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Samuel Gregg: America’s Gerontocracy

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Over at National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at a new study which shows a growing wealth gap between the senior set and those under the age of 35. The boomer generation also has the political clout to protect that security:

… another factor that makes older Americans’ economic position even more secure than that of younger generations is the disproportionate sway exerted by older folks on politics, much of which is directed to maintaining the entitlement status quo. From the narrow standpoint of their own economic self-interest, why should older people vote for the type of entitlement reform that is indispensible if America is to get its public-debt problem under control? Many of this quite numerous demographic will ask, why should they have to scrimp after having paid into Social Security all their working lives?

Members of the supercommittee charged with finding $1.2 trillion to cut from the deficit surely know that proposals such as raising the retirement age are bound to encounter enormous opposition from AARP-like groups — especially the ones dominated by those baby boomers who are now retiring and whose entire lives have reflected an après moi, le déluge mentality. Supercommittee members are also no doubt conscious that older people — many of whom are already very unhappy about Obamacare’s forthcoming changes to Medicare — have an alarming habit of turning out to vote in far greater numbers than their children and grandchildren.

Read Samuel Gregg’s “America’s Gerontocracy” on NRO.

Also see PowerBlog postings on “intergenerational justice” by Jordan Ballor, executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Dano

    I don’t disagree with the premise that boomers are using their clout to protect their security, however, the report showing the growing wealth gap between seniors and young adults should be filed using the key words nothing new under the sun.  back in the mid 1980’s there was a similar report. I recall both Nightline and NPR had stories about it; politicians of a certain bent cried about how that generation of 20-somethings were the first generation to be worse off than their parents.  Now, 25 or so years later, that generation is one of the wealthiest generations ever.

  • Patrick Powers

    Thomas Sowell has an appropriate column at Townhall on this topic today.  He notices the disproportionate number of seniors on cruise ships.  At the same time, there is no mention of seniors hiking the strenuous mountain trails.  In his defense, the point of his column is that these wealth statistics do not tell a full truth.  Rather, we need to look to the Flesh and Blood people who make up these statistics.

    As a senior myself, I can sympathize with those who are or will be forced to retire in the foreseeable future.  With the drop in 401K values, along with housing values, many seniors are truly fearful of the future and whether they will outlive their retirement plans.  Raising the retirement age for state funded entitlements merely reflect the change in life expectancy.  Raising the limits on retirement savings and investment programs would also ease some of the anxiety of those approaching senior years.  Mandatory retirement programs are not always accurate indicators of productivity, rather it is a way to create room at the top for younger workers, rather than expand the enterprise by encouraging younger workers into entrepreneurial attitudes.  Since I own my business I am not concerned about mandatory retirement, but I am concerned about finding young people with an entrepreneurial attitude who can use their strength and vitality to expand the business.