The greatest generation’s greatest choice

Apparently much of the rhetoric around the choice of Paul Ryan as the GOP candidate for Vice President will focus on the federal government’s Medicare program. While everyone recognizes that the program cannot continue as is, at least for the next few weeks Rep. Ryan’s proposal of a way to put it on a more sustainable path will be described by his opponents as tantamount to pushing elderly ladies off a cliff to their death.

Lost in that sort of rhetoric of course is the fact that his proposal specifically includes maintaining the current program’s elements for current retirees and people 55 and older who don’t have time to plan for something different. Also lost is any account of the reality that at its current rate, Medicare will be insolvent in about 12 years, ironically just about the time those now 55 will be retiring.

In other words, if something fundamental isn’t done to address this problem now, the only way any form of Medicare will be available to anyone after 2025 will require large tax increases on the younger generation that at that time will be trying to establish families, businesses, homes, and careers. That sort of burden will be crushing, as the experience of the young right now in Greece, for instance, demonstrates.

This is why I suspect that the rhetoric about Romney and Ryan planning to push the elderly to their deaths won’t be as effective as their opponents would like. The generation now in retirement understands the long view, and they understand that it is wrong to live for one’s own interests and leave the costs to be borne by the next generation. They understand that they’re basically being asked to throw their grandchildren off the cliff. When Rep. Ryan’s plan was passed by the House of Representatives in 2011, its greatest support when compared to President Obama’s plan was among senior citizens.

It’s for related reasons, I suspect, that older people vote in greater numbers than younger. They understand better how important the choice of leadership is.  I have a hunch that when the time comes in November for them to make a choice, the greatest generation will make one more great choice.

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