Thursday, March 03, 2005

Grandma's Coming To Stay!! Forever!!!!

The Left Coaster's Mary published a nice piece this morning on how the Bush administration strategists are using Social Security as a wedge issue to divide older voters from younger ones. As she notes, a recent Pew survey shows that younger voters are the only ones who consistently support privatization efforts.
That makes a certain kind of selfish sense: Young people who invest in stocks have, based on history, some reason to hope that over the long term -- 30 or 40 years -- their investments will pay off nicely.
Now, I've written at length about why "investment" is the wrong term to link with Social Security, so I won't go into that again. I'd rather focus here on the social aspects of a move toward privatization.
As I've said in the past, Social Security is designed in part to protect those who have made bad decisions and investments during their working life. Presumably that could include the parents and grandparents of some of these kids who think privatization is a great idea.
Well, maybe it's time to scare them with one of the most frightening declarations in the English language: "Grandma's Coming to Stay!! Forever!!!!"
Many of us have seen well-tended and manicured retirement communities such as the various Sun City's. Social Security helps to contribute to the financial stability that allows many seniors to live in such areas and remain independent until very late in life.
Take away the safety net, and more and more families will face the prospect of either poverty-stricken, potentially homeless seniors or grandparents who have had to move in and put themselves in the care of their children and grandchildren.
We've got my mother-in-law living with us these days. While I love her dearly and am willing to make the adjustments necessary to accommodate an 87-year-old, mostly deaf, frighteningly frail famjily member and her beloved dog, I can assure you life would be easier if she were living on her own. Which she was doing until a few years ago.
I say this as a well-settled, middle-aged man. If I had had to face this prospect as a young man whose grandparent had no place to go, I would have been pretty much horrified at what it did to my lifestyle (I realize that may not say much for me, but I'm being honest here).
So, all of you kids who believe it when Bush promises you pie in the sky, just remember that you may be sharing your big stock-market returns -- and your apartments -- with the grandparents whose financial security you have pulled out from under them.
Oh, and as for the AARP -- the right's new favorite target -- let's all remember that the main thing they promote is an active and indedependent life for older Americans.