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The "Younger" Games: Phony Age War Strikes Again ... and Again ... and Again

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But these solutions, which polls show are politically popular, aren't being discussed much in Washington these days - or in the opinion pages, for that matter. That's because the truly great political question for all modern societies is saying no to the wealthy.

Frum, of course, doesn't tell you that.

Frum goes on to discuss the supposed "disdain" older Americans feel for the young, when there's no evidence to suggest anything of the kind. The real disdain comes from those like Frum who would sell young people on "generational war" as a way to cut benefits, because those cuts would harm young people far more than they would hurt anyone who is retired or approaching retirement today.

Rag on their bad driving to get you steamed up, then take away their benefits. Propagandists manque', take note: That's how you turn the public against a whole class of people.

David Frum's score: Four Effies.

David Leonhardt

The award-winning Washington bureau chief for the New York Times begins with the jaw-dropping statement that "one dividing line (among Americans) has actually received too little attention ... the line between young and old." Too little attention? It's been the topic of endless commentary.

It doesn't get any better. Leonhardt meanders through a few paragraphs about the shifting opinions among generations before making the same statement we've seen so many times before: "If there is a theme unifying these economic and political trends, in fact, it is that the young are generally losing out to the old."

Unfortunately, Leonhardt never gets around to proving his case. He acknowledges that seniors who receive Social Security have paid for it throughout their working lives, and this intellectual honesty undercuts his thesis. And while it's true that Medicare costs more than its normal funding sources provide, Leonhardt makes a fatal omission: He doesn't explain why it costs more. For-profit healthcare has driven our medical costs, and our rate of cost increase, far above those of any other developed nation.

That means the solution isn't to restrict benefits. That would impoverish oldsters who can't afford care, or force them to go without needed medical treatment. The real solution is to restrain the profit motive that's making healthcare unaffordable for everyone in this country.

Leonhardt also says this: "Over all, more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65. Some of these benefits come from Social Security, which many people pay for over the course of their working lives. But a large chunk comes through Medicare ..." (Leonhardt doesn't tell us what the percentage of Federal benefits is without Social Security.)

Medicare is insurance which pays for medical care, and it's designed for older people who need more medical care than younger people. To suggest that's unjust is like saying my auto insurance plan is unjust because all the payouts go to the privileged few who have had accidents.

Leonhardt tries manfully to push the generation-war theme, but it's as if his heart isn't in it. Maybe an editor assigned this piece, or he felt compelled to write it for another reason. But it doesn't cohere, either logically or as generational-war lit. Maybe it was that intermittent, yet troublesome, intellectual honesty. We don't know. But it seems as if he wasn't feeling it, and we sure weren't.

David Leonhardt's score: Two Effies.

Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D.

Dr. Emanuel has come up with a Rube Goldberg-like policy contraption. Remember Rube Goldberg? His inventions executed a lot of complicated, rickety, and diverting processes -- lifting little mechanical hands, compelling a toy monkey to clash his cymbals together -- in order to do something trivial, like drop a ping-pong ball into a cup. They were creative, labor-intensive -- and pointlessly made an easy task into something complicated.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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