Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Democrats, in their desperation to avoid a crushing defeat in November, are making a new run at the votes of senior citizens. I doubt that this portion of the electorate holds much promise for the Dems in this cycle. Seniors are at least as appalled as the electorate as a whole by the failure of the economy to stage a decent recovery — a failure that dims both their retirement prospects and the job prospects of their children.
Nor are seniors likely to be thrilled that Obamacare is being funded in significant part by massive cuts in Medicare. The Dems claim that this will have no real impact on the quality of medical care for the elderly, since the cuts will come from fraud, waste, and abuse. But seniors weren’t born yesterday.
At a more fundamental level, I wonder whether there isn’t a powerful anti-government attitude taking hold among the elderly. This thought occurred to me when I happened to channel-surf my way onto one of those PBS fundraising programs. Instead of the normal fare — a show devoted to doo-wop or British invasion music — this program featured a guy named Ed Slott who was explaining how to “stay rich for life.” In practical terms, this seemed to mean mostly how seniors can protect their hard earned lifetime savings from the clutches of the federal government.
Slott was explaining this to a studio audience consisting mostly of seniors — folks who 55 years ago might have been in the peanut gallery watching the Howdy Dowdy show. And like Buffalo Bob, Slott was attempting to entertain.
For example, Slott had a mantra he would repeat every few minutes. After explaining one of his strategies, he would conclude that employing it would leave audience members with more money to enjoy now, more money for their retirement, more money to pass on to their children, and more money tax free. When he got to the last part, audience members would join in and yell “TAX FREE,” as though they were the magic words for Ranger Bill’s club.
This wasn’t the only “subversive” part of Slott’s act. He frequently mentioned the government in various contexts. In each, the government was the villain. And each such mention drew knowing and derisive laughter from the audience.
For example, on the subject of Roth IRAs, Slott started to explain that their worth as an investment device depends on “whether you trust the government. . . . ” With these words, he slowed down long enough to let the studio audience to make it clear just how misplaced such trust would be. But Slott then added that he meant only whether you trust the government not to change completely the tax rules on Roth IRAs. He went on to suggest why, on balance and in this very limited context, the government probably could be trusted not to renege.
So delighted was I to see good-natured but pointed government bashing on PBS that I almost made a contribution.
While we’re working, we tend to assess the kind of deal we’re getting from the government only once a year, when it comes time to do our taxes. As we plan to stop working, most of us will think more often about the subject — how much more we could have saved if the government hadn’t taken so much, and how much more of what we managed to save we could keep if the government didn’t take so much now.
And once we stop working, and have more time and less income on our hands, many of us may have these thoughts more frequently than is healthy — either for us or for the Democratic party.
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