Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Not Either-Or

This recent Letter to the Editor in the Washington Post is a textbook example of the false either-or perspective that produces bad policy decisions.

John Schappi, 81, writes that he "would not be particularly happy to have to pay more in taxes or get less in Social Security and Medicare. But I could accept this if it meant repackaging government assistance so that my two children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild have a better shot at achieving the financial security that I have."

Mr. Schappi's offer to sacrifice on behalf of children is generous and well-intentioned. However, cutting back Social Security -- which supports all generations -- would actually weaken protections and future benefits for children. Slashing benefits for survivors, children and adults with disabilities, grandparents raising grandchildren and others for whom Social Security prevents a slide into poverty will hurt families. And cutting back a federal program that aids seniors won't necessarily mean an increase for children. The perception that youth and older adults are in competition for limited resources is false. Children, and seniors, don't exist in a vacuum. They exist in interdependent families.

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