Greedy old people


I recently turned 60. I don’t pay much attention to my birthdays but this one is a little special because it signifies that by almost any measure I am now officially an old person, a member of a group a subset of whom has been annoying the hell out of me for a long time: greedy old people.

Let me make it quite clear whom this rant is targeting. It is not aimed at old people who after many decades of hard work are even now struggling to make ends meet on their meager savings and social security checks, some of whom have to continue working well past normal retirement age at dead-end and physically demanding jobs which take a toll on their bodies, in order to obtain the basic necessities of life, such as food and shelter. Those people can leave the room because my words are not aimed at them.

This rant is targeted at those well-off people, who have done well financially and can live comfortably in their old age and yet are constantly on their guard to protect their own standard of living and fight off any changes that might affect them negatively in the slightest, even if those changes might benefit others in great need.

Recently I seem to see an explosion of these people and it is an ugly sight. These people seem to feel that they are entitled to a life of luxury in their old age. They seem to have this sense that such a life is due to them because they have ‘worked hard’ and ‘played by the rules’, though their hard work does not come close to the difficulty of the work done by most poor people.

This increasingly vociferous and obnoxious group of elderly people seem to feel that they deserve to retire to a life of endless golf and travel and restaurant meals and cruises and card games and all the other symbols of the good life. Very few things annoy me more than the spectacle of such well-to-do retirees in their resort complexes complaining about their taxes going towards improving the conditions of those much less fortunate than themselves. They recoil with horror at the words ‘socialism’ and the ‘welfare state’ without realizing how much they themselves benefited from such policies in the past, and do so even now in the form of Medicare and Social Security.

The health care debate brought out some of the worst in this crowd of greedy old people. Some of these people were adamantly against the idea of expanding Medicare for all and other forms of expanding health care access to everyone because they feared that this increased pool of people able to seek treatment might mean longer waits for them to see a doctor. So in order to hoard the benefits of Medicare just for themselves, they were willing to sacrifice the chance for others to get any treatment at all. I am fed up with hearing them complain about the ‘doughnut hole’ in covering prescription drug costs, especially since a single-payer health care system (that they opposed because it was ‘socialized medicine’) would have eliminated that problem. Such people make me sick.

Sam Smith highlights this hypocrisy:

People who complain about the welfare state remind me of the man from Virginia who went to college on the GI Bill and bought his first house with a VA loan. When a hurricane struck he got federal disaster aid. When he got sick he was treated at a veteran’s hospital. When he was laid off he received unemployment insurance and then got a SBA loan to start his own business. His bank funds were protected under federal deposit insurance laws. Now he’s retired and on social security and Medicare. The other day he got into his car, drove the federal interstate to the railroad station, took Amtrak to Washington and went to Capitol Hill to ask his congressman to get the government off his back.

One of the reasons I detest the so-called ‘tea party’ movement is that its ranks, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, seem to be full of just such people, those who are older, richer, and mean-spirited, who want to hold on to their own benefits while cutting those that they no longer need but serve others. They do not seem to care if public education and public services deteriorate, as long as the grass in their retirement communities is well manicured.

[D]espite their anti-spending rhetoric, Tea Party supporters told pollsters that two of the federal government’s most money-consuming programs, Social Security and Medicare, are worth the cost to taxpayers (maybe not a surprise, given the Tea Partiers’ average age).

While the Tea Partiers take pains to avoid appearing racist, they’re still operating at the nexus of class and race. This seems to have reached a head with healthcare reform. The UW survey’s director, Christopher Parker, summed it up this way: “While it’s clear that the Tea Party in one sense is about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care.” (my italics)

These people are hypocrites of the worst sort. They take for granted all the benefits that society has provided them, and that they enjoyed when they were starting out in life and needed them, and now think that they made it on their own and are quite comfortable demanding that they be no longer available to future generations. They preach the virtues of the simple life and hardship, but it is only for others. And because this group is wealthy, noisy, and votes disproportionately, they get endlessly pandered to by politicians and covered by the media, breeding in them an even greater sense of entitlement. These people are a menace to the well being of society, disproportionately sucking up resources that should be distributed more equitably to the elderly poor, the sick, children, and young people starting out in life.

Such old people should count themselves lucky that they were able to work all their lives in jobs that enabled them to have a comfortable retirement, unlike many poor people who worked as hard or even harder than them but lived a life of constant worry and stress from paycheck to paycheck, trying to make enough money to feed and shelter their families and give their children a decent education. It is the latter people who really deserve a worry-free retirement to at least partially compensate for the hardships they endured all their lives.

