Welcome to Gerontocracy

There's a phantom quotation that one often hears cited by those on America's political right, the gist of which is that democracy survives only until people realize that they can vote themselves an income:

 

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can
only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves
largesse

from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes
for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury
with the

result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy,
always followed by a dictatorship.

 

Conservatives frequently bring this position up with the implication that it's the masses of poor people who will eventually line up to the polls and demand a share of all of our money.  It'll be redistribution, and middle America will suffer the same fate as the kulaks!

 

The funny thing is, they're at least somewhat right.  There is a group that lines up at the polls every election day to make sure that no one takes away their God-given right to gummit freebies.  Trouble is, it's not exactly the poor.  Let's look at the way that our heroes of small government treat two entitlements in particular:  Medicare and Medicaid.  About fifteen years ago, Newt Gingrich proposed scaling back Medicare.  The geezers smacked him down hard (because if there's anything that the old have a right to, it's the livelihood of the young), and that was the end of the Republican Revolution.  Fast forward to the 2010 election.  The Republicans talked a whole lot about cutting "government spending," but at the same time, Representative Mystic Tan promised that in no way would he touch Medicare, since, after all, he was only going to go after government spending.  As for Medicaid?  Well, let's look to the Lone Star State:

 

Some Republican lawmakers — still reveling in Tuesday’s statewide
election sweep — are proposing an unprecedented solution to the state’s
estimated $25 billion budget shortfall: dropping out of the federal Medicaid program.

 

Okay, so Medicaid is government spending that needs to be cut, but Medicare is, well, something, but certainly not government.

 

[Edit:  Here's where I take my anger and a post turns into a rant.  I think that, given some polling data that was pointed out by SNK in the thread, that it might not be an entirely accurate statement.  It's exactly why I try to avoid posting on things that piss me off too much.]  Of course, it's not just Medicare.  If we look at the decade-long stem cell debate, the loudest and most vocal voices have been the withered husks of the boomers demanding their immortality potion made of ground up embryos.  And if there's anything that is the perfect representative of the role of old people, government, and society, it's the demands of old people to stave off death for another couple of months by feasting on unborn children.

 

The quote up there about people voting themselves and income?  It certainly holds true.  Just ask Boehner and Gingrich.

 

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I have to say, in theory,

(#241335)

I have to say, in theory, opting out of Medicaid could work if it was done in good faith and replaced with a state program that was more efficient and in line with the state's goals and demographics.  Of course, that is highly unlikely to be the result in this case but supposedly that is the plan according to the Texas GOP.  "Ha!" I say but I believe CHIP had seen increased funding under Perry so anything is possible.

And yet they voted for your side.

(#241250)

Far more old people voted for the GOP than for democrats a few days ago.

 

In fact, if you could erase the votes of people over 60, we would have seen an awful lot of blue.

 

So something does not really square with your theory.

 

But, having said that, I do agree that there are some built-in asymetries to human democracy that lead to poor decision making. 

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

They're not "my side"

(#241322)

I haven't voted Republican (with the exception of for local judges) since the 2000 election for a lot of the reaons that I've mentioned drive me up the wall, namely, the GOP's utter disregard for anything remotely resembling good government.

I am thinking

(#241233)

Reminds me of the French Revolution.

(#241285)

One day they'll run down the wrong peasant.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I wonder

(#241293)
HankP's picture

if there's anything more corrosive to a democratic form of government than the (wholly justified) widespread belief that there are two different systems of justice.

I blame it all on the Internet

Trickle-down justice

(#241243)

How appropriate.  And why am I not surprised that we're reading about this in a European newspaper.

 

There is a political space to crucify these bastards, if we had any major parties that weren't gorging at their trough.

The other day I heard that ignorance and apathy are sweeping the country. I didn't know that, but I don't really care.

I'm starting to doubt that

(#241246)
HankP's picture

the political space part, I mean. American society seems to be internalizing the idea of submission to alpha males to a large (and bewildering to me) degree. It almost makes one believe in genetic tendencies towards aristocracies that can only be effectively opposed by different socialization and education than what we're doing now.

