The mother sitting across from me at the lunch table sighed when I asked about her daughter. “She’s thinking about moving to Pennsylvania. Since she works from home, she can live anywhere. Rural Pennsylvania seems to be the one place where houses are affordable. “
The dilemma is common. Several of my friends with well-educated children between the ages of 20-35 continue to provide shelter for their offspring. The American dream is a hard slog for younger generations, I’m sorry to say. Nor am I happy about the state of the planet they are inheriting.
If we older Americans had anticipated climate change, we might have purchased fewer gas-guzzling cars. Or, maybe not. Our species has a penchant for choosing present gratification over making plans for the future. Even so, some of us might have girded our loins to fight climate change sooner.
What I ponder at present is whether the older generation is cheating those who have followed. If so, society might rightly adopt the Inuit practice of leaving the frail elderly to die on ice floats. Fortunately, Michael Hiltzik, writing for the L.A. Times doesn’t think old folks are to blame for the state of the economy. Social Security and Medicare aren’t the oft-cited reasons the young have fewer possibilities.
Most seniors, he reminds us, paid for their Social Security benefits during their productive years. Only the working poor receive more from the agency than their lifetime contributions. Even so, few wish to punish people who struggled all their lives on slave wages. And, as a benefit to all, we should remember that for decades the U. S. government has borrowed from the insurance fund to satisfy other debts.
The elderly do receive government assistance to pay for prescription drugs. The tab would be less if Congress allowed Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma. Hiltzik points to Joe Biden’s success in reducing the cost of diabetes medication once Congress granted him a waiver.
Any perceived schism between youth and age is a false one, the author proclaims. America has more than enough resources to meet all the social needs of all generations. A shortfall exists because of the tax cuts enacted by Republicans for the benefit of corporations and the wealthy.
To support his claim, people remark that in the Dwight D. Eisenhower years, taxes on the rich could reach 91% of income. However, they forget much of this money was never collected. Scott Greenberg of the Tax Foundation writes that tax laws have long enabled tax avoidance. …the existence of the 91 percent bracket did not necessarily lead to significantly higher revenue collections from the top 1 percent. As proof, who over the age of 50 has forgotten businesswoman Leona Helmsley’s words? Only the little people pay taxes. Or, Donald Trump’s brag that he was too smart to pay taxes?
Whether Hiltzik’s point about our economics is right or wrong, few deny the super-rich exercise an undue influence over the government. Elon Musk’s money allows him to imagine he can engage in discussions with Vladimir Putin over the conduct of the Ukraine war. In 1953 multimillionaire Lewis Stauss fed Robert Oppenheimer to the lions when the scientist opposed the construction of the hydrogen bomb. (“The Fallout of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Story Lingers, an interview with Kai Bird, Concerned Scientist, Volume 23, Fall, 2023, pg. 13.) Dr. Anthony Fauci’s treatment at the hands of Donald Trump is a recent victim of the same abuse.
Even so, money doesn’t buy happiness. One Indian philosopher warns most often money buys burnout. (“Groovy.” By Mickey Rapkin, Town&Country, Dec. 2023-Jan 2024, pg. 141.) Another warns, When you have exhausted everything outside the only way to go is in. (Ibid, pg. 140)
Those who take that path of introspection enter a tulgy wood of doubt and shadows. If they finish the journey they may come to realize life has nothing to do with acquisitions. Life is about mergers.
When we see an individual not as a competitor but as an extension of ourselves, the way a wave is an extension of the ocean, we stumble upon a moment when a glimpse of universal harmony is possible.