The conservative argument for cuts in entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid) is supported by a claim that the interests of older people are directly in conflict with the interests of younger people. This presumed ‘generational conflict’ is designed to obscure the real ‘class conflict’ that is at the heart of our social and economic crisis.
Working class and middle class families have had essentially no improvement in wages and income since the 1970s. In the past two decades the highest income groups, especially the very highest income groups, have increased their income and wealth tremendously. The common wealth, the wealth produced by the millions of Americans is more and more unequally distributed. The social programs that helped create the great middle class of the 1950s and 1960s are under threat. They did not cause the problems we face. The attack on these programs is political and ideological.
The most appropriate response is to promote education funding, higher minimum wages, affordable healthcare and childcare. The younger generations are not our enemies or our opponents. They are our children and grandchildren. We need to take care of them as we always have and recognize that their problems are our problems.
Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011 U.S. Social Security Administration Office of Policy
The problems in Medicare and Medicaid are more pressing but they are not primarily caused by the demographic shift of the population. A better solution would be some kind of single payer system or “medicare for all.” That is a very difficult political goal and Steven Brill’s article “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” shows that there are methods short of single payer that could significantly reduce health care costs and make the system fairer.
Working for a fair democratic United States is the only long-term way to protect social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All of us do better when ALL of us do better.