Friday, April 13, 2018

AARP Perpetuates Trope That The Only Good Codger Is A "Productive" (Or High Spending) Codger

It is amazing that when one travels to more socially progressive nations, especially strong on social insurance, or which embrace democratic socialist values,  there is not only greater happiness noticed, e.g.

But also the belief that once workers retire, at whatever age, there is no longer a need for them to be either "productive" or "consumers".   Not so in the US of A, evidently.   Our nation is still dominated by capitalist and Calvinist memes that reinforce the canard that the only worthy citizens are those who contribute directly to the GDP, either as productive workers, or consumers (consumption is responsible for nearly 70% of the Gross Domestic Product in the U.S.).   To underscore this we have the bastardized "Pareto economic model" which defines economic efficiency in terms of "utils" - such that each dollar spent by the rich or investor class is always worth more than each dollar spent by the lower 50 percent or hardcore saver class, e.g.

One of the most glaring examples being when, in 2003, the Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan - before the Senate Banking Committee  - averred  "Social Security benefits need to be cut to pay for Bush’s tax cuts."   What on Earth was the man thinking? Well, he's thinking on the basis of Pareto efficiency!

Social Security payments, especially with COLAs, do everything the Fed Chairman didn’t want. They pour more money into the economy, but not via productive labor or market investments. People receive their checks merely by existing and breathing day to day, and having paid into the system with FICA deductions.   In other words, the elderly are mostly unproductive drains who must be tolerated, say even if we can't get their Social Security monies converted to private investments, or their Medicare turned into "voucher" systems.

Now, this trope is resurrected in the latest AARP POV column by Jo Ann Jenkins ('Changing the World's Conversation About Aging-. p. 42, April , AARP Bulletin). She writes:

"Where leaders once looked at the growing aging population and saw only retirees, they are now beginning to see a new type of experienced, accomplished workforce. Where they once saw only expensive costs, they are now beginning to see an exploding consumer market that is bolstering our longer a growing pool of dependents."

In other words, reaffirming the trope that if an oldster isn't working and productive, or spending on all kinds of material bullshit:  RVs, new TVs,  gas-fired barbecues, new carpets, etc.  s/he is an "expensive  drain and "dependent".   Gasp!  Just a retiree! Imagine! But, WTF is wrong with just being a retiree, say after you've put in your dozens of years of hard work? And what is wrong with retiring and not having to be a spendthrift freak  either?   Only in America, the land of the almighty dollar, where profits are put before people,  can this type of degenerate thinking prosper and be sold to ...who? Well, mainly Neoliberals and closet Calvinists convinced the only good Medicare beneficiary is one who works 5 hours a day to pay for his medical treatments!

Be assured that Ms. Jenkins babble isn't the first on this issue. Some 7 or so years ago there appeared the cheery, upbeat Saturday Evening Post article, 'The New Retirement'. Therein we were  informed that "Americans are increasingly choosing to stay on the job after age 65 and money is only part of the story". Well, who'da thunk?

On the next page, we find the photos of two obviously well-provided for seniors at the top who were wealthy enough to actually retire early and buy an 85-acre farm where they "pursue their passion" by stuffing bouquets of flowers into canning jars and selling them. Well, nice work if you can get it! And, the couple informs us they're blissfully happy doing all that canning and insist: "If our health holds out we'll do this as long as we can".

My first reaction, to this well-heeled but dumb pair was, WTF!? The rate of human knowledge is doubling every 4 years and you choose to waste your remaining years canning flowers!

But that's just me and maybe my own priorities are wrong. I happen to think that in a limited life time humans owe it to themselves to learn as much about their world and cosmos as they possibly can. And that doesn't mean wasting time canning miniature flower bouquets if you don't have to!

Next we're introduced to a well-coiffed exec of 71 who has absolutely NO intentions of leaving her job as senior vice president of career services at the Ayers Group. As the lady exclaims:

"I just wouldn't know what to do with myself if I retired!"

 Well, uh, how about reading a few books...not just romantic pot boilers from Jacqueline Susanne, but areas of astronomy, psychology, philosophy to broaden that bean counter brain? How about even traveling to other places, like Switzerland, or Sweden or India? To gain something beyond a parochial perspective?

But evidently the thought never crosses her brain. She's obviously content to remain in her little corporate cubbyhole until she croaks.   But hey! At least she's "productive" - in line with Jo Ann Jenkins'  AARP crusade to remake the American image of aging - to think of us 70-plus geezers less as bums and more as.... workers and consumers!

Fortunately, a Mother Jones piece coming out at about the same time as the Post pabulum, thoroughly demolished its "working longer is better", e.g.
In other words, most older Americans (past 65)_ who do choose to stay on the job longer do so often at the expense of their health, and without much in the way of monetary return. 

What would it take to get me to rejoin the work force, at the age of 71 and with new (rising) PSA tests showing the prostate cancer may be coming back? Well, for starters,  a salary of at least $150-$200 an hour.

Oh, and that would be on a part time basis only and working at home. That alone would work given that I may not have that many years left, and I don't wish to spend them pushing paper, checking emails or "learning coding",  but rather learning more about the latest scientific and other research developments - some of which make it into my blog posts.

Btw, regarding the coding frenzy and "2 million more jobs" cited by Apple CEO Tim Cook (in his 'Revolutions' appearance on MSNBC last Friday) I will have more to say - rather naysay - in a coming post.

Oldsters, especially in their 70s - 80s deserve to be left alone by the media mavens and others who try to impose their own expectations on what an American retiree ought to be or do. If in fact millions wish to waste their time -  if they already have scads of $$ - canning flowers, or working as Walmart greeters,  then so be it. If that's what floats their boat, let 'em do it. But if others just wish to kick back and  read and learn, or attend university classes (even online) then let them do it. Stop hectoring us 70-somethings  to "go back to work" to satisfy the trope of the "on the go, productive" senior.  Or the high spending senior!

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