So listen up, you greedy well-off old people! You do not seem to realize that you are the ones who should complain the least. We are all lucky just to be alive at all. To have lived long lives in fairly good health and without serious deprivation is to have been extremely lucky. To want to hold on to your privileges without sharing those benefits with people who have never enjoyed them is to be piggishly greedy. You should be ashamed of yourselves. So stop whining and shut up.

Thank you.

End of rant.

POST SCRIPT: Those were the days?

And spare me the justifications for the self-centered attitude of greedy old people based on the hardships they allegedly experienced when they were young. Even if people did have a hard life earlier and had to struggle to get to where they are now (though that too is often exaggerated), that still does not justify greed and selfishness.

This classic sketch comedy called The Four Yorkshiremen captures this mentality perfectly.

Comments

  1. says

    As I was reading your article, it reminded me of a person that worked with me. This person was a 70+ year old. It was costing this person about $8000 a year to work, instead of collecting a retirement and social security check! That money got eaten up by taxes to the government that benefited others.

    This person was good at the job, didn’t “need” the cash, but enjoyed working. I think this might fall into a gray area. If you are still effective at your job, and it adds to your life (intrinsically), I don’t think it’s greed. This person donated to charities and organizations that benefited many.

    In other cases, we do have some greedy people in any society.

  2. says

    Your article brings to mind the Tea Party protesters standing on the street corner in my hometown holding a sign deploring socialism in one hand and “keep your hands of my Medicare” in the other.

    I can understand who you are ranting against (well deserved) but I feel that many of the people I saw protesting were just reacting to the right wing media. They were probably more fearful than greedy.

  3. says

    I remember the remake of this video on Monty Pythons Flying Circus. Your discussion makes me think of the last time I visited my Great Grandmother who lived to 109. She wan in a nursing home then and when I ask if she was afraid to die she said “There are two kinds of people here. Those that are afraid of death. They all go to bed late and wake up early. And the ones who are not afraid. I go to bed early and wake up late everyday.”

    Fear grips people and makes them act in irrational ways. It is up to us to determine the source of opposition to change and it’s motivations.

    Just my two cents

  4. says

    Welcome to the over 60s club, what are you worried about as long as you have your health, your doing ok. I think that keeping active is a fundamental part of living to a ripe old age. How many people have you seen rapidly decline in health after reaching retirement age and sitting at home twiddling there thumbs all day. After a lifetime of activity at work, the shock of no longer working seems to affect the balance of life, me, I´m going to be carried out in my working apparel, retirement who needs it? see you in the over 90s club!

  5. ollie says

    I am too young to really comment (only 50) but when I get to the proper age, I want the government to keep its hands off of my medicare! :)

    Actually, I hear you. I’d love to be able to work for 30 more years or so, mostly because my work is not physically demanding (math professor), I love mathematics and I don’t want to be intellectually bored.

  6. Kyle J says

    You’ll never hear sympathy from me toward people who take for granted their advantages in life, and I especially detest the “Tea Party” and its hypocrisy.

    I do have a question about one paragraph in particular, though:

    “These people seem to feel that they are entitled to a life of luxury in their old age. They seem to have this sense that such a life is due to them because they have ‘worked hard’ and ‘played by the rules’, though their hard work does not come close to the difficulty of the work done by most poor people.”

    Do you feel that people have the “right” to become rich? If you spend your life making decisions and taking actions that help you to become financially well-off, doesn’t that give you the right to enjoy the situation you created for yourself? You can argue the system is deeply flawed that creates such inequality, such phony “hard work,” such consolidation of extreme wealth at the top – and I would agree with you. But this sounds a bit like faulting the individuals for maximizing their opportunities with what they were given, and saying they don’t “deserve” their success. Every person – rich or poor – does the best they can with what they have and always strives for more.

  7. says

    Kyle J,

    Yes, of course people have the right to be rich and to strive for it. What I want is for well-to-do people to realize that:

    1) their success depended, in addition to their hard work and ingenuity, on a whole host of government and social services and also sheer dumb luck; and

    2) the government should continue and even expand such services so that others also be able to make it like them.

  8. Kyle J says

    Too true. People unfortunately aren’t very good at attributing their own success to anything but their willpower, determination, hard work, etc.

  9. says

    This is a really interesting argument and goes against the kind of arguments that I am exposed to with respect to entrepreneurship. One the one hand you need people to create wealth and create jobs for others to work in who aren’t prepared to take the risks, but on the other hand you also need to have these people choose to give back to the society that assisted in their wealth creation. What though is the point of taking the risks and putting yourself out there to build a business if you don’t reap any of the rewards later?
    I truly don’t know where I stand on this yet.

