Look in the Mirror, Angry (White) Socialist Grandpa

With Grady Judd and the atheists marauding yet again through Polk County life–I’d say we’ve reached the Godzilla versus MechaGodzilla stage of these endless and increasingly bad monster movies–you may have missed the most important story about your life and mine to run in The Ledger in a long, long time.

It was actually an AP story, but kudos to the news editors for picking it. It ran under the innocuous headline: “Average Medicare Benefits By Far Top Lifetime Costs.” And that’s my only complaint. It should have read more viscerally, something like, “Middle Class White Grandparents Are The Greatest Welfare Queens Who Have Ever Lived In the United States (Other Than Bankers)”. And, really, it’s so important that it ought to run every day until it seeps into our collective consciousness.

The nub: Your typical middle class elderly couple will receive about three times as much money in health care benefits from Medicare as it pays into the program–$355,000 to $114,000. Three. Times. As. Much. That’s almost a $250,000 socialist gift from my generation to theirs. You doubt that?

Many workers may think their Medicare payroll taxes are going for their own insurance after they retire, but the money is actually used to pay the bills of seniors currently on the program. — AP

That doesn’t even count Medicaid, which conservatives revile because it helps a few wretched poor children, not because of all the nursing home care it provides to the elderly. Caucasians and Asians, who generally live longer than blacks, (Hispanics are a more complicated question), make out particularly well in socialist America.

Tea Party Counter-Protester

Tea Party Counter-Protester
by Jonathan Hinkle

Now, with this in mind, let’s revisit Lee Feuer and his deeply profound letter-to-the-editor during last year’s health care debate. Here are Mr. Feuer’s key points.

The big government takeover has to stop. Ever since liberals claimed power, it’s been one bureaucratic scheme after another. Their newest target, health care, is the most dangerous intervention yet.

I am a senior citizen and, up to now, have had great care under Medicare. I have worked all my life and feel that we do not have to give coverage to those who have not become citizens nor have not decided to work. I also feel that if this bill passes that Congress should be under this program, with no perks

At the time, I ridiculed this as the dumbest letter ever written to The Ledger. And it is maliciously, willfully ignorant–no question about it. If Lee Feuer were honest or the least bit knowledgable, his letter would read: “I am a senior citizen and, up to now, the liberals I hate and my very generous children and grandchildren and immigrants have provided me great care through Medicare and essentially written my doctors a check for $125,000. Thank them? Screw them.”

But my ridicule was misplaced–or at least beside the point. This political development–keep your government out of my Medicare, I call it–was easily the most important of the last election cycle. It doesn’t matter that it’s incoherent and irrational and immoral. The 2010 election was over the moment Republicans decided to fight health care reform by telling white seniors undeserving scary, multi-ethnic young people wanted to take their hard-earned benefits away. Forget the Tea Parties and fake deficit hawks. Republicans deciding to place America’s biggest socialists at the core of their party will have more far-reaching implications than anything else that happened in the last two years.

Based on observation, and very generally speaking, I have come to consider anxiety the defining emotion of the elderly. (Next time you’re at a drug store, watch the intensity with which elderly people engage their pharmacists about medicine.) I don’t blame them for this. It’s a function of biology, and we should do everything we can to mitigate it, including writing very large intergenerational checks. But this anxiety does make them easy to manipulate. And all political factions do it because seniors vote and will switch sides. However, for the most part, Democrats aren’t trying to trick them into voting to kill their benefits by appealing to their darkest terrors.

The radicalism of Barack Obama’s name and complexion had already freaked out elderly white voters, who were the only significant block that voted for John McCain in 2008. By 2010, with Sarah Palin screaming about death panels and offing Grandma, seniors voted Republican 60-40. If you isolate white seniors, that number probably grew to 70 percent. Any why not, a scary fake-muslim radical socialist wanted to steal their good old fashioned American socialist security and help poor and lower middle class (read blacks and Hispanics) get access to health care.

