Friday, February 26, 2010

The Elderly are 7 Times More Important than the Young

When it comes to government spending that is.

I like David Brooks' recent NYTimes column, "The Geezer's Crusade". It's an insightful look into what Grandparents can do for future generations. Grandparents you ask?

Brooks writes:

"A series of longitudinal studies, begun decades ago, are producing a rosier portrait of life after retirement. These studies don’t portray old age as surrender or even serenity. People are most unhappy in middle age and report being happier as they get older.

One of the keys to healthy aging is what George Vaillant of Harvard calls “generativity” — providing for future generations. Seniors who perform service for the young have more positive lives and better marriages than those who don’t. As Vaillant writes in his book “Aging Well,” “Biology flows downhill.” We are naturally inclined to serve those who come after and thrive when performing that role.

The odd thing is that when you turn to political life, we are living in an age of reverse-generativity. Far from serving the young, the old are now taking from them. First, they are taking money. According to Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for each $1 it spends on children.

In the private sphere, in other words, seniors provide wonderful gifts to their grandchildren, loving attention that will linger in young minds, providing support for decades to come. In the public sphere, they take it away.

It may seem unrealistic — to expect a generation to organize around the cause of nonselfishness. But in the private sphere, you see it every day. Old people now have the time, the energy and, with the Internet, the tools to organize."

The last line is pure Brooks: "The elderly. They are our future."