their own choosing rather than one mandated under the laws that fund Social Security and Medicare.

The reality is that a handful of wealthy financial interests, not the parents of today’s younger generations, are the ones who will endanger the financial security of tomorrow’s retirees.

Others have also written about the bogus “age war” between millennials and the boomer generation.  The argument that claims there will not be enough money left for today’s younger wage earners when they are set to retire down the road has also been discussed by competent economists.  My concern is why young people like Abby Huntsman and Michael Peterson, children of billionaire fathers, are creating the false impression that elders today are depriving our younger adults of any financial security for those born after 1980.

Why do people like Nick Gillespie over at Reason magazine viciously assert that today’s youth are “not getting screwed by billionaires and plutocrats. [They]’re getting screwed by Mom and Dad”?   It’s not all that hard to figure out why Mr. Gillespie is.  He’s the libertarian editor-in-chief of Reason.com and Reason TV and has been cited by the Daily Beast as one of the Right’s top 25 journalists.  Only devotees of Ayn Rand would be as treacherous as Nick to pit children against their own parents for the sake of lifting up the ideal of free markets and laissez-faire economics.  I hate making Nazi comparisons but wasn’t there a divide and conquer policy under Hitler that encouraged German children to turn anyone in, even their own parents, if unkind words about der Fuhrer were uttered?


Both Huntsman and Peterson were literally “born to the manor” and have never known what it’s like to be in need or to experience the fear that one’s financial security could disappear overnight with a job loss.  Both have always had the best housing, clothes, education and luxury accouterments without really having to engage in any worthwhile labor.  Unlike many college graduates today whose families struggled to pay their tuition, Huntsman and Peterson didn’t ascend to their lucrative jobs by dent of hard work and paying their dues in their fields of endeavor.  They gained them by virtue of their birthright to well-heeled parents.  Where millions of college graduates are struggling to find jobs they trained for and pay off the debt that they and their parents incurred to get them through school, rich kids like Huntsman and Peterson avoided the unpleasant rigor everyone else has who didn’t have rich and famous parents.

And then there are the ideologues, the Ayn Rand zealots, the free-market storm troopers like Gillespie and Washington Post Opinion columnist Catherine Rampell.  Their devotion to the capitalist aspiration misleads today’s youth by blurring the lines of reality that distinguishes between payroll tax deductions that support their parents in retirement, keeping many of them out of poverty, and a sense of being robbed to secure their own financial futures.

None of these pampered, ideological children of wealthy parents reflect on the fact that for the first 20 or so years of low and middle-income children were paid for by a parent or parents who worked 40-50 hour weeks, some working 2-3 jobs, to keep their kids fed, clothed, housed, and sent to college, often at a sacrifice to their parents who had to forego vacations and a new car when the other was constantly being maintained by repairs.  The belief too that most elders collecting Social Security benefits are financially better off than we’ve been led to believe is ludicrous and disregards the fact that their children would be hard pressed to assist their parents as their health deteriorated without the financial assistance they receive from Social Security and Medicare.

I have no background on Gillespie and Rampell.  They may or may not have grown up in families that struggled or were raised by those whose economic status was closer to what Peterson and Hunt have experienced.  They are all likely decent human beings who are charitable and display socially acceptable levels of tolerance with those who they disagree with and who come from different socio-economic backgrounds.  But it’s clear that their shared idea of vital social safety nets come from something other than any real life experiences other than their own.

There is no balance in their utterances about how its takes more than fortunate birthrights or sheer will to overcome hardships to sustain a life where need is always biting at your ass.  The need to make a livable wage, the need to be healthy and productive, the need to keep your home when economic recession limits your income sources.  These are needs that very wealthy, privileged kids never fathom and are thus prone to fall into the deception that anyone who hasn’t made their fortune and established their financial security before they reach their 30th birthday is a “taker” and a moocher.

These needs are the norm for the vast majority of children born to the Boomer generation.  Sustaining a system that their parents paid into, not only to support their own parents in their late years but who did so while working long hours to ensure that their kids would know little hardship, is not something that rich kids like Huntsman and Peterson get.  Neither do people like Gillespie and Rampell who are likely consumed with unrealistic ideals that thinks all things are equal in this world and opportunity is out there for everyone.  It’s the luck of the draw for the most part and where hard work and great ideas have made successes of a few it is totally unreasonable to assume markets are devoid of human greed and exploitation that knee-caps honest people who try to play by the rules.

