"Deserving Poor" or "Greedy Geezers"? New Book by Heller Professor Emeritus Debunks Aging Crisis

November 01, 2006

Despite the impending retirement of 76 million baby boomers, huge government deficits, and unrelenting battles over Social Security, the United States is not facing a demographic tsunami, according to a new book by two leading experts on the economics and politics of aging.

Aging Nation: The Economics and Politics of Growing Older in America addresses contentious issues ranging from the mushrooming market in “fountain of youth” anti-aging products to the ongoing battle over "saving" Social Security and other entitlement programs. Heller Professor Emeritus James H. Schulz and Case Western Reserve political scientist Robert H. Binstock agree there is considerable cause for concern. But they argue that with sound policies and programs in place and smart individual choices, the elderly can prosper -- averting a future characterized by poor health, poor finances, and employer age discrimination.

“Many reform proposals today unwisely call for individuals to take major responsibility for their own economic security in old age. This will expose them to many new uncertainties and risks, risks that were minimized in the past by collective pension and health insurance programs sponsored by business and government,” says Schulz.

In his press conference following the mid-term elections, President Bush again cited entitlements as one of the biggest issues facing the country. However, the book debunks the aging crises put forth by the ‘merchants of doom,’ who predict huge dependency burdens, Social Security bankruptcy, and inter-generational conflict.

“Our book offers a new aging policy framework based on the fact that the lives of Americans of all ages are inextricably linked with the fate of today’s and tomorrow’s elderly,” say the authors.

The authors analyze the impact of an aging nation on evolving private and public retirement policies, faltering employer pensions, skyrocketing health care costs, and the debate over entitlement programs. They argue that the threat to our future economic growth and economic welfare is not so much “population aging” as it is the old fashioned issues of promoting quality education, technological change, and business investment (historically, the key factors responsible for the impressive rise in our living standards).

James H. Schulz is the author of numerous books on aging policy, including the internationally acclaimed textbook, The Economics of Aging, now in its seventh edition. Robert H. Binstock has published six editions of the Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences and is a leading authority on the politics of aging. Both Schulz and Binstock are past presidents of the Gerontological Society of America.

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