Sunday, April 06, 2008

Yarrow’s “Thoughtcrime”

If you’re of a certain age and thinking (even distantly) about getting out of your 9-to-5 job, Andrew L Yarrow will scare the living crap out of you.

In advance of the
publication of his new book, Forgive Us Our Debts, Yarrow is hitting the opinion pages (like this one) and university campuses with a message that talks about baby boomers behind their backs – and accuses every one of them of being “unpatriotic.”

Why? Because he’s convinced that Americans who retire early are unpatriotic and selfish…and his telling the world about it is being powered by a fairly impressive media push. So this is a post about propaganda rather than PR…or the borderline between the two.

In his opinion pieces, Yarrow says that “dropping out of the workforce while still in one’s prime means ending one’s contributions to American’s strength.” He’d have us believe that deciding to stop working after 20 or 30 years (35 in my case) means “mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s future and leeching trillions of taxpayer dollars from the economy.”

This is profoundly wrong on many levels. Since when is freedom of choice in this country unpatriotic? If I choose to retire from the workforce, surely that’s my option and not the government’s to mandate? Yet here is Professor Yarrow lauding the efforts of US Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill) for attempting to eliminate this choice by increasing federal taxation on Social Security payments.

People who retire after decades of work are NOT leeching millions of taxpayer dollars from the economy – they have [1] created those dollars in the first place because they are the taxpayers; and [2] paid into the Social Security system for all those years, working hard to secure their own futures.

Yarrow would seem to be well qualified to make these accusations, since he’s vice president and Washington director of “non-partisan” Public Agenda, teaches modern US history at American University, and is a former reporter for The New York Times. He’s also, it is clear, a big fan of the book by George Orwell called 1984. Because Yarrow’s screed against baby boomer retirement is a classic example of double-think – when a set of words is given an entirely new meaning and we buy into it.

Yarrow’s vision – and his deep misunderstanding of the American workforce – is dystopian in the extreme. He wants the government to step in and make it difficult (if not criminal) to retire “early” because retirement is not patriotic, because there’s something about the “middle age retirement program” that deeply disturbs him. He seriously wishes to “help middle-age workers fund their retraining and education.”

Yarrow is dangerous to the American way of work because he appears to be convinced that the only class of people who can continue to support our way of life are between the ages of 55 and 65, it seems.

What’s going to happen to this country if the baby boomers take a time-out? Yarrow calls people who think of retiring “profoundly selfish.” This IS propaganda. And it is a remarkable accusation considering that it’s precisely today’s so-called young-old workforce that has built this nation into one of the economic wonders of the world.

We have kept America at the top of the list when it comes to productivity in virtually every global ranking. I can only presume that Yarrow recognizes that 20-somethings or 30-somethings aren’t going to be able to contribute their share of the national tax base. Lower tax revenues always frighten Liberals.

It’s like the next chapter in the 1984 Thought Police manual. And recall if you will that thoughtcrime does not entail death – merely indoctrination.


Jack Goldenberg said...

Richard: Oh-oh, I'm starting to agree with you, especially concerning your blog about Yarrow's comments. And when I read that he teaches at my alma mater, that scares me even more. All the best, Jack.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree Richard.
Gary Richardson
TFW Computers

Donna said...

There's a hilarious new book called "Boomsday" that sort of addresses this topic. You might love it.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks, Donna. As the author of "Boomsday," Chris Buckley, has one character say of the fictional blogging author, "She was a goddess of something" - her name was Cassandra.

I hadn't made the connection but you're exactly right.

Andrew L Yarrow said...

Richard, I feel sorry for your anger and your willingness to attack other people for their beliefs. A Christian would have some sense of responsibility for their childrenand grandchildren, rather than taking from them by draining taxpayerfunds for your Social Security and Medicare. I guess you must not know much about sacrifice, caring for other people, or compassion.

I regret the headline-writer's use of "unpatriotic," since you obviously do not understand that writers do not write their headlines,but I do not regret saying that able-bodied, middle-class Americans who do not contribute to their country's and children's future well-being are selfish. What have you given to your country or your children?

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Good morning, Andrew - at least, I presume it's you at the other end of this comment and the five (5) others that you sent to me and "Jess" whomever that is.

All of these comments were similar and surprising juvenile for someone whose resume includes The New York Times and a college professorship.

I'm not even precisely certain what being a "Christian" has to do with the issue. My post didn't say anything about religion one way or the other.

You may note that I'm not the only person who disagrees with your position which, if your comment is any indication, appears now to be a bit muddled.

Here's mine: Social Security falls into the class of social contracts that the Federal government has undertaken with the citizens of America. Since I have been fulfilling my part of the contract for four decades, when is it time for America to fulfill its portion of the obligation?

Timo Kivi said...

I´ve been reading your blog regularly and enjoying it very much. I totally agree on your latest comments on Prof. Yarrow´s book. He is 100% wrong.

Anonymous said...

OOOHHH, RLB, this was a dandy. I am with you on this one, but there's one more point that needs to be made, and that is that "Boomers" are not some homogeneous group (just as their younger counterparts aren't) who should be lumped into some category. Nor should the subset who choose to retire "early." Finally, what I am afriad of is that those of us who have planned and saved for retirement will end up paying for those who did not. Kind of reminds you of the subprime mortgage mess, huh?

PS - I suspect that the response did not come from Yarrow - or if it did, he was really angry. There were lots of typos and bad grammar in that missive.