Old People Power

Politics Unions Voting

Pearl River      Old people are suddenly news.   Not just because so many old people are holding onto power in one country after another like the US, China, and India, even as younger men and women take charge elsewhere, but because in places like France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the oldies have huge voting power.  Parties across the political spectrum are kowtowing to the seniors, sometimes even at the expense of the future, because even though the elders don’t vote as a block, they vote more regularly than the rest of the troops, and they look after their interests in the ballot box.

A recent report underlined the power dynamics:

  • In the 2022 US midterm elections, about two-thirds of citizens 65 and over voted, more than double the turnout rate for people 18 to 29.
  • In Britain, in the early 1980s, there were nearly twice as many registered voters under 40 as over 60. Now, the over-60s have almost caught up…[and] given that they vote more reliably, there are now 1.3 ballots cast by the over-60s for every ballot by under-40s….
  • A huge reason for the decline of support for France’s President Macron and his party dates to his effort to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, which triggered protests of the old and young, a refusal by lawmakers to pass the measure, and led Macron to use his constitutional powers to force the change. In current and recent elections, both parties on the right and left have opposed the pension changes, one calling for lowering the age to 60.
  • In Spain in late 2021, the socialist government scrapped a previous government’s overhaul of the nation’s generous state pension system, which allows workers to retire with at least 80% of their preretirement earnings.

You get the point.  In union bargaining in right-to-work states, we would always say to the members, if you only have 20% membership in the bargaining unit, you’re going to get a 20% contract.  If you have 80% membership, you’re going to get 80% of what you want contract.  It’s much the same with voting power. Politicians count the votes now, not in the future, if they want to get elected.  Same problem unions have when they have to serve existing members and their demands, regardless of how many workers are unorganized in their jurisdiction.

Senior power shows up in policy because of their voting strength.  As the same report points out,

Over the past 15 years in Britain, government healthcare spending rose to the equivalent of 7% of gross domestic product, from 6%, while education spending slipped to 4% from 6%.  In the US, the cost of Social Security and Medicare is projected to rise to the equivalent of 10.2% of economic output in a decade, up from 8.3% today…By 2054…aid for people 65 and older is projected to account for more than half of the federal government’s noninterest spending.  At that point 25% of the US population swill be receiving …benefits, up from 20% today.

The oldies but goodies are voting like their lives depend on it.  That’s what everyone needs to do this year!