Aging Gracefully?

by elisobservations

Since Thanksgiving breaks up a lot of routines and many readers are used to this column arriving sometime during the weekend, I have advanced this week’s piece to today.

I’ve also decided to take a break from politics. The subject is writing. The public seems a little obsessed about writing. Very few people have real writing ability but it sometimes seems that there are more people who want to write books and articles than there are those who want to read them (I guess that’s why blogs were born.) But books seem to be just as numerous as ever, and that means that occasionally one of them shows up on my desk in spite of the fact that I don’t review books. I assume the sender had never read the blog or was just plain desperate. He or she might want to consider sandwich boards.

Some books are sent to us by friends long after they’ve been published (“You’ll find this interesting!”) The book I have in mind today, Albert Brooks’ “2030: The Real Story of What Happened to America,” can’t be considered blurb material since it was published several years ago.

Albert Brooks is a funny, quirky filmmaker, and this book is quirky, funny and serious. It deals with something few people want to hear about: what to do about old people who go on living, longer and longer, using up their social security and pensions. They also are very large consumers of public health dollars.

I recently attended a birthday party for an artist friend who is celebrating her 100th birthday. She’s still active in her profession and doing fine, with an exhibition due early next year. At her party, I noticed that many of the guests seemed to me to be in their late 70s or even late 80s. But few of them appeared to be infirm.

I asked myself were these people to be regarded as an annoying and expensive surplus? In his novel, Brooks describes several young characters who gradually become hostile to older people whom they regard as greedy geezers, blocking everyone younger from a better life.

There is probably some truth to that. Some of my friends and relatives who live in rural or suburban places say that older people in their communities routinely vote against tax increases for education. We’ve seen a little of this kind of bloc voting in our national elections.

So, does it have to be a choice between young people or their parents? Recent public statements by some Darwinian Republicans would have you think so. I have a different slant.

Instead of focusing on the age of the average citizen, let’s take a look at the big earners and the obscene fortunes that so many have amassed. We could then tax them accordingly. A revolutionary idea!

There’s a reason we used to call that kind of tax “progressive taxing.” It has fostered a progressive element in our society rather than divisive agism. Does that make me a tax-and-spend liberal? If we spend the money on better health care and better education, you can count me in.

I said this piece would be about writing, not politics. Apparently you can take the boy out of politics but you can’t take the politics out of the boy. Maybe next time.