A popular book published at the end of the '50s, the decade once blamed for everything bad in the culture, examined the young at the mercy of biology, kids needing the counsel of grown-ups en route to competent maturity. The author of "The Vanishing Adolescent," one Edgar Friedenberg, failed to discern exactly what was coming into focus at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. The baby boomers were packing the bags they would one day carry into their senior years.
But adolescence didn't vanish, it triumphed. The "never trust anyone over 30" generation became the generation that insists everything is due them once they're over 60. They've replaced the illegal pot that eased the psychological pain of growing up with prescription drugs that assuage the aches of growing old. P.J. O'Rourke in the Weekly Standard writes only half in jest of the coming drain on Social Security:"How can present Social Security allotments be expected to fund our sky-diving, bungee-jumping, hang gliding and white-water rafting, our skiing, golf and scuba excursions, our photo safaris to Africa, bike tours of Tuscany and sojourns at Indian ashrams, our tennis clinics, spa treatments, gym memberships and personal fitness training, our luxury cruises to the Galapagos and Antarctica, the vacation homes in Hilton Head and Vail, the lap pools, Jacuzzis, and clay courts being built thereat and the his and hers Harley-Davidsons?"
The political implications are immense. Expensive braces to straighten crooked teeth are cheap compared to the cost of the new hips, knees, arteries, hearts, lungs and kidneys that will have to be covered by taxpayer contributions to Medicaid and Medicare. But better paid by the taxpayer than the affluent boomer. When Hillary Clinton was overheard by a reporter to say that she would ask wealthy Americans to pay more in payroll taxes to save Social Security, she quickly retreated to cover in the dimly lit cave of "fiscal responsibility."
The free lunch has become the free dinner at the gourmet restaurant. John McCain played gotcha! with Hillary's profligacy by mocking her earmark for a million dollars of taxpayer money to pay for a museum commemorating Woodstock. The Beatles weren't kidding when they sang: "Will you still feed me when I'm 64."