I promise you, promise you, no seniors, white or otherwise, voted to cut their Medicare, their sense of security. (In fact, Karl Rove and friends ran relentless ads attacking Democrats for the modest and entirely justified cuts to Medicare they made to help pay for health care reform.) Significant Medicare cuts just ain’t gonna happen, both because of seniors’ political power and the economic impact of Medicare on the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

My favorite recent example of this is libertarian Republican hero Rand Paul declaring that Medicare shouldn’t cut payments to physicians–like him–because “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living.” Oh gosh, what would Ayn Rand say? And people wonder why I have less than zero respect for libertarians.

Medicare, Medicaid, and the military are the deficit. Period. (Social Security continues to roughly pay for itself and will remain in pretty good shape for a long time, scare stories aside. It is certainly far more sustainable than the medical entitlements or our military commitments.) Any approach to cut “out-of-control” spending that doesn’t deeply scale them back is theater.

Indeed, the key tension to watch in the coming years is the comical Republican self-image of Randian super-self-reliant-teach-a-man-to-fish-blah-blah-blah and the tribal reality of its utter dependence on America’s most fervently socialist generation. Even our new hardcore businessman governor made his money defrauding Medicare.

[one_half]Unless they have enough skill to pull off the mother of all bait and switches, the Randians are going to learn to love government, as they always do, and content themselves with making sure industry has no responsibility to its country. Politics is always about tribalism, not ideology or policy. There is no such thing as left, right, and center–only coalitions of cultural, generational, and economic interests to which we give loose, ill-fitting names like conservative or liberal. We’re not fighting over whether or not we’re socialists; we’re fighting over what type of socialism we’re going to live. The elderly are winning.[/one_half]


There is no such thing as left, right, and center–only coalitions of cultural, generational, and economic interests to which we give loose, ill-fitting names like conservative or liberal.


The true significance of Barack Obama’s election was that the coalition of all the abstract people that white cultural conservatives despise, when added up and turned out, finally, for the first time in American history, encompassed more voters than the white cultural conservatives themselves. In 2010, we saw the reaction to that, as the elderly conservative socialist tribe got very fired up over the nerve of their multiethnic grandchildren to ask for a little something in return for the security they provide.

It’s a silly myth that we pay taxes to support people who won’t work. The sorry get remarkably little from our country–and a lot less than they once did. We do pay taxes to provide middle class white seniors with health care and economic security (you may notice in the AP story that Social Security beneficiaries do come pretty close to paying for their own benefits, underscoring how Medicare is a much, much greater problem.) We do pay taxes to fight terrorism and invade and occupy foreign countries. We do pay taxes to educate children. And we do pay taxes to build and maintain roads. That’s pretty much it, really. The public ignorance of what tax money actually does may be the biggest single challenge we face as a nation.

Conservatives love to tell variations of the same little Facebook and email fable-I’ve seen it any number of places–that revolves around a poor little boy working in a field somewhere for $10. Dad–it’s always Dad–decides to teach him a lesson about life. He takes half of that money and gives it to the little lazy boy who sat by the river all day daydreaming or whatever. “See son, that’s what socialism is.” Or something. Next time you hear or read this story, try informing the storyteller that the $5 actually goes to the boy’s grandparents and soldiers fighting abroad. I’ve found that after their face turns purple for a minute, they’ll mumble something about damn liberals and slump off quietly.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jonathan Hinkle

4 thoughts on “Look in the Mirror, Angry (White) Socialist Grandpa

  1. don’t tread on me or social security !!!
    i only get $398 a month , but i’ll raise hell.

  2. Nice work, Billy. The key point (in my mind) is that until the u-55 crowd can be bothered to vote you will just hear more of the same pandering and uninformed rubbish.

  3. Sorry, DR. Didn’t see your comment. I guess that resolves around the definition of “is.” I may say I’m not an a-hole. Many people would disagree. I think, in Paul’s case, he certainly forcefully aligned himself with “Tea Party” faction, which more or less claims to have its roots in the libertarian wing of the conservative movement.

    Also, he has made the libertarian — or at least anti-federal argument, into which it often bleeds — against applying federal civil rights laws and others to states. See his famous Maddow performance.

    If he wants not to call himself a libertarian, he is certainly thrilled to swim in its political and rhetorical traditions, I would argue. Would you agree? This is obviously a difficult thing to establish in metaphysical truth, but I think that was a fair a characterization.

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