Thursday, July 05, 2012

Elder Belle's Blessing: Michael Hiltzik

(Photo by Patrice Carlton and published at National Geographic.)

This edition of Elder Belle's Blessing, an award given from time to time to someone who has enhanced the rights or well-being of elders, goes to Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzig for his outstanding article detailing the efforts of Wall Street and other members of the 1% to derail Social Security by pitting younger people against the elders and the surprising push-back by that younger generation.

For years now, efforts to set young against old have been linchpins in campaigns to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits and turn those programs over to the private sector. The basic tactic is to portray those programs as giveaways to undeserving seniors that rip off the young; the goal is to turn the ostensibly dispossessed young into an effective political counterweight to reform-resistant elderly. ...

For example, billionaire investor and deficit hawk Peter G. Peterson's charitable foundation has spent millions of dollars in recent years trying to inculcate college students via essay contests, social affairs and curricular materials with the idea that programs like Social Security and Medicare are sapping their patrimony.

And, with the burgeoning deficit caused by the banksters and two wars fought off-budget by the Bush administration, the privatizing ghouls think they've got the perfect opportunity to push their agenda through, led by Alan Simpson:

Recently, the image of generational warfare has gained new currency as an adjunct to panic over the deficit. The talking point is that freewheeling spending today will condemn you youngsters to permanent servitude to a huge federal debt, so it's only proper to cut entitlements now.

Perhaps the most prominent dispenser of this argument is former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), who has toured the country to promote the deficit-cutting plan he and Clinton-era White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles conjured up as co-chairs of President Obama's 2010 fiscal commission.

Their plan would cut benefits sharply for all but the poorest and oldest Americans, reduce cost-of-living increases and raise the retirement age, all of which would essentially transform Social Security from universal social insurance into something resembling a welfare program.

Fortunately, the next generations are no dummies. Hiltzig has discovered and tells us about some groups who actually get what's going on and are fighting back against the distortion and outright lies.

For me, this is the money quote:

"Wall Street and everyone who crashed the world economy has a really strong incentive to get young folks who are struggling to blame older folks who are likewise struggling, and no one will notice that the people pointing their fingers are the real culprits," [Alex] Lawson told me. "But once you get the truth out, young folks are well suited to figure out that the young and the old need to work together for the entire system."

Well done, Michael, and thank you.

Go read the entire column. It's well worth it.

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