I blame it all on the Internet

I can't believe

(#241247)

that Americans are more socialized to accept aristocracy now than we were in 1776.  Although I will admit I find it disturbing how many of my age cohort seem to have adopted Gordon Gekko's speech in Wall Street as the foundation of their personal ethics.

The other day I heard that ignorance and apathy are sweeping the country. I didn't know that, but I don't really care.

Not so sure about that

(#241251)
HankP's picture

someone suffering under a class based aristocracy probably has a lot more hard feelings against it as opoposed to someone living under a (supposed) meritocracy. Also, remember that the colonists were far from unanimous about the revolution, I recall reading that it was about one third in favor, one third opposed and one third indifferent.

I blame it all on the Internet

Isn't it always?

(#241253)

I recall reading that it was about one third in favor, one third opposed and one third indifferent.

 

Really, people don't change.

 

The only problem is that in 1776 the cost of stupidity would have been relatively minor.

 

Today, we have nukes and global warming and resource depletion and fifty more problems that nead a minimum of rational thought, and we are walking right into the century of magical thinking. Probably precisely because we have these problems.

 

I think we are screwed as a civilization, if not as a species. I'm sort of working on how to deal with that on a personal level. So far, the best I've got is that I could be wrong, so I might as well hang around and see how it goes. But hope is not a plan. I have no plan.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I don't worry too much about nukes

(#241261)
HankP's picture

despite the kinds of comments you hear from Bernard and Scott, the cost of using one will be prohibitive to any group or nation for the foreseeable future. The shortage problem will be solved, painfully, by drastically increased prices. Personally I'm just planning on finding somewhere warm to spend my retirement, preferably in the US but who knows?

I blame it all on the Internet

The biggest problem is mud!

(#241255)

The whole political enviornment is saturated with crap so that you can't see whats happening. If you don't have command of the facts, and everybody around you is screaming different things at you, it is impossible to make a rational decision. People have a sense that corruption is rotting our society, but other than voting out people currently in office (which doesn't work), their is no alternative. I think the tea party could have been that alternative, but I am dismayed at how quickly it was suborned.

There was always mud....

(#241257)

...and certainly in revolutionary times.

 

But now the mud slingers have tremendous multipliers thanks to television, while people have much shorter attention spans, also thanks to TV.

 

We did have a filter though: journalism. But that's now gone. Through the 20th century newspapers shifted from being reader supported to advertiser supported. TV was born that way. Still, there was a sort of golden era, with Murrow and Cronkite and so on. But news division revenue collapsed when cable news appeared, so that's now gone too.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Misty water-colored mammaries.....

(#241265)

The press of yore was hardly the impartial, hard-hitting thing you might remember.   It was usually in bed with the government.   Despite overwhelming evidence of the Nazi death camps, the New York Times wouldn't report on it.   Reports that did come in were relegated to the middle of the paper.   Lynchings were just local crime.  

 

And papers were political.   The tradition of newspapers endorsing candidates came early.   Read Mark Twain for an account of how early newpapers were run and edited.

I am aware of those things...

(#241287)

IMHO, you are missing the mark.

 

For example, lynchings were a local crime, because they were. That was simply the era.

 

New York Times coverage, or any war coverage, during World War II was controlled. No kidding. The Times had a disgraceful role when the Shah was imposed on Iran also, and in many other events.

 

I made no claim regarding hard-hitting investigative journalism. That has always been a rare species of the craft. Watergate was exceptional. If journalism kept up that level, we would have a Watergate every couple of months.

 

But from about 1950 to 1990 or so, most journalism was relatively responsible, in the sense that facts were checked, stories corrected, rules followed, etc. Slant was created by omission and selection. Not by broad fabrication.

 

Today anybody on the right can say anything and it will be parroted by friendly media without even the most basic fact checking. This is how we have gotten to the point where it is possible to scare large numbers of people into thinking the government will take away their medicare, or where there is even a debate about global warming.