The weak argument that free markets alone will be the “high tide that raises all ships” and that anyone who hasn’t jumped on board one of those ships doesn’t deserve a life saver is a delusional attitude found amongst those sheltered by their elite wealth status.  A child so full of himself that he would let his parents drown because they would take up more room in the boat than he feels he wants to surrender may be the norm for those who want to privatize social security and let the free markets control health care in this country.  But most other kids are aware of the debt they owe their parents for raising them and the sacrifices they made, not out of some economic rationale, but out of a genuine devotion to them.

In his article Tom Dunkel cites a Pew Research Center poll headed up by Paul Taylor that finds there are “no signs of intergenerational bloodbath brewing.  It’s all media smoke and no fire.”  The Pew poll findings show that a large majority of millennials (80%) feel their parents “have better moral values than they do”  Dunkel notes that a common attitude today among younger adults toward their parents contradicts they hype that claims their parents are doing everything to rob them blind as Nick Gillespie charges.

The real fear here however is not that Boomers will actually be responsible for depriving their kids of their financial security but that the corporate media who gives too much equal time to baseless claims these days will begin to have a counter-influence on the millennials who still hold that these entitlement programs have been good for America.

When you’re raised amongst those who lavish you with everything, as Huntsman and Peterson have been, you dwell among those who prevent you from truly seeing the forest for the trees.   And now that a corporate-friendly Supreme Court has deigned that money and speech are one and the same, the Huntsmans and Petersons can drown out the other voices already ignored by most that control the media today



10 responses to “What Battle of the Ages?

  1. It really shouldn’t be so complicated, should it. I respect and admire the Norwegians so much for keeping it all so very simple… and now they’re sitting on a Sovereign Wealth Fund approaching a trillion dollars.

    • “It really shouldn’t be so complicated…”

      It’s not. That’s why the plutocracy in this country and their spoiled brat children converge on the mass media to distort the simple turth.

  2. I’m surprised the politicians aren’t courting the silver vote by giving them pensions guarantees. After all, the older you get, the more interested you become in politics and the more likely you are to vote

    • It is the elders’ power at the voting booths that keeps Republicans from totally eliminating SS and Medicare. Their proposals have been to keep the system in place for those 50 and above while allowing younger adults to opt out and buy into private pensions like mutual funds and IRAs while they continue to support the talk from the wealthy about how it is such a drain on the deficit.

      They figure if they can repeat their lies often enough they can ultimately persuade people to vote against their own self interests. The ones Carlin refers to those as “dumb enough to passively accept” whatever bullshit the wealthy dictate to them

      • I must admit this doesn’t make much sense to me. Why wd people vote against their self-interest? I don’t get why people inthe US are so against publicly funded health care. Don’t you have strong unions that represent their members’ interests?

      • “Don’t you have strong unions that represent their members’ interests?”

        Not like we used to Elaine. The wealthy special interests in this country have been steadily working since the New Deal under Roosevelt gained ascendency back in the 1930’s to win back that territory they rightfully lost following the Great Depression.

        They have been effective in using the American ideal of individualism that in its earliest 19th century stages was popular. But it is an ideal that is no longer part of the world we live in. The notion of personal freedom and competition was destroyed once the Robber Barons during the Gilded Age bought their way into power. As Carlin notes they essentially own everything but still pay their lackeys in Congress and state legislatures along with the media to promote that every person is a king if they will just reach out and grab a very illusive opportunity.

        As humans we want to believe in this fantasy and so it has been successful getting people to remove government where it can help the most people, thinking that so-called free market principles really will make everything right.

        As a people we see many who have lost their critical thinking skills thanks in part to the dumbing-down efforts of mass media and some educators and buying into consumerism as a concept of personal freedom.

  3. the hallmark of the rich is that they always keep us scrabbling among ourselves while they rake in more of our money and jet off to another vacation spot to sit and talk about how damn dumb we are…”Imagine them running a country..” they chortle…bah..

  4. I see. Thanks for explaining. We do get right wing politicians pointing out to us here about your ‘independent thinking’ and rejection of a ‘nanny state’. But even with all the faults in the NHS and the welfare state (and there are plenty), they have to stop short of any talk of abolition, because it would be (at the moment) electoral suicide. Margaret Thatcher, the most likely person to have achieved this, would have loved to have got rid of the NHS, but as soon as she put her free market thinking on the table and said there was no such thing as society (coupled with her attempt to bring in the poll tax) she was dead in the water. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how you can get nations to accept entirely different views.

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