Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Than a Fair Share

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Than a Fair Share

Article excerpt

My favorite salad-bar restaurant has two lines. Although I always get the same thing for lunch, I was puzzled at first to discover that I was charged $7.83 in one line and $8.49 in the other. The reason turned out to be that people over 55 years of age are given a discount - and apparently different cashiers judged my age differently.

When I entered Yosemite National Park recently, and was about to purchase my usual annual pass, I noticed that there was also a "golden age" pass for which I qualified. The annual pass to Yosemite costs $25 but the "golden age" pass was only $10 - and was good for the rest of my life in all national parks.

Such age discrimination is the fruit of relentless propaganda campaigns of the 1980s about "the poor and the elderly." What makes it a farce is that the elderly hold most of the nation's wealth.

Households headed by someone from 55 to 64 years old average more than twice the net worth of households headed by someone aged 35 to 44 - which in turn average more than twice the net worth of households headed by someone under 35. Studies over the past 30 years have shown repeatedly that the only age bracket that consistently has more than 20 percent of its members earning more than double the national average income is the age bracket from 45 to 54 years old.

Despite the reality, image carries more weight in politics, and the image of the elderly poor makes the many privileges of older people sacrosanct. It is not just the political muscle of the American Association of Retired Persons; it is the neutralization of younger voters with pathetic images of the elderly that enable such Robin-Hood-in-reverse policies to persist and expand.

Nothing is more sacrosanct than Social Security - or more grossly a transfer of wealth from those with less to those with more. It is in fact one of the political miracles of the 20th century. Sold to the public as an "insurance" plan in which people get back what they paid in, it has instead operated like a pyramid club, with those who came in early getting money from those who came in later.

Like most pyramid schemes, Social Security worked like a charm at first. The growing number of young workers paying Social Security taxes enabled retirees to draw pensions out of all proportion to what they themselves had put it in, and enabled Congress to think up new goodies with which to sweeten the Social Security package. …

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