Sunday, February 12, 2012

More elderly, more Republicans?

Doug Sanders’ article “The world’s losing its worker. How will we compete?” addresses the problems arising from an aging population, both in America and across the world. Sanders fears that, because the portion of the population 60 and older is not only growing but also increasing in proportion to the number of working-age adults, there will be significant economic consequences. One example Sanders gives is scarcity in the job market. Sanders believes that the supply of “cheap labour will vanish”, which he suggests would be devastating if certain measures are not taken. Sanders’ article is informative and recommends interesting policy changes which he believes will mitigate some of the more drastic consequences of aging populations.
Although Sanders does not address the issue himself, his article is also applicable to the topic of Gridlock. In recent history, the elderly have been more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. In fact, 60 and older is the only age group in which the majority voted Republican in the 2008 election. (Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International). Sanders points out that the elderly population is not only increasing but is also expanding as a percentage of the population. If current trends continue, this could mean a voting boost to Republican candidates.

The elderly rely heavily on big-government, which may suggest that this aging population will turn to Democrats to care for their needs. However, that seems unlikel. The elderly already have Medicare and Social Security. In other words, the elderly are already a class supported heavily by the government, and the Republicans are not seeking to change that.
Could this demographic shift bode poorly for the Democratic party?



    Author Paul Starr wrote this article in 97’ in response to the crushing defeat of the Democratic party in the 94’ election and to maybe give hope to those with a grim outlook for 98’. I found a lot of his indicators and trend predictions to still be valid today and it was interesting read after considering the question in this post. Although it is easy for us to point to the expanding baby boomer generation and assign that large elderly population to the Republican Party, I think with some strategic decision making from the left wing, the democrats don’t have to endure being the “moon” to the Republicans “sun” as explained in Starr’s article.

    He asserts that Democrats can still capitalize on the growing Hispanic vote as “Hispanics will represent an astounding 44 percent of net population growth in the United States through 2025” due to their youth compared to the rest of the US population, high fertility rate, and rate of immigration. However, his take on the elderly population is the most interesting and most pertinent in this discussion. He explains that although the elderly population is expanding and increasing (projected to a fourth of the electorate in 2025!?) along with this should be considered a higher divorce rate and therefore more single elderly women. Because of their marital status, Starr asserts that they will be more likely to vote for Democratic politicians. He also confirms what I originally imagined his argument would be: that the elderly will always be the group most dependent on public social protection, and that the democrats must figure out a way to outdo Republicans on this front in order to earn back the elderly support.

  2. You can see why cuts to Medicare are such a political third rail. If you look at the 2010 election - where Democrats got a "shellacking" -- you see that where Democrats really paid a price was with older voters who reacted against the cuts to certain Medicare programs in the ACA. In 2011, however, the shoe fell in the other direction when the Paul Ryan budget proposed that a significant amount of Medicare costs would be shifted from the government to seniors. Even though that budget excluded current and soon to be beneficiaries - it gave the Democrats a window to argue that the Republicans were hostile to Medicare. Republicans lost a by-election in a House seat that should have been a very safe one for them based on the Medicare issue. After that election, they totally abandoned moving forward on their plans to radically reform the Medicare program.