Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Senior-Bashing from the Fraser Institute 

The following article was sent to Ralph's World by a senior Albertan who has taken great exception a recent report published by the Fraser Institute. Also included was his brief summation of the article which you see on the left.

His article is reproduced here unedited.

Why is The Fraser Institute Reviving its Program of Senior -Bashing?

On June 21, 2005, The Fraser Institute released a publication by Brett J. Skinner titled Universal Drug Benefits for Seniors: Unnecessary, Unsustainable, and Unfair. You can click on the link to read it. This work is noteworthy mainly because it promotes the moral and social values held by both the author and The Fraser Institute—values that threaten the well being of our seniors and our society. What comes out in this publication is an attempt to turn back key achievements that have made our society one of civility.

Assumptions underlying Skinner’s "study"

The Methodology employed

Skinner merges the seniors’ prescription drug scene in Canada with that of the United States. Where comparable Canadian statistics don't exist, he creates some. This results in some very questionable and confusing conclusions.

The Conclusions:

Although the author considers this work to be a study it is much better classified as a political tract. At the time of its release, Skinner stated that the political purpose of this publication was to fire a preemptive shot across the bow of provincial and federal politicians in Canada, “It might only be a matter of time,” he said, “before a US-style scheme is promoted for the federal level in Canada. Therefore, it is worth warning now that special universal public drug benefits for seniors are unnecessary, unfair to the rest of the population, and are not financially sustainable in the long run.”

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Skinner’s work is its attempt to foment intergenerational anger, animosity, and intolerance. Throughout the “study” Skinner repeatedly identifies the seniors as being recipients of “unnecessary, inefficient and unfair" benefits that are not available to other groups. Skinner targets the seniors uncharitably when he writes that the seniors’ drug benefit “represents a government-imposed intergenerational transfer of wealth that will make the younger population worse off.” Such writing is not worthy of the Director of the Fraser Institute Pharmaceutical and Health Policy Research. It is nothing more than a polemic that incites negative attitudes towards seniors. Dr. Janet Fast, professor of human ecology at the University of Alberta has reported that negative attitudes towards seniors have now "become entrenched in North American culture." Young people, Dr. Fast claims, are picking up on these negative attitudes towards the seniors. "There's a lot of ageism out there," she states, because young people "are not as exposed to older people as they were when the different generations lived together."

Population expert, Dr. Herbert Northcott says the media, which often characterize older people as helpless and poor, or rich and indifferent, fuels these negative perceptions. Skinner goes one better. In his pseudo-study he depicts seniors as rich and greedy who are poised to take billions of dollars out of the economy through their drug benefits. " The whole perspective has become known as apocalyptic demography," Dr. Northcott says. "But all the rhetoric is inaccurate, unnecessary, and ultimately ageist. It blames seniors for things which they are not responsible for, such as the problems in health care."

One must wonder what motives the members of the Board of Governors of The Fraser Institute had in commissioning and publishing such "studies" as this. What costs are they prepared to accept in promoting their right-wing ideology. Are they aware of the social harm they can cause by their irresponsible freedom to print such slanted, divisive, and indeed false views. They must also consider whether they have any civic or social responsibility in our complex and pluralistic society. To state, as Mr. Skinner does, that the entitlements of the seniors are beggaring the young, or by implication the poor, or the single parent families does grave violence to the truth.

Is the objective of fomenting feelings anger or intolerance of the public against any age group a justifiable and valid undertaking? Is this any different from fomenting feelings against a specific racial group? In other words, is Ageism really different from Racism? Further, who are the seniors that Mr. Skinner and The Fraser Institute have maligned throughout this publication? Who are these people that constitute such a threat to our Medicare program and who would be responsible for such damage to our society?

Senior citizens are those members of society who have reached or passed the age of 65. Most seniors live on pensions that are best described as “fixed incomes.” This means that they have little if any opportunity to increase their annual incomes. Since inflation has its greatest negative impact on people living on fixed incomes, many seniors have difficulty in meeting the rising costs of the basic necessities of life. Furthermore, in many cases seniors are supporting people two or three generations below them. As a result, many seniors who wished to maintain their respect and dignity, and who hoped to live the last years of their lives without being a burden to anyone, see the chances of these dreams slipping away. To suggest, as Mr. Skinner does, that 97% of the seniors would have no financial difficulty in buying their prescription drugs without help is simply untrue.

Furthermore, throughout most of their lives, seniors have paid their full share of taxes and contributed fully to their pension and medical dues. Through their hard work and savings they have made considerable contributions to building up and developing the country. This includes the schools, libraries, universities and other educational institutions that Mr. Skinner appears to have so readily accepted as a part of his “entitlement.” Certainly, no reasonable, civilized citizen would expect Mr. Skinner to pay the full costs of building schools and universities before he could attend them. But, providing such help to the younger generation is the hallmark of a civilized society. Such a society factors in the values that keep it together—a sense of community, of civics, of public spiritedness, of public generosity. Although Mr. Skinner, and the Fraser Institute seem to care very little about these values, without them, a society may well dissolve into nothing more than contending factions.

The arrogance of Mr. Skinner’s thought is best described by Christopher Lasch’s insightful analysis of modern neo-conservatism. Lasch writes that such thought shows “little sense of ancestral gratitude or of an obligation to live up to the responsibilities of the past.” The adherents of the “neo-con” ideology, Lasch claims, think of themselves as part of a self-made neo-conservative elite owing their privileges exclusively to their own efforts.

But the greatest misfortune arising out of the promulgation of the ideology of apocalyptic demography is the attraction of such ideologies to ambitious politicians such as Ralph Klein and Stephen Harper. The Fraser Institute has been specifically courting such people, attempting to influence them with awards and speaking engagements. These politicians may well find themselves in a position of implementing the beliefs of this ideology without properly thinking about their consequences. This would result in the real catastrophic cost to our Medicare system.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?