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Greedy Geezers Are Not Nice People

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Let's talk about greedy geezers. The term displeases me because I find the vast majority of older people to be wonderfully generous and concerned for others. But there's a noisy minority of elders who spend all day obsessing over what they're owed and resenting any government program that's not about them. They are greedy geezers.

A woman in her 70s called to complain that the "cash for clunkers" program does not offer a special deal for seniors. She was incensed that her car has gas mileage that is too good to qualify for the rebate. "Why don't they do something to help the seniors get the cars?" she asked angrily.

An older man griped that people over 65, even if they had chronic diseases, would not get priority for swine flu vaccinations. "Tell me again how senior citizens are not being discriminated against?" he wrote.

I tried to explain that the supply of the swine flue vaccination cannot currently meet demand, so the Centers for Disease Control is giving priority to populations most vulnerable to the disease. They are pregnant women, babies and young people.

Flu can pose serious risks for the elderly, but for some reason, they seem to have an immunity to swine flu. Almost no one over 60 has gotten it. My friend still thinks that certain older people should go to the front of the line.

Then there's this nasty right-wing campaign to sink health care reform by activating the geezers' grievances and indifference toward the uninsured. Thus, the greedy ones happily e-mail crude propaganda saying that under the proposed reforms, Medicare would pressure them to end their lives early to save money.

One Medicare beneficiary writes, "This plan rations health care, decides who lives and who dies, takes from those who have to give to those unwilling to work. ... Socialism, no Marxism at its finest."

Here's a little reality for my correspondent: Medicare is a government program. It is socialized insurance -- and it is he who is taking from those who work.

I am one who has long fought conservative efforts to let Medicare, in former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's words, "wither and die on the vine." But then you see so many beneficiaries of this liberal program parroting lies about liberals' wanting to kill them. Makes you think.

A nice but uninformed woman wrote me, "I think it is time that the people in this country understand that the average senior citizen is not asking anyone to support them." As evidence, she cited the payments that she and her husband make for Medicare Part B (which covers doctors' visits) and the Medicare drug benefit. The premiums come to thousands a year.

This may seem like a lot of money. I can appreciate that. But this woman has no inkling what those benefits would cost if she had to buy them on her own.

Or perhaps she does. The Medicare Part B and drug benefit programs are totally voluntary. If she and her husband think they could get a better deal in the marketplace, why don't they go there and save thousands?

Some useful facts: In 2010, payroll taxes on working people (many themselves uninsured) and general revenue (income taxes) will fund about 80 percent of Medicare. Beneficiary premiums will cover just 12 percent. (The rest comes from the states and Medicare trust fund interest.)

The aggravating part isn't that younger people are helping older Americans enjoy dignified lives. That is only right. It's that despite the enormous transfer of wealth from the working to the retired population, the geezers still sit around ungrateful and irate that they're not getting enough.

It's not attractive.

COPYRIGHT 2009 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop

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