We've Got a Choice: Schools or Nursing Homes?
Robert Samuelson doesn't think our economy is strong enough to pay pensions
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Aug 5, 2013 1:43 PM CDT
Firefighters protest outside the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, in Detroit, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

(Newser) – If anyone tries to tell you that Detroit's bankruptcy is an isolated incident, "don't be fooled," writes Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post. The truth is that for governments across the country, "the scramble for scarce resources is intensifying. Schools compete with nursing homes." Underfunded pensions and Medicaid are costing ever more money, even as tax bases appear set to weaken, and that's money that can't be spent on the next generation.

"We live in a world of finite resources," one state treasurer says. As pension payments rise, "you have less money for infrastructure, education, affordable housing." The problem, Samuelson explains, is that "spending on the elderly rises more or less automatically," and the public abhors specific actions taken to reduce it. "Our system favors the past over the future. Things could be done to mitigate the bias. ... But it's first necessary to acknowledge the bias and discuss it openly." Click for Samuelson's full column.

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Aug 6, 2013 10:37 AM CDT
For me, easy choice: close the nursing homes and set free the abused elderly prisoners so they can live out their lives with autonomy and dignity. Nursing homes are a monstrous big lie. And that does not mean imprison them in schools. July 23 I posted: "No human being young or old needs to be in a nursing home. A human being in a vegetative state is better off with persons related to it than with strangers employed by an institution. The argument that they need skilled care is a myth, a lie, a crock: there is no skill being applied to their care. Persons as miserable in their jobs as any other miserable working people are perfunctorily doing only what they feel they must and are not magically imbued with a special caring that substitutes for dignity, love, nurture. You think it has no detrimental effect to be surrounded by other strangers as bad off as yourself who are perpetually complaining, retching, moaning, puking, screaming, wandering around like lost souls, accosting each other with ghoulish statements and violence; and who are dying and being replaced! Does anyone here know any person who ever put themselves in a nursing home? I know, they all have a loving relative with infinite wisdom who made an extra-judicial determination to commit them for their own good! How did they lose all right to express their own preference. You tell anyone that an elderly person is "senile" and they will accept the assertion without the slightest question. Senile? Heck, it's all old people know how to be! "Everyone" knows that! Personally, I would rather lie helpless on my floor at home, calling out for help till I died than be cared for by brusque, callous, indifferent persons in uniforms. 200 children? A tiny percentage of the problem. What on earth could lead a rational being to stuff a child away in such a place! The outrageous gall" Nursing homes are dreary warehouses for discarded people. They exist for the benefit of those confining the inmates and their advertising is always aimed at those supposedly caring persons. They are about profit, not care
Aug 6, 2013 9:24 AM CDT
Aug 6, 2013 6:46 AM CDT
I worked private industry my entire career. It never crossed my mind to covet union people's benefits or public employee's pensions. Most of my employers did not provide retirement benefits. Samuelson presents a false choice. In terms of scale, compensation used to be much higher for labor and much lower for management; and, the same is true of taxes. The rich used to pay a much higher percentage. When the scale was in balance, America had a better quality of life, the middle class boomed, there were fewer poor people, and much less welfare. A blue collar man could support his family without the financial help of his wife, but corporations grew greedy. Owners kept all the profits for themselves. Wages stagnated and wives joined their husbands on the job. The scale must be put back in balance.