Recent tax legislation added some components of Social Security income to the tax rolls (when combined with other income). Benefits that were previously enjoyed are now less than they were. Similar tax changes have removed the age-related exemption (an exemption for being over sixty-five) that had been available to older taxpayers on federal returns.
There is much discussion in the public press about the cost of medical care, particularly for older adults. Such discussion is ominous, if not specifically prognostic, because it sets the stage for benefit reduction and benefit alteration. Consider the numbers of public pronouncements about volunteer efforts on the part of older adults to help other older adults with health problems. Conference discussions include reports of plans where elders help other elders. All these initiatives, and others too numerous to mention here, may in some narrow sense be correct. It may be important to make certain adjustments in the tax system. It may be important to remove certain exemptions at certain times. It may be important to deal with rising medical costs. The problem, however, occurs when one puts these changes into a pattern and links that pattern to the larger context. It is this larger context of the need for societal victims that makes one wonder, and regardless of the motivation within any policy system for a particular change, the function of such a change may serve entirely different ends. That may in part be the problem the elderly are facing today.
To take resources, one must have a reason. If the reason is hard to justify ("I want more, so I will have some of yours"), reasons need to be constructed. Attitudes toward the poor are such a construction. Negative attitudes add psychological solace to the whole picture: If I am going to take from you, it is nice to hate you; then I not only do not feel bad, I can even feel good about it.
Social exploitation--the securing of labor resources for free or cheap--seems to be a universal result from the gap between needs and wants (societal, organizational, familial, and individual) and available resources (also societal, organizational, familial, and individual). Many forms of social exploitation have existed over history. Karl Marx ( 1902), in looking at the relationship between capital and labor, was looking at one particular form of social exploitation as manifest in one particular historical period, but the historical form and choice of predators and victims may and doubtless will change. For Marx, class conflict based on one's position in the division of labor was central.
A future America will see class-related and age-related conflict or generational conflict replacing occupational conflict. The affluent citizens and the younger citizens will most likely unite against the underclass and older. Michael Lind ( 1995) feels this process is already well underway.