THE GENERATIONAL CONTRACT IS NOT THE PROBLEM
Senior Poverty: The debate around old age poverty heads in the wrong direction, says reader Michael Feindler. The generational conflict diverts from the true problem.
By Michael Feindler
[This article published 10/1/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zeit.de/politik/de/deutschland/2012-09/leserartikel-generationenvertrag-altersarmut/komplettansight
The word generational conflict is nerve-wracking. I can’t hear it without being annoyed – over those who connect this with the theme old age poverty. They scatter rumors about the breach of this contract.
Obviously my generation of 20- to 35-year olds has been led astray by politics. We believe the main conflict of the near future lies between us and an army of seniors with only one thing in mind: enjoying a beautiful retirement at the expense of the young.
This idea is cynical, untrue and diverts from the real conflict. American entrepreneur Warren Buffet, the third richest man of the world according to Forbes magazine, named the true problem. “There is class warfare. But my class, the class of the rich, wages this war and we are winning.” The battle is between poor and rich, not young against old.
This is clear in Germany. The political reforms of the past twelve years gradually relieved the wealthy and especially employers. The top tax rate and corporate taxes were lowered. Then the low wage sector was consistently developed so employers saved the costs for social security. It is hardly surprising that ever-greater gaps arise in the state budgets. However blaming the demographic change is a distortion of the facts.
Private assets in Germany grow more quickly than the public debts. Guaranteeing a humane pension to all citizens is entirely possible – assuming all social strata share in financing pension systems as they are able. Instead there are plans for private old age- and health care insurance which are nothing but a subsidization of private insurance companies.
The generational contract is not the problem or cause of old age poverty. The error is that the social state was dismantled for years to benefit the well-to-do.
WHAT THE TEA PARTY AND 68ERS HAVE IN COMMON
By Florian Sander
[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis October 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet.]
The Tea Party movement and its representatives appear in every article reporting about the US presidential election campaign and the Republican primary. It offers something to classical European left-liberal journalists and their readers that both may have missed since the end of the Bush presidency: the possibility of rising above backwoods Americans. This was hard since the beginning of the term in office of the democratic messiah Barack Obama.
Most journalistic and political commentators on the Tea Party movement seemingly lack fundamental knowledge about the conservative spectrum in the US. The most different currents are mixed up, causalities distorted and themes invented. The Tea Party mutates into the epitome of all the evil that the US has ever produced and for most stands in the direct tradition of George W. Bush and his neoconservative government.
However reality is far more complex and heterogeneous – like “movements” today. The majority of the Tea Party movement is by no means dominated by neoconservatives but is composed of libertarians (represented by the rather secular Ron Paul), classical “Paleo-conservatives” (“PaleoCons”) and evangelicals (“TheoCons,” represented by Bachmann and Perry).
All three groups are different from the “NeoCons” (and Obama). They are rather skeptical toward an interventionist, war-mongering foreign policy from the view of Europeans since the worldwide US presence costs money. A consistent austerity-policy and a sleek state are the primary goals of the Tea Party. Libertarians like Ron Paul even prefer an absolute isolationism (which they never would describe as such). Because of these qualities, fundamental contrasts to the NeoCons open up. Therefore an undifferentiated equation of these groups must be avoided.
Very different comparisons open up for the less hysterical and more holistic observer. Political movements should not be judged in an isolated way. Their works and their meaning should always be seen in relation and in the context of the attendant historical, political and social circumstances. In relation to the Tea Party movement, one comes to interesting conclusions that are not dissimilar to the conclusions about the role of the German 68er movement.
Grassroots movements always express political or social dislocations. Figuratively expressed, they appear when the political scales are thrown off balance and they attempt to be a powerful counterweight of the base. In this process, “counterweights” do not always bring the weight necessary to restore the balance. The weight is or should be fundamentally shifted in another direction. In the long-term, their work is important for the state and society altogether.
This phenomenon can be found in both examples of the Tea Party and the 68ers. The 68er movement was the reaction of youth to an overly conservative encrusted society with its intense need for social-political and sexual liberalization and a new “balance.” The extra-parliamentary opposition associated with the 68ers was marked by a decidedly socialist and left-oriented programmatic that moved the pendulum so far in the other direction that conservatives and liberals today are occupied with bending the negative consequences of anti-authoritarian pedagogic ideals and complete leftist-alternative ideologizing of educational policy.
The socially necessary upheaval of 1968 – that was even patriotic and not “anti-German” unlike some later leftist myths – mutated to a march through the institutions that had many negative consequences and originally positive consequences.
The Tea Party operates within a very different political culture with very different political fields and themes. But the fundamental problematic remains the same. The US constantly strained itself in the last years. The hegemonial world-political role as the only remaining superpower turns out to be deeply unhealthy for the budget, social peace and the future well-being of the country.
The Tea Party with its radical demand for a sleek state, rigorously austere budgets and an end to foreign policy interventionism is a lever for establishing a new balance that teaches the Washington Establishment budget discipline and that empires can only survive when they learn from history and do not overtax themselves.
However the Tea Party oversteps the mark here. It shoots with all its arch-conservative and radical-libertarian munitions and doesn’t stop with the above demands. In other words, liberalization of the gun law, evangelical rhetoric, creationism in the curriculum, moralism and many other programmatic points that frighten liberal Europeans. The scale does not reach balance but threatens to capsize to the other side.
Common interests are considerable despite differences in time, latitude and themes. Both movements were and are inevitable and historically necessary. However both movements are also synonymous for emotionalization, hysteria and new political disharmonies and imbalances.
One conclusion follows from these findings: more differentiation in political perception would do us good. This is urgently necessary for taking up the positive themes of the 68ers or the Tea Party and shaking off the hysterical and disharmonic accessories. In this way, the social-political scales will balance again one day in the US and Germany.
What distinguishes the Tea Party and the 68ers
Comments: Tai Fei
Comparing the Tea Party movement with a grassroots movement is very risky and daring. Potent sponsors and powerful economic interests are hidden behind this movement.
The 68ers came from below, not from above. They did not have either economic corporations or a lobby at their back. These developed later and have a lasting effect but that wasn’t the initial impulse. The 68ers changed the republic. The republic would not exist today without them. Many new impulses arrived. These new impulses were not all good but mainly they were not bad and did the society good. In society, the corporeal punishment law was reformed; authoritarianism from teachers to students and parents to children was prohibited. Subjective quality of life and personal happiness were central, not a conservative corset. Protestants and Catholics could finally marry in conservative villages. I don’t think that could be said for the Tea Party movement.
Comments: Pistepirkko – August 31, 2012
Sorry! Seldom have I read such rubbish.
The 68ers improved living conditions of all people not only in Europe. Living in a flat without marriage certificates, living out homosexuality, education chances for everyone, freedom of opinion and so forth have made society freer and more peaceful. The Tea Party is reactionary hogwash that propagates oppressive scenarios and leads into the dependence of conformity since despicable neoliberalism stands behind these people.
If conservatives must clear away the 68er-estate, who then will remove the financial- and economic crisis estate since 2008? The Cons don’t give the orders!
Comments: maschkom – August 31, 2012
The 68-movement was a liberation movement from a conservative corset.
On the other hand, I understand the Tea Party as a step back into a conservative corset. It calls people into a corset of order and codes of conduct.
As we all know, every faith whether a religion, a sect or an economic system does not give people more freedom. It encloses or narrows people and keeps them from thinking and acting independently and individually.
Here we have two opposite models that could not be more contrary.
The Tea Party may be supported vigorously by high finance. Its interest is in making people dumb and keeping them from thinking independently.