My New Entitlement

by | Nov 8, 2000

By appearance alone, no one would ever guess that next year I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday. Going by this year’s presidential campaign promises, simply by surviving 65 years I acquire the right to have my prescription drugs paid by younger Americans. That’s even if that younger person has less wealth and income than I. Does […]

By appearance alone, no one would ever guess that next year I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday. Going by this year’s presidential campaign promises, simply by surviving 65 years I acquire the right to have my prescription drugs paid by younger Americans. That’s even if that younger person has less wealth and income than I.

Does simply surviving 65 years guarantee me the right to live at the expense of young people? Not quite, according to vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman. Lieberman knows his Bible. He said that paying prescription drugs for older Americans is obedience to God’s law revealed to us by Moses. We must “Honour thy father and mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

Lieberman forgot to mention, or he doesn’t know, that there’s no Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus giving the government resources to pay for prescription drugs. That means the only way government can give one American subsidized prescription drugs is to first confiscate the money from some other American. If Rabbi Lieberman just thought about that fact he’d recall another commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” Or, maybe Lieberman thinks what that commandment really means: “Thou shalt not steal unless thou hast a majority vote in Congress.”

Older Americans who want someone else to pay for prescription drugs ought to give some thought to the mechanism by which the drugs will be provided.

That mechanism is revealed by considering the following scenario: Suppose a person disagrees that his earnings should go to pay prescription drugs for some old coots. He refuses to cough up the money to the IRS. What would you have done to him? You say, “The IRS should fine him.” Suppose he refuses to pay the fine? You say, “The IRS should take his house.” Suppose he refuses to let the IRS take his house? You say, “Send armed agents.” Suppose he arms himself to defend his property from government confiscation — should the government agents then kill him?

The mechanism by which we’ll get our prescription drugs subsidized is through threats, intimidation and coercion. Let’s think about the Ten Commandments again. Do you suppose that while there are biblical proscriptions against theft receiving stolen goods is OK? While there are no biblical admonitions against being a recipient of stolen property, I’d bet the practice doesn’t sit right with God.

Why have older Americans resorted to ripping off the young? The simple answer is we can and we want to. In the political arena, the rule is: dump on people who can’t dump back on you. Older Americans vote in large numbers. Younger Americans hardly vote at all. Politicians do whatever gets them elected and re-elected.

Becoming 65 next year means I get to live off younger Americans in another way — Social Security. I’ll probably receive all that I ever put into Social Security in five years or so. After that, I get to live off young people. The most conservative estimates predict Social Security disaster in the 2030s. But if older Americans feel threatened by any Social Security proposal that might avert the disaster, why should politicians risk their careers by doing anything? Neither they nor today’s older Americans will be around when the disaster arrives, so what do they care?

I’m healthy; subsidized prescription drugs won’t do me much good. I’d be willing to forego my prescription drugs if Congress would force some young American to mow my lawn.

Walter Williams (March 31, 1936 – December 1, 2020) was an American economist, commentator, academic, and columnist at Capitalism Magazine. He was the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and a syndicated editorialist for Creator's Syndicate. He is author of Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?, and numerous other works.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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