Monday, November 22, 2010

Greedy Geezers

Apparently my demographic group (seniors on Medicare) radically changed its voting behavior in the recent midterm elections, and is very opposed to the new Health Care Legislation, saying in effect, “I’ve got mine—good luck getting yours.”. In the Nov. 21 New Yorker Surowiecki does a nice commentary:
In the 2006 midterm election, seniors split their vote evenly between House Democrats and Republicans. This time, they went for Republicans by a twenty-one-point margin...The election has been termed the “revolt of the middle class.” But it might more accurately be called the revolt of the retired...The real sticking point was health-care reform, which the elderly didn’t like from the start...the very people who currently enjoy the benefits of a subsidized, government-run insurance system are intent on keeping others from getting the same treatment...seniors today get far more out of Medicare than they ever put in, which means that their medical care is paid for by current taxpayers...the subsidies that seniors get aren’t fundamentally different from the ones that the Affordable Care Act will offer some thirty million Americans who don’t have insurance.

Current sentiment among seniors seems like a classic example of an effect that the economist Benjamin Friedman identified in his magisterial book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth”: in hard times voters get more selfish. Historically, Friedman notes, times of stagnation have been times of reaction, with voters bent on protecting their own interests, hostile to outsiders, and less interested in social welfare...the Democrats’ loss of support among the elderly was more a matter of economic fundamentals than of political framing. If the economy were growing briskly, it’s unlikely that the health-care bill would have become so politically toxic.

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