- - Sunday, December 18, 2011


There is an intense debate regarding senior citizens in America.

The enigma that our country faces regarding seniors is whether senior citizens should be subsidized by the work of young people as well as whether 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.

The seniors do 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 with its promises. Unfortunately, the government cannot deliver its side of the deal because it has squandered Social Security taxes and created a Ponzi scheme that young people eventually will 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, but 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 complex argument because some of the elderly who don’t currently have resources used the resources that they had in irresponsible ways and are now expecting others to care for them. That is clearly unfair, but at the same time there are young people who squander what little resources they 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 representation from all sides.

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 brothers’ keepers. 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 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 that they are responsible for their own bill. 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, rather than burdened by, their contributions.

Within our concerns of the empowerment of those less fortunate in our society, we should consider the power of fundamental philosophy. We should compare these philosophies and determine the best outcome for all within our society, not just a select group. We also should analyze whether the group decisions are allowing freedom as well. The principle proposition is made regardless of age, but it is made in the interest of the economic future of our country.

The issue is not about abandoning the elderly; it is about benefiting the conditions in which they are placed. There are many protests about the conditions of those less fortunate. The only way to improve the conditions collectively is to establish free trade and empower those who are disadvantaged with a cushion. The individuals who deserve the cushion are the younger disenfranchised Americans.

c Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book “Reawakening Virtues,” is on Sirius Power 128, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.



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