First, I think I need to offer a disclosure. For thirty years I was a faithful, daily, cover-to-cover reader of the New York Times. I doubt the paper ever had a more loyal customer. About three years ago I began to notice that the paper was shot through with bias for the powerful and against the working and middle classes. I know that many people are thinking… “It took you 30 years to realize this?!?!?!” Actually, I do understand that I was changing while the paper was staying the same.
Now I rarely read the NYT but, from time to time I do stumble upon the ageist writings of a few of its elite pundits.
This particular example involves a fellow named Thomas Friedman.
From the wiki…
Thomas Friedman is often criticized for his commentary and writing style. Critics have taken issue with Friedman’s stances such as his support for the Iraq War and views on globalization. Friedman’s writing style has been criticized for bad metaphors, name-dropping, and repetition. New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt took Friedman to task publicly in The Times itself for accepting a $75,000 speaking engagement – which Hoyt notes is Friedman’s standard public speaking fee – in violation of official Times’ guidelines.
Now, it seems, Friedman has had just about enough of these greedy grandmas who are— gosh darn it— going to ruin this great nation. In a recent column, Friedman slapped the GOP because they have called for cuts in things we need to invest more in, such as education and infrastructure, “while leaving largely untouched things we need to reduce, like entitlements and defense spending.”
So, where does this wealthy opinion-maker think the problem lies? He blames our woes on the 1.6 million people who are living in nursing homes.
Almost unbelievably, Friedman argues:
A country that invests more in its elderly than its youth, more in nursing homes than schools, will neither invent the future nor own it.
The blogger Digby (who does stand up for the middle and working classes) did some homework.
For one thing, the U.S. spends more on elementary and secondary education than it does on nursing homes. A spokesman for the Department of Education told me the amount spent on elementary and secondary education for the 2007-2008 school year was $495 billion; for nursing homes, national expenditures in 2008 totaled $138 billion, according to a document called “Health United States, 2010” from the CDC. That’s not even close.
Here’s a more important question the press and the public should ask: What will happen to the elderly if we reduce spending on nursing homes, as Friedman hints is necessary?
Digby delivers a stinging rebuke to the plutocratic Friedman…
The idea of cutting funding for them so that we can pay for their grandkids’ future in a country that boasts millionaires paying tax rates that are lower than they’ve been since the 50s makes me literally sick to my stomach. Not everyone was wily enough to marry a multi-millionaire as Friedman was so these questions are just a little bit less abstract to most of them.
I would add that the idea of “throwing grandma under the bus” is bad for people of all ages. A society that “can’t afford grandmothers” will be unlikely to support the poor, the sick and the frail. Despite the chronic American delusion that personal riches are just around the corner, the reality is that we are all better off when the least among us are afforded a life of safety and dignity.