November 6, 2013

Robert J. Samuelson [“Is Grandma for real?,” op-ed, Nov. 4] noted that older people are better off today than they were during the Great Depression. Thank goodness for that. He suggested people don’t need as much money as they age. Also true. But should oldsters be required to scrimp and save to get by as they did during their working lives?  

Mr. Samuelson often writes critically about social programs’ transfer of wealth from young to old, but what about the transfer of wealth and the “unearned income” that the next generation will receive? Grandma is not going to live forever. And when she dies, her assets will pass on to her heirs. Indeed, a historic shift is about to occur. In the next 20 to 30 years, billions of dollars of baby-boomer assets will be transferred to younger people.

Hopefully, the millennials will invest that windfall well and provide themselves a retirement that embodies the “American Dream,” just as some of today’s retirees have done and near-retirees are struggling to do.

Kevin Hluch, Frederick

Robert. J. Samuelson pointed to the “astonishing” long-term gains by the elderly and losses by the young in recent decades. Is he suggesting causality? 

Mr. Samuelson painted a picture of Grandma and Grandpa on the putting green or a cruise while their children and grandchildren go door to door, cup in hand. But if falling incomes and net worth among young middle-class families are his concern, he should focus on U.S. wage stagnation and growing income inequality. They are the cause of the problem.

By all means, across-the-board entitlement reform and revenue enhancements must be on the table. But let’s have a balanced conversation.

Bill Fallon, Gaithersburg

Thanks to Robert J. Samuelson for once again reminding us how wrong — and unfair — it is for our policies to transfer so much wealth from today’s young and middle-aged workers (whose incomes have been falling) to the retired elderly (whose incomes have been rising). It is time to stop treating Social Security and Medicare as untouchable sacred cows and instead to means-test them.

If we means-test these programs, I personally will lose out. So be it. 

Philip D. Harvey, Washington