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Seniors vs. Gen X

Armstrong Williams | 12/16/2011, 11:47 a.m.
At Thanksgiving, embracing the winds of change and increasing our faith

There is currently an intense debate regarding senior citizens in America. The enigma that our country faces regarding seniors is whether or not senior citizens should be subsidized by the work of young people, as well as if seniors really need special discounts.

Without debate, seniors are much wealthier than young families. In fact, some 40 percent of millionaires are in their 60s. Giving seniors discounts and special subsidies is, in effect, transferring money and resources from poor young families to wealthier seniors. That does not seem fair to many.

However, seniors have one good point: The government made a deal with them on Social Security and Medicare, so it is their correct belief that the government should follow through on its promises. Unfortunately, the government cannot deliver their side of the deal because it has squandered Social Security taxes and created a Ponzi scheme that young people will eventually end up paying for. The seniors do not want to hear that Social Security and Medicare need to be restructured in order to save their entitlements.

Some feel it's unfair for young, struggling families to subsidize the elderly simply because they have reached retirement age. In many cases, the elderly have substantially more financial freedom than the young people who are subsidizing them. The notion that we have an obligation to take care of the elderly is noble and correct. However, it is important to recognize that there are distinctions between those who have adequate resources to take care of themselves and those who do not.

This is a very complex argument because some of the elderly who don't currently have resources used the resources that they had in a very irresponsible way and are now expecting others to care for them. It's something that is clearly unfair, but at the same time, there are also young people who squander what little resources they currently have as well. There is no magical solution, but it is important to begin the discussion of how we resolve this problem in an equitable fashion. It will require compromise with all sides being represented.

One of the gigantic problems in our nation today is the conflict between the philosophy that our obligation is to provide a fair chance for people to take care of themselves and their families and the idea that we are all our brother's keeper. It is important to look out for the interests of those close to us, but although it may sound harsh, the original intent in the formation of America was the former philosophy.

That does not mean that people did not have compassion and weren't very charitable. It did mean, however, that there was no such thing as forced charity. When people know they must take care of themselves, they act differently and much more responsibly. An analogy might be someone checking into a hotel and discovering that all their expenses are being covered by someone else and splurging when it comes to room service and the mini-fridge instead of recognizing they are responsible for themselves. This is human nature, not complex economic theory. We must find a way to strike a balance between the two that allows everyone to feel good about their contributions rather than burdened by them.