Many of the arguments used by those who fundamentally do not  believe the government should provide health insurance or retirement security for American’s seniors are as old as Social Security and Medicare themselves. The “greedy geezer” myth is often used as part of a larger strategic goal pitting America’s young versus old in a battle to convince younger generations to give up on our nation’s most successful poverty prevention programs. This inter-generational warfare theme was at the heart of a recent Esquire story chock full of pretty visuals but just as packed with errors and flawed logic. Generations United provides a terrific look at just some of the ways this Esquire piece got it so, so wrong.  That’s why we’re giving “It’s Not a Fight, It’s a Family” our Networthy Award for great online coverage of Social Security and Medicare.  We also urge you to take a moment and comment on the Esquire author’s blog to let him know that --- it’s not a fight, it’s a family.

Generations

It’s Not a Fight, It’s a Family.

In the April issue of Esquire magazine, an article entitled “The War Against Youth,” by Stephen Marche emerges as the latest attempt to incite generational warfare while offering no constructive policy recommendations. As a result of the attention this piece has received, Generations United is issuing the following statement. Recent attempts in the media to fuel intergenerational conflict are a disservice to our country. This is particularly true in the midst of a polarizing political climate that threatens to cut critical safety net programs for children, youth, and older adults. Rather than pitting generations against one another, we should be working together to address our country’s most difficult challenges while still investing in each generation of our society. Marche’s article unjustly blames the baby boomer generation for our country’s problems and insinuates that generation’s callous indifference will forever stint the human potential of today’s youth. This narrow view devalues the capacity and contributions of both older and younger generations. To address the needs of our country, we must forge stronger connections among generations and engage the strengths unique at every age. Old and young Americans form a community of interest. It’s called family. According to Pew Research Center, 76% of adults report that family is the most important element of their life. And in these family units we demonstrate how much we care about each other. Take grandparents, for example. A survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that two-thirds of grandparents provided an estimated $370 billion in financial support to grandchildren over a five-year period. This averaged out to $8,661 per grandparent household. They did this not out of duty, but out of concern and love for their young family members. Grandparents step in to provide child care, as well. According to the Census Bureau, among the 11.3 million children younger than five whose mothers are employed, 30 percent are cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent. Too often, Social Security is referred to as a retirement program. Tell that to the nearly 7 million children and youth who today receive a critical part of their family income from Social Security.  In reality, it is a family protection program. It covers almost every child in America should they lose a parent to death or disability. Moreover, two-thirds of Americans support paying more for Social Security instead of reducing benefits.  Most importantly, Social Security is fully funded through 2036. With modest changes to strengthen the program, it can be solvent for generations to come. Marche asserts today’s youth are on their own; he sees young people returning home as a negative. But that’s what families do: take care of their own in times of need. Today, more than 51 million—or one in six—Americans live in multigenerational households, including grandparents raising their grandchildren. Young people are not the only ones moving in with relatives. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 66% of adult respondents living in a multigenerational household reported that the current economic climate was a factor in their family becoming a multigenerational household, while 21% reported that it was the only factor. Most of the respondents expressed positive feelings about their new arrangement. In fact, 82% agreed that “My family’s multigenerational household arrangement has enhanced bonds or relationships among family members.” If anything, our country is moving into a time when families are realizing once again we are interdependent and need each other. It’s not a sign of weakness but a tribute to enduring strengths of families. A recent study by the MetLife Mature Market found that respondents—across the generations—feel a sense of strong responsibility and obligation to:
  • save enough for retirement to avoid having to ask family members for assistance
  • have a parent live with them if they need help due to a major health or financial issue
  • make sure a spouse or child would have enough money if a financial provider dies unexpectedly
  • Help to pay for a child’s college education
  • Provide strong and consistent emotional and non-financial support and contact
That doesn’t sound like a country whose generations are at war with each other.  The majority of Americans care about each other. They strongly believe, as we do, that “It is not a fight, it is a family.” Caring for and supporting people of every generation shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. We need to ensure our policies and programs benefit all Americans, whatever their age. We encourage intergenerational advocates to take action on this latest attempt by some to fuel intergenerational conflict.  Here’s how you can help: TAKE ACTION Share our statement. “Like” our statement on Facebook. Post a comment on Marche’s blog.
  • “The War Against Youth” article unjustly blames the baby boomer generation for our country’s problems and insinuates that generation’s callous indifference will forever stint the human potential of today’s youth. This narrow view devalues the contributions of both older and younger generations and is an unfair accusation.
  • There is not a “Young America” and an “Old America”.  Falsely separating older and younger people into age-graded silos makes each generation more vulnerable and hurts our economy.
  • The  best way to put our country on a more productive path is to forge stronger connections among generations, engage the strengths unique at every age and address the needs of each.