Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Stupid, Lazy Old People!

NY Times editorialist and total jackass John Tierney thinks old people should shut up and work longer, and that would solve all our social security problems.

Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to
Because everybody has a job where they sit on their pasty white ass and write phoned-in columns for major newspapers, right? Right?!
The problem isn't that Americans have gotten intrinsically lazier. They're just responding to a wonderfully intentioned system that in practice promotes greed and sloth. Social Security is widely thought of as a kumbaya program that unites Americans in caring for the elderly, but it actually creates ugly political battles among generations.
I... whuh... guh... so, social security makes people lazy, greedy, and slothful? Just like welfare, apparently. Or any government assistance program, according to the Fuck Everyone Who Isn't Rich and White party. Except the rampant corporate welfare that the GOP doles out to its friends, I guess. That's ok and helps us all out. Unless you work at Enron.

And it seems to me that the political battles between generations are stirred up by GOP plant articles like this one. Most people will happily pay into social security, because they know they'll get that money back when they retire. Unless BushCo has its way, of course.
With the help of groups like AARP, the elderly have learned to fight for the right to retire earlier and get bigger benefits than the previous generation - all financed by making succeeding generations pay higher taxes than they ever did themselves.
Grandma, you greedy bitch! You insidious, dastardly villain! I see now that all those cookies you baked for me were merely a ploy, an opiate to keep me compliant and paying into a system that allows you to have a roof over your head, and to pay for your nursing services, and to keep your wheelchair in a state of repair. How dare you!
The result is a system that burdens the young and creates perverse incentives for people to retire when they're still middle-aged.
Perverse incentives! Now we get to the real heart of the matter. It's obviously perverse to want to retire from the daily, soul-crushing grind of work at the office or factory or local mass-merchandiser while you're still able to enjoy your life and your free time. What will these people want next, affordable health care? Reasonably priced medications? Orthopedic back pillows? Christ, it never ends!
If the elderly were willing to work longer, there would be lower taxes on everyone and fewer struggling young families. There would be more national wealth and tax revenue available to help the needy, including people no longer able to work as well as the many elderly below the poverty line because they get so little Social Security.
So go turn in that application at Wal-mart, Granny, and greet, greet, greet us into the Utopia! Or, uh, maybe we could stop throwing money down a deep, dark hole in Iraq, or stop giving away money to GOP fundraisers and PR people, or quit giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to the rich, and to oil companies already so flush with cash that they don't know how to spend it.
Getting that kind of system seems politically hopeless at the moment here, but it already exists in Chile. Its pension system has a stronger safety net for the older poor than America's (relative to each country's wages) and more incentives for people to work, because Chileans' contributions go directly into their own private accounts instead of a common pool like Social Security.
What the fuck, did he just say we should be more like Chile? CHILE?! Raise your hand if you would rather live in Chile than the United States! Yeah, I thought so. Now, could someone inform John that comparing two economies of such different size and scale is, well, retarded, and that what works for one small country might not work as well for a gigantic country? Although, sometimes it seems like BushCo’s policies are trying to scale our economy back to about the size of Chile’s.
Before the private-account system began in 1981, Chile had a traditional pension system going broke with the same problems as America and Europe: rising taxes on the young to pay for older workers who were retiring earlier and earlier. But under the new system, there's been a 30 percent increase in the labor force participation by workers in their 60's
Um, so, have those people CHOSEN to continue working, or have they been FORCED to continue working? Does John Tierney CHOOSE to write idiotic columns about how lazy old people are ruining the country, or does his dark lord Satan FORCE him to?
Best of all, Chileans who control their own private-account pensions don't have to count on politicians or groups like AARP to decide when they can retire. It's a personal choice, not a public battle, and the Chileans I interviewed had a saner attitude about retirement than the American baby boomers dreaming of retiring to decades of golf.
Again, it seems that the public battle over social security is less a generational battle than it is a GOP vs. any sort of assistance program issue. Do young people really hate social security? Do they resent old people for the taxes they have to pay? Do they begrudge them the meager allowance that Social Security gives them? Or do they say, "Well, Grandma busted her ass her whole life to make life better for me and my family, maybe she deserve a little money and the right to enjoy the last 20 some odd years of her life?" And, uh, Tierney seems to think it's INSANE to not want to work until you drop dead? Spoken like a guy who's never done an honest day's work in his life.
A 57-year-old schoolteacher, Maria Clara Meyer, told me she was thinking of spending her 60's running her own tutoring program or setting up an ecotourism business in Chile. "I'm a little tired of my teaching job," she said, "but I'm not stupid, so I shall keep doing something. It's not healthy for you to stop working if you're still able." And not healthy for your country, either.
Christ, this sounds like something right out of the Stalin-era USSR. I envision a propaganda poster of with a saggy, wrinkled Rosey the Riveter flexing her withered arm and getting ready to kick ass on two sneering old people in background wearing Hawaiian shirts stomping a young worker to death. "Retirement isn't healthy for your country!" it would say.

I have a feeling I won't be paying the Times when they institute a subscription fee, if this is the type of ridiculous tripe I'd be paying for. In fact, I would happily pay higher Social Security taxes if John Tierney would opt for early retirement.

2 comments:

Jane Hamsher said...

I think his dark lord Satan definitely has a hand in it. What a load of bollocks.

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.