 

In the 1960's, despite huge power, slowly progress was made against big tobacco lies. Today, we are actually going backwards with climate change.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Dandy

(#241241)
brutusettu's picture

[quote]'Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,' he said.
[/quote]

Felony convictions have some pretty more serious job implications for someone with just a high school diploma or less, best we expunge all their convicitons

[quote]Erzinger fled the scene and was arrested later, police say. He drove until he reached a Pizza Hut parking lot, where he stopped and called Mercedes auto assistance to report the damage to his vehicle.
[/quote]

Well, I think he suffered enough and learned his lesson, he just had to drive himself into the parking lot of a high end pizza chain.

Apparently he tried the defense of sleep apnea?

The man didn't know he had it or something, he cannot afford a sleep mask, or a driver?
Cheney should have claimed he has muscle spasm problems and fled the seen after he shot his partner in the face.

Good Writing is Good...Deeply & Profoundly False, but Good...

(#241222)

 

...we old people are tired...we have no desire at all to live forever. You people in your middle years maybe, but not us, (nor will you when you are where we are).

 

We do however wish to die with dignity, with some concern for the ending of the lives that we have lived.

 

Speaking to a very young CalTech applicant yesterday, just casually and she was female (with me, of course she would be...why would I even talk to a man?...lol...but I digress, it's all those ground up babies I'm drinking, I suspect), "The future is yours, I've done what I can but tomorrow, that belongs to you....and I feel better about that having spent some time with you."

 

We understand this in ways that most people cannot...We Have no Future.

 

So we don't begrudge what is simply true....but spare us any intellectual bullsh*t too....give us our morphine, let serious people try to cure what ills we can, you can count with fatal precision the number of angels dancing on frozen embryonic pin heads, but we have real concerns. We need care, in the final extremity we need someone to wipe our asses....and we don't want any crap from you about this.

 

We refuse to be warehoused so that you can live a life of even greater vulgar consumption...your passions for yourself are corrupting what flicker of a soul you might yet possess.

 

(But still, damned good writing)

 

Traveller

I don't want to warehouse folks so much as

(#241323)

I'd like to see voting patterns that amount to something more than, "Give me my portion and screw the rest!"  That's what I think has me most steamed about the voting patterns in the last election: seniors overwhelmingly voted for an agenda of Small Government and hands off my Medicare.

 

I'd actually vote for any congressional candidate who came out and said, "Folks, Medicare and Medicaid taxes are going to have to go up a bit."  I know as well as anyone that medical technology is only getting more expensive.  But I wish like hell that our senior voters wouldn't vote as a right-wing caricature of the welfare state.

Heh. Great comment, Trav.

(#241239)

American culture is uniquely unsuited to understand life at its extremes. This is a deliberate commercial necessity, but it is still soulless and silly.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I'm Working too Hard Today to Worry Too Much....lol

(#241240)

....but, you know, seeing something that brings your blood to a boil is always fun to fire on...

 

Back to the keyboard and work....lol...but thanks for the thought Jordan. Appreciated.

 

Traveller

My husk

(#241210)
aireachail's picture

is more pruney than withered, from what I can see in the mirror.

 

But that's neither here nor there. What really matters is that you're composing a blog diary rather than doing something...taxable.

 

Get to it. I'm not getting any younger over here.

I'm on it

(#241324)

My payroll taxes off of two extra classes this coming summer ought to keep you in Metamucil for a while.  :)

"I'm not getting any younger over here."

(#241211)

That just means you're not sucking hard enough on those umbilical cords.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

I put 'em into smoothies.

(#241213)
aireachail's picture

Staying regular is important as well.

Well there's your mistake

(#241214)

Blending makes cord blood 65% less stem-celly.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

Granted.

(#241216)
aireachail's picture

But I love those blended strawberries and pomegranates.

 

That's why an uninterrupted supply is so darned critical.

Um, are you under the impression

(#241202)

that any of these entitlements were voted into effect by the geriatrics of today? Or the Boomers? To the contrary, they were not; old people today feel they have spent their entire working lives paying into these systems out of money withheld from their pay-checks. Unsurprisingly they don't care to have them arbitrarily ended now that their lives actually depend on them. Equally understandably, they are drawn to vote for politicians who promise to balance government budgets so that these programs don't go bankrupt.

 

At the time that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid came into existence, conservatives sent up a howl of protest. Even now, it's ultra-rightwingers and libertarians who favor ending them. If your argument is that old people are too conservative, then that doesn't quite add up.

