Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Greediest Generation

By David Brooks

Throughout the nation, millions of American families see the father or mother entering into their prime earning years and the best time in which to raise a family. They wish to pursue the classic 'American Dream' of owning a comfortable four to five bedroom home in an exclusive suburb, own an H2, dress their kids in the finest fashions available at a mall, join a quality country club, and own a large plasma screen television. All these things go with the fact that these families would like more and more children.

However, one key group is holding them back in a two pronged attack.

Their parents.

The nation's seniors deprive these families in two ways. First, they demand both Social Security Payments and Medicare coverage in ever larger and more expensive numbers. These budget busting entitlements drive up the federal budget and keep the economy weak, while simultaneously depriving the nation of the ability to engage in broader military campaigns against [Syndication Editors: insert appropriate terrorist state of month here].

Second, many of these older citizens have been financially successful, but are no longer adequately contributing to the nations financial and fiscal health. Compare for example, a typical senior resident of Scottsdale, Arizona has substantial financial resources from their past investments, but that wealth no longer comes from capital earned through work, but is used in leisure. They live in houses, just a elderly man and woman in a three bedroom home...wasting valuable living space, and having a $250,000 mortgage.

Meanwhile, the children that they deprived of things like candy, and fashionable pants when they were younger, as these now seniors saved for their own retirement, are now being deprived again from leaving that nice four-bedroom home in the suburbs so they can buy that six-bedroom home in exuburbia. Instead of buying that 60-inch plasma television with cash, they have to buy it on credit. All because their parents refuse to pass away and leave them with an inheritance worth inheriting.

Sociologist, Hugh G. Keister, of the American Enterprise Institute, has described this syndrome in his seminal work, "The Greediest Generation". Keister effectively posits that the generations that won the Second World War and the Cold War and built the country into an economic superpower through their selflessness, now demand some sort of payback. "They think they are owed some sense of comfort in their golden years. In a sense it is the socialism that they fought against so long. It is plainly greedy and un-American." But Keister does more than lay out the problem, he also lays out a sensible solution, "seniors should clearly be punished for such beliefs. Punished by being put to death at 75 and ground into animal feed." Keister's stance is clearly a strong one, but also humanitarian, for he states the mode of punishment should be relatively painless, such as lethal injection while the expiring citizen watches beautiful nature films.

It is ironic that the same individuals praised for their heroic sacrifices, now request an inconvenience upon succeeding generations by refusing to realize their lives are over and passing on to their eternal reward.

And this crisis will continue on, unless some solution, perhaps like Keister's, is found.

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