  10. says

    I, for the most part, agree with your “rant” lol.

    However, that is the blessing and the curse of living in this country we call the United States; you have the freedom and the right to say what you want and to spend your money how you see fit.

    Also, it really makes me laugh when these Tea Party folks talk about a socialist/welfare state. What do they think Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and unemployment are, pretty much all social programs would fall under a socialist system.

    Not to mention, these guys claim to be so “Christian” but when it comes to supporting a plan that would help many in this country, instead of supporting it they are actively trying to derail it…does the hypocracy ever end lol.

    By the way, happy belated b-day.

  11. says

    Nice little “rant” I enjoyed reading your post. With all the crazy stuff going on with social security, medicare and all the other government “programs” you have to wonder where it all leads

  12. says

    I agree with Mano’s assessment. I personally have to deal with this issue through my elderly father. He actually had conversation with some rich old folks who are complaining that the government should not extend the medical benefits to more people because they are afraid that they won’t get the kind of service that they “deserve”. What century do these people live in? Don’t they know just because they are richer than others, doesn’t mean that they should better treatment?

  13. says

    We came across your rant in class. We teach assistant in nursing courses. The girls loved reading your post and could not agree more with you. It gave us a different perspective on a fully functioning elderly person. We did disagree that 60 years is old and preferred to say 60 years young. Any way congratulations and very inspirational.
    The AIN Class of June 2010

  14. says

    First of all congratulations on your retirement! I understand your rant but on the other hand I am not sure where you draw the line for greedy old people( financial Number? ). I specialize in selling homes in active adult communities, and I have literally watched what “you” might consider greedy old people lose life savings over night. Most of the clients I represent buy these home as a second home or a winter home. The last two years 2/3 of the buyers are Canadians – the Americans have run out of money! When these people buy second homes they higher all kinds of people to maintain the property: painters, carpenters, landscapers, etc… these greedy old people are what makes the world go round. These are just my thoughts but I think the world could use a few more greedy old people.

  15. says

    Jarl,

    Actually, I am not retired!

    I also have no problem with well-off old people. The article was targeting those people who seek to deny less well-off people basic needs just to preserve, or even increase, their own already high level of privileges.

  16. says

    Your article strikes a chord with me and I felt compelled to respond.
    As a retired doctor myself I must admit I am well past 60 now though in my voluntary work I still see many elderly both with and without the means to pay for home care assistance. I think the baby boomer age which is retiring now has had it easier than other generations because the advances in technology means that they don’t have to chop wood or get coal to heat their house which their parents would have done. They probably have their own car whereas the previous generation would have walked or got a lift from a bus or friend. The economic growth over the last 20 or 30 years has meant that in the main there are more home owning people who have seen their homes value rise substantially over time. So in conclusion I concur that there are “complainers” out there who are probably retiring now on a lot less than they thought because of low annuity rates, interest on savings being less and faster inflation making what they do have appear less.
    Thank-you for the opportunity to respond.

    Dr Neil Stirling MB ChB

  17. says

    I have to comment on this as i think you are tarring too many people with the same brush here.

    I agree that a portion of well off old people do fit in this category BUT:

    I myself am approaching retirement and it will be a lucrative one so I will fit in this group but there is a key difference.

    I know I deserve it and do you know why? I didnt just “work hard at my job”. I didn’t have a life in my 20s!

    I was living and trying to survive at one point on -$700 per month and nearly eneded up on the streets. I never gave up all the way through that time and I would get up before my day job at 5.30am and work on my own business for a few hours then I would go and do an full day working in my day job before coming home and working until 10pm at night on my own business.

    I had so much financial stress and worry and my relationship broke down at the same time too – due to everything that was going on. Your 20s are supposed to be the best times of your life and I missed all that.

    But guess what? Just before I turned 30 everything turned around and things took off and within 3 years I found myself wealthy but people never think about what you went through to get there.

    I know what it is like being poor and struggling and workign long hours. I deserve my nice retirement.

  18. says

    Thanks for your posting, Mano. And thanks to Scott Linken and others for their comments.

    Like Scott I think you may have used too wide a brush, but you are on target for that group of selfish, greedy old people who are actually looking out for nobody but themselves to the detriment of society as a whole. Arguing for a blanket preservation of Social Security benefits, for example, at their current level spite of the obvious financial disaster that looms on the horizon is economic foolishness.

  19. says

    I just turned 40 and am starting to realize the hypocrisy that is out there. I am over Fox news and every mention on tv of the tea party. For once, I would like to see a gov’t of the people and for the people. Congress appears to be just protecting the wealthy and their standard of living.

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