 

The famous quote you refer to, first articulated by De Tocqueville, referred to welfare recipients and government bureaucrats voting themselves ever-larger salaries. Certainly that part of his prediction has come true--though, ironically, more particularly in his native Europe.

Stem Cells Are The Canary In The Coal Mine

(#241197)
M Scott Eiland's picture

As at least one prominent writer has pointed out, things could get a lot worse when people start insisting on living forever.

If we're lucky, the new paths that Jordan noted above will end up bypassing all of those possibilities and merely leave us with the problem of paying for all of it.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

That's nothing. If global average life expectancy

(#241238)

goes up by five years, it would add several billion people to the planet. Assuming China & India have industrialized enough to hit (and exceed) the Hubbert Peak, with no alternative energy source, and then there's a relatively sudden pop. increase of that magnitude? World War Last.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Embryos are not babies

(#241192)
HankP's picture

and the biggest source of embryos by far is in vitro fertilization. Yet I don't hear any calls for the end of that procedure.

 

BTW, this boomer supports stem cell research not because I have some idea it will extend my life, but because it's the best chance for a cure for my daughters diabetes. Maybe I should rant about that.

I blame it all on the Internet

AS didn't say babies

(#241203)
brutusettu's picture

He said ground up "children"

It doesn't go
sperm + egg, to zygote, to embryo, to fetus, to baby, to toddler, to child... to senior citizen/elderly.

It goes, sperm + egg to senior citizen directly.

Using embryos is grounding up senior citizens.

Not sure I understand the end of this...

(#241185)

I have lots of problems with the boomers on their care of society... That being said how do they in fact having anymore sway in the stem cell debate? Unless you seem to think that all this research is only to benefit old people? I had thought the stem cell debate was past us.... With the left overs from fertility clinics it would seem a no brainer... Used in science or let to expire on their own... Wasted for the benefit of mankind.... 

 

As far as the political price the one thing in the healthcare reform bill the Dems had to define was about the change related to medicare and what the cuts really did... It was in fact more a cut like the student loan money... Not a cut in services but a cut in management fees..... Instead of giving X this money for a nominal service we can do a better job... That we are ending the Donut hole in the drug bill etc... The benefits seem to out weigh the costs.... 

 

Yes and taking care of the poor and having a more equatable distribution curve is not good for the economy... Being that 75% of it is consumption... Henry Ford that liberal paying his workers three times the average wage was not good business in the end.... 

Ask courageous questions. Do not be satisfied with superficial answers. Be open to wonder and at the same time subject all claims to knowledge, without exception, to intense skeptical scrutiny. Be aware of human fallibility. Cherish your species and yo

He Got The Best Workers That Way

(#241187)
M Scott Eiland's picture

Of course, he'd fire the ones who didn't pass muster--that's a tad more complicated these days: old Henry would be knee-deep in lawsuits if he tried to run his company his way these days, even if he got past that whole intense anti-Semitism thing.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Well outside of him creating demand for his product

(#241200)

From what little I know I would agree with all your points.... Times where different.....We have improved on somethings....

Ask courageous questions. Do not be satisfied with superficial answers. Be open to wonder and at the same time subject all claims to knowledge, without exception, to intense skeptical scrutiny. Be aware of human fallibility. Cherish your species and yo

I think the stem-cell case is hard to make

(#241181)

Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to support embryonic stem-cell research.  I couldn't find any age-specific issue polling, but I think we all know which group is generally older.

 

Also, "feasting on unborn children"?  Wow.

The other day I heard that ignorance and apathy are sweeping the country. I didn't know that, but I don't really care.

Circa 2006

(#241186)

[img]http://people-press.org/reports/images/283-10.gif[/img]

 

Andrew did specify that he was talking about those withered husks of boomers (not referring to anyone here, I'm sure) -- the 50-64 demographic is pretty squarely boomer, and it's the group with the strongest support for stem cell research, and the largest increase in support between '02 and '06.

 

EDIT: Forgot to include the link.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

The 65+ Demographic Is Interesting

(#241188)
M Scott Eiland's picture

Is that drop in approval more "this sort of sorcery is evil!" or "it won't get to me in time anyway, so screw all you whippersnappers!"?

