Boomers as Burdens
By Susan Swartz on January 15, 2011
Boomer bashing, always a fun activity for some, could become an extreme sport this year now that the generation has officially hit Medicare age. Instead of just going after boomers as self important bores the trend is to paint boomers as burdens.
And who benefits from this new round of boomer bashing, we might wonder, as we see headlines such as:
Squeeze from retiring boomers starts now
Big demanding generation expected to strain resources
Baby boomers may bust plans
While it is true that the boomer generation has come up with a lot to change society, such as pushing to end racism, sexism and ageism, Medicare and Social Security are not boomer inventions. Social Security, a government run insurance program funded by payroll taxes, was started in 1935. Medicare and Medicaid were added in 1965.
Boomers have been paying into both ever since we looked at our first paycheck and wondered “what’s FICA.” Medicare began just as the oldest boomers started working, meaning that boomers have paid more into Medicare than any other generation.
But instead of being considered big contributors we’re now considered a liability.
The deal was we paid then so the government would deliver it when we needed it (which would be now).
It’s not that boomers aren’t aware of concerns over risks to funding Medicare and Social Security. The math is there. There are more older workers ready to make claims than younger workers paying into the system. Some say fix the system. Some say scrap it. In any case, boomers are made out as the big burden. The big drain.
Some even suggest boomers are asking for some fat allowance that we don’t deserve. The average monthly Social Security benefit in 2010 was $1,158, an essential safety net if you’re in the struggling class. If you’re rich, the cost of a couple pair of kick-butt shoes. Medicare does not cover lip plumping.
It’s not like boomers are a bunch of newcomers asking for special privileges.
We’re the parents and grandparents and older siblings of the younger generation. We’re not aliens who just walked in the door demanding all the good wine.
And we’re not cavalier about threats to Social Security and Medicare. Polls show that boomers are, in large part, willing to make some sacrifices by raising the eligibility age and/or paying higher Medicare taxes rather than slicing benefits. We’re as worried for the younger generation as ourselves.
No self-respecting boomer should let the propagandists get away with implying that older people want it all now, the future be damned. Who does it benefit to convince young workers that Medicare and Social Security are doomed, rather than engaging them as advocates in coming up with ways to make the system sound and fair for everyone? Who stands to gain from creating a generation war over Social Security and Medicare?
Critics say leave health care for older people to the insurance companies. Dump Social Security and let people invest in their retirement.
This would take away the government’s responsibility to its older citizens and turn it over to the private sector which some consider a one way ticket to an ice floe.
The best alternative would be to insure meaningful, well paid jobs for as long as you want to work and then to age without ever getting sick. But no one, not even a boomer, has figured out how to do that.
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