Friday, April 01, 2016

Old Age 2

The second problem with aging is this society. Some cultures -- I'm mostly thinking of Native Americans -- respect elders and feel they are valuable. This is not true of mainstream white America. This society values production and consumption. The old are seen as unproductive and parasitic. They use resources and give nothing back.

In point of fact, the resources they use -- Social Security, pensions, Medicare, savings -- are ones they earned by working. You may not realize it, but Social Security is entirely financed by payroll taxes and interest on those accumulated taxes. No general revenue money goes to support the elderly. Medicare Part B is paid for by the people who use it. Medicare Part A is largely paid for by payroll taxes. If payroll taxes were slightly raised, Medicare could be entirely self-funding.

The old are not parasites. And why should it matter? Society owes every member a decent life. If society doesn't come through, we need to blame the government, not those in need.

A lot of retired people are caring for spouses and family members: grandkids, disabled children, siblings, even parents. If they didn't do this, society would have to.

There is also community work and volunteer work. A lot of this is done by retired people, and it needs to be done, if society is going to keep running. (Ever noticed the ages of election judges? That's an important job.)

Of course, a society based on money does not value unpaid work. That does not make this work valueless or unnecessary. I would argue that the old are often productive.

The old consume. I know that sounds icky, but 70% of the economy is based on consumer spending. Without people buying goods and services, our society grinds to a halt. (We can imagine a society without getting and spending and laying waste our powers, but we don't have it.) (And imaging a society without making and exchanging is actually pretty hard.)

For the most part, elders are not saving for the future. They -- along with the poor -- are laying out cash for food and shelter and other necessities.The money they get goes right back into society.

It's a commonplace of economic theory that money going to the poorest sections of society does the most to power the economy, because it all gets spent. If a society gives its money to the rich, it will slowly wind down, due to lack of demand. This is what's happening in the US and Europe right now.

Maybe I don't have to make this justification of the old as productive members of society. But I feel I have to, and that says something. I don't think it's saying something about me.


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