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Yeah, good question.

(#241189)

I'd guess that it came down to initial excitment followed by disenchantment.

 

EDIT: And they're not the only ones who dipped after 2004: maybe the 18-29 group was just a blip, but the secular crowd dropped 5% between '05 and '06, and the liberal democrats dropped 12% between Dec '04 and '06.  That makes me more confident that it's something like disenchantment after the promise of stem cells, or at least the time-frame, being over-sold.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

Which Makes Sense. . .

(#241184)
M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .since Republicans are far more likely to oppose abortion, and therefore would be far more likely to oppose a practice that incentivizes continuing abortions. Also, even a pro-choicer like me can see the potential ethical pitfalls in that sort of thing--what happens when we need enough embryonic stem cells that the current number of abortions aren't enough for the demand? Do we allow private (or public) compensation for women getting pregnant just to abort later and harvest the stem cells? If you think the abortion debate is nasty now, just wait until someone seriously proposes *that*.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

BZZZT!  It does not

(#241190)

BZZZT!  It does not incentivize abortion.  Embryonic stem cells are available from other sources, ya know.  IVF leftover material for one.

And When The Demand Goes Up?

(#241195)
M Scott Eiland's picture

Also, if this is true, would Democrats agree to a law making it illegal to use stem cells obtained from abortions? Somehow, I doubt it--the spice must flow.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

I think you are imagining

(#241220)

I think you are imagining things.  You think Dems wouldn't agree to use abortion-derived stem cells because - why?  If the other sources of stem cells are enough for what we need, and it may very well be, why wouldn't they agree to this?  Right now, we don't really know.  At this point, assuming there would be some kind of open-market for cells (resulting in baby-mommas getting abortions for crack rock?) is pretty strange since we don't really know anything about what we'd use the cells for, what cells are useful, how long the lines will last, how many lines do we already have and are they enough.  That boogey-man is working over time at your house.

Embryonic stem cell sources will soon

(#241196)

cease to be an ethical concern. I agree that creating large financial incentives for stem cell-derived therapies could potentially lead to abuse, but the fact is there are currently multiple non-embryonic sources, and they keep finding new ways to produce them.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

That's Good News

(#241199)
M Scott Eiland's picture

Nice to remove the temptation and avoid the whole Larry Niven parade of horribles in this area if possible.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Regardless

(#241194)

I think there's a not-uncommon feeling of ooginess across the ideological spectrum when it comes to the prospect of using human bodies as a resource.  Whether that oogy feeling is morally relevant or not was itself a matter of some dispute -- you had Bush's bioethics people talking about "the wisdom of disgust," e.g.  That kind of argument was an attempt to rebut the presumption that disgust is merely a matter of taste, a sub-rational response with no place in ethical reasoning.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

Like I noted earlier

(#241183)

I probably should have calmed down before posting.

Don't get me wrong

(#241193)

In general terms, I approve.  We could do with a lot less comity in our politics.  Call 'em like you see 'em.

The other day I heard that ignorance and apathy are sweeping the country. I didn't know that, but I don't really care.

My slightly more temperate follow up

(#241180)

On this is that when your politics eventually becomes each political party lining up to give stuff to old people who also happen to be the only demographic that reliably turns out on election day, the result is something seriously dysfuntional. 

I agree

(#241182)

The other group that government consistently gives "freebies" to is, of course, big business.  I'd call that a larger problem overall.

The other day I heard that ignorance and apathy are sweeping the country. I didn't know that, but I don't really care.

Awesome, Andrew

(#241175)

[quote] If we look at the decade-long stem cell debate, the loudest and most
vocal voices have been the withered husks of the boomers demanding their
immortality potion made of ground up embryos.[/quote]

 

Probably the single greatest line ever written on this site.  If it wouldn't make me look like a sycophant, I'd make it my signature.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

I think that it's possibly proof that one shouldn't post

(#241177)

while angry.

Use your aggressive feelings, boy. -nt-

(#241178)

.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

 

It's Less Creepy. . .

(#241176)
M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .than the version South Park came up with:

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.