Millions of people have read the Hunger Games stories about a depraved future society where young people are forced to fight each other for scarce resources while elites in the Capital plunder the nation's wealth.
Now take a look at our world, where Washington's elites are laboring to pit the young against the old in in a similarly ritualized battle: Generational War. Like the Hunger Games, this spectacle distracts us from the real economic injustices in our society.
In an economy where most people's lives have been harmed by bank recklessness and massive wealth inequality -- that is to say, by the diversion of an ever-increasing lion's share of our national income to the richest of the rich -- these instigators and those who follow them want everybody to worry about a different predator instead:
Introducing the Effie Awards
Every ritual battle needs someone to act as its cheerleader, promoter, propagandist, and recruiter. In the Hunger Games it's the relentlessly cheerful Effie Trinket, who recruits young people for brutal combat and near-certain death while chirping upbeat sayings like "Welcome to the Games!" and "May the odds ever be in your favor!" There's no shortage of would-be Effies in this false generational war, and this week we'll look at three of them.
Some Effies, especially those funded by billionaire Pete Peterson's anti-Social Security and Medicare campaign, are engaging in classic big-lie tactics: Repeat your falsehoods over and over and people will begin to believe them. Others may just be parroting the latest cocktail-party chatter.
We therefore announce the Effies, a periodic review of generational-war literature in which we rate our contestants on the "Younger Games" scale, with one "Effie" for ineffective generational-war propaganda and five "Effies" for one that's worthy of any sci-fi dystopia.
Let's meet this week's contestants.
Frum's attack on seniors starts with a truly cheap shot: They don't drive very well. Frum lingers on old people's driving for several paragraphs, long enough to have some readers thinking as they drive to work: That old jerk's going fifteen miles an hour in the left lane and I'm paying for his Medicare!
(Hey, when I was growing up in upstate New York we thought people from New Jersey drove badly. It was a major theme of the Friday night brawls between Jersey and New York teens at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Suffern. But even the worst hooligans among us never considered starving the entire state.)
Driving is only a setup, however, for the main point embedded in Frum's title: "... we need to say no to the elderly." He writes:
"Whether we can ever learn to say no to the elderly is the great political question hanging over all modern societies, in Europe as much as in the U.S., as we face a 21st century of diminished economic opportunity and staggering government debt."
Got it? Saying no to all people is the great political question hanging over all modern societies. Not a great political question, the great political question. And not some modern societies. All of them.
Truth time: We had more than enough money to pay for Social Security when the payroll tax cap (currently $106,000) ensured that 90 percent of our national income was being taxed. That's how it was designed by the Greenspan Commission in the 1980s. Since then the ultra-wealthy have captured so much more of our national income that this number has dropped substantially, leading to a relatively mild (25 percent) shortfall in a couple of decades. That's easily fixed by lifting the cap, along with one or two other adjustments (a financial transactions tax, gradual small increases in the payroll tax rate, etc.)