From this study, a complex picture of senior participation and policy emerges. One aspect is that, as with many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in the "greedy geezer" image. To an extent, seniors defend their own programs at the expense of policies benefiting others. Economists have shown for example, that the proportion of elderly residents in a location is associated with a significant reduction in per child education spending. By contrast, there was a positive association between elderly population share and school spending in the early 1900s, before Social Security's enactment. Government policy seems to have shifted seniors' self-interests away from supporting the education of younger people upon whom they were once directly dependent, toward defending the government benefits upon which their livelihoods now depend.In sum, by draining resources, distorting economic incentives, and shortchanging future generations, oldsters have evened out inequalities in political participation and created a happy, healthy, unified and invincible lobby that can effectively drive the state into bankruptcy by destroying any effort to deny or curtail their benefits. Win for participatory democracy!
But if this crowding-out effect is not desirable from the standpoint of democratic governance, other age-related policy effects are. Social Security has democratized senior participation, reducing participatory inequality within the senior constituency. Hence seniors' welfare state programs have exacerbated political inequality between age groups, but have moderated it within the senior population. Social Security has both deleterious and laudable effects on American democracy...Over time seniors eclipsed nonseniors in the participatory arena, and now are disproportionately active. At the same time, Social Security and Medicare coverage expanded and benefits grew, with profound effects on seniors' empirical and attitudinal well-being.
--How Policies Make Citizens
Monday, September 07, 2009
Posted by Miss Self-Important at 1:50 PM