Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish blog, an angle on Social Security and Medicare which I hadn’t considered for a long, long time:

A reader writes:

Many analysts assume there will be a war between the generations regarding who benefits and who pays for social programs like medicare and social security, both programs open to the vast majority of elderly, retired, or disabled Americans.

This misses a key point of both programs.

My own case as an example. I get both medicare and social security now that I’m 67 years old. But my first benefit from the programs came when I was 19. My parents sent me off to college, and sent my sister the next year. This would not have been possible without social security and medicare, which were available to my grandparents – the first generation to come of age under these programs. Without these programs, my family’s money would not have stretched to cover my college costs. It would have gone, as it did in countless generations before, to taking care of elderly parents and grandparents.

via The Coming Generation Wars, Ctd – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

The future years for my mother – and for me, as a potential caregiver, or at minimum, a sort of family overseer – have been weighing on my mind. She’s 77, still working about 30 hours or more a week. Thank goodness for Medicare, for Social Security, for all the things that got her to a relatively healthy, and definitely active seventh decade.

But if all of that wasn’t there, could I take care of her? Certainly not in the style to which she as managed to accustom herself. The modern manifestation of the New Deal and the Great Society have affected me, not so much as a direct recipient, but as the child of those who did, and who are now reaping the benefits of the bargain they made:  Work hard, let us take some out of your earnings toward your future, and you will be taken care of, and not be a burden to the next generation.

Also, for some reason, I keep thinking of The Grandfather and The Grandmother in the sickly sweet but fascinating children’s novel, Heidi. There’s more to that story than would appear, below its surface. Family is almost always willing to sacrifice. The question is, how much do they actually have to give? And for some, it’s precious little, though they’d willingly give it all.

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