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PPA 419 – Aging Services Administration. Lecture 2 – Generational Equity. Source:.
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PPA 419 – Aging Services Administration Lecture 2 – Generational Equity
Source: • John B. Williamson and Diane M. Watts-Roy. 1999. “Framing the Generational Equity Debate”. Chapter 1 in John B. Williamson, Diane M. Watts-Roy, Eric R. Kingson, The Generational Equity Debate (pp. 3-37). New York: Columbia University Press.
Introduction • Core of the generational equity debate: • Thirty years from now it will not be possible to support the retired baby boomers at the level enjoyed by those currently retired. • Unfair to require baby boomers to support current beneficiaries at levels they will not themselves receive. • Concept of generational equity used in connection with argument that elderly are getting more than their fair share of governmental resources.
Generational Equity in Historical Perspective • Early Origins of the debate • Recent incarnation of the age-old question of what share of the family and/or community resources should be consumed by the elderly. • Typically an intrafamily matter. • Conflict between young and old over food, land, and other scarce resources a common theme in historical accounts of intergenerational relations. • Food taboos often benefited the elderly. • Feudal societies: the elderly at the mercy of the young • Democracy in Athenian society reduced the role and influence of the elderly. • Colonial society: elderly poor within community cared for by a sense of solidarity, but not elderly strangers.
Generational Equity in Historical Perspective • Changes in public policy affecting attitudes toward elderly in 19th century • Increase in relief and poor tax. • Change in ethnic composition. • Shift from outdoor relief to indoor relief.
Shades of the Debate in the New Deal and Great Society • Most direct origins of debate in debate over passage of Social Security Act of 1935. • Old Age Assistance and Old Age Insurance • Result of epic struggle between proponents of “Social Security” vs. “Socialism”. • Advocates of the pension invoked communitarian themes: origins of dependent elder stereotype. • Advocates of the anti-pension position were frightened by the radicalism of the Townsend movement and other old age pension movements and argued about the dangers of creating a dependent generation.
Shades of the Debate in the New Deal and Great Society • Between 1950 and 1970s, SSA was frequently amended, expanding coverage and benefits. • Big conflict was over health care • Truman proposed several national health insurance plans, none passed • Kennedy asked for draft bill, but only for elderly. Incremental strategy designed to overcome conservative opposition. Bill defeated. • Johnson passed after 1964 election with large Democratic majorities in Congress. But conservatives made sure providers well-compensated and made program difficult to expand to other age groups. • Put Medicare and Social Security at heart of generational equity debate.
Shades of the Debate in the New Deal and Great Society • Later expansions • Older Americans Act of 1965 • Nixon • Expanded benefits • Indexing • SSI
Recent Reemergence of the debate • Compassionate ageism, 1930s to 1970s • Discriminated against, poor, frail • Interpretive package that painted elderly as needy and deserving of public support. • Helped sell social policies for aging. • But changed economic circumstances prompted concerns about elderly spending. • Oil embargoes, stagflation • Decline in trust in government
Recent Reemergence of the Debate • Increased skepticism about the effectiveness of government • Often fueled by effective conservative campaign by conservative think tanks.
Recent Reemergence of the Debate • In 1977 Social Security faced first funding crisis. • Conservatives called it a crisis, liberals a short-term funding problem • Crisis interpretive package had several advantages for conservatives. • Given conservatives agenda to reduce welfare state, they must reduce Social Security. Best way is to undermine public confidence in program. • Liberals wished to avoid crisis framing and proposed a short-term funding solution.
Recent Reemergence of the Debate • 1977 changes increased taxes and upper limit on taxable income. • Pressure for more changes led Reagan to appoint commission. • Conservatives again used crisis frame and liberals funding frame. • 1983 reforms increased retirement age. • After 1983 reforms, conservatives frame “generational equity” debate.
Developments during 1990s • Proponents of generational equity framing have focused on entitlement spending, size of federal budget, and size of federal debt. • Social Security implicitly or explicitly blamed. • Generational interdependence frame focuses on tax cuts, military spending, and spending caps on domestic discretionary programs. • Means testing • Privatization
Framing the Debate • Generational Equity Frame • More attention to fairness between generations. • Too much on elderly at expense of others (especially children). • Baby boomers will be heavy burden on Social Security and Medicare. • Current recipients consuming more than their fair share.
Framing the Debate • Generational Equity Frame (contd.) • Every generation should provide for itself. • Key obstacle: Voting power of elderly. • To provide for elderly, must grow the economy, cut private consumption, shrink federal spending, and privatize part of Social Security. • Less emphasis on entitlement and more on work.
Framing the Debate • Generational Interdependence Frame • Take into consideration the interdependence of generations when making and changing policy. • Reject idea that each generation should fend for itself. • Sharp cuts in retirement benefits will have adverse effects on adult children. • Distinct emphasis on what each generation has to offer to other generations. • Focus on intragenerational equity • Other forms of equity: racial, gender, class.
Framing the Debate • Generational Interdependence Frame (contd.) • With regard to Social Security, long-term financing problem but not a crisis. • Diversity in economic circumstances among elderly. Poverty among children not directly linked. • Must control health care spending • Pursue communitarian rather than individualistic values.
Values, Beliefs, and Rhetorical Strategies • Advocates must select symbolic language that shapes the appeal of particular frames and makes them look natural and comfortable. • Generational Equity Frame. • Privatization of Social Security rests on language of self-reliance and personal freedom
Values, Beliefs, and Rhetorical Strategies • Generational Interdependence Frame • Redistributive goals of Social Security • Obligation to protect vulnerable groups • Fought in mass media. • Generational equity frame has advantage in the dominance of individualism in American culture.