In defense of greedy geezers

President Obama’s deficit commission has begun its work. Although its members won’t say what options they are considering, clearly they are giving serious consideration to recommending cuts in social security benefits. In fact, according to the Washington Post, the commission’s co-chair, former Senator Alan Simpson, has already chastised what he calls “greedy geezers” for fighting to protect their retirement checks while their children and grandchildren face the prospect of a towering debt.
But in playing the generational war card, Simpson overlooks the fact that one reason why seniors want to protect their social security checks is so they can preserve some of the income they have saved and pass it down to their children. Another reason is that, with Medicare having been drained of something like $500 billion to pay for Obamacare, and with the commission considering Medicare as a target for further cuts, seniors understand that they probably will need to spend more of their income on health care than they had planned to. It’s not greedy to be thinking about taking care of one’s health.
There’s no doubt that our children and grandchildren will be better off if the government gets its books in better balance. But I don’t trust the government, over the long haul, to use the money it would save as the result of cutting social security to advance that purpose significantly. After all, the government has been raiding social security funds for decades.
But whether we trust the government of not, the best thing we can do for our grown children and their children, from a material standpoint, is to pass along to them as much of our wealth as possible. Alan Simpson can engage in generational warfare all day and all night; grandchildren have a better friend in their “greedy” grandparents than they do in their paternalistic government or, for that matter, in Grandpa Al.

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