Ageless Hostilities


A July rally in Washington intended to rejuvenate supporters of Social Security got nasty when a group of seniors encountered a cohort of libertarian-leaning youth. The National Council for Senior Citizens, an advocacy group that opposes any changes in Social Security, held a rally at the Capitol to "bridge the generations" on the issue of old-age entitlements. Seniors carried signs bearing such messages as, "Don't pit the young against the old."

But many of the 2,000-strong protesters–who consisted primarily of retired union workers–seemed to be more interested in preserving the welfare state than in intergenerational harmony. When one young person asked what will happen when the Social Security trust fund runs out in 2029, a senior remarked with a shrug and a smile, "I won't be here."

Things turned ugly when a group of about 50 young people, many of them 20-something Washington interns, arrived with signs that read, "Dialogue, not Demagogue." Shouts of "Get a job!" filled the air. "You've never had a job! You've been a professional bum all your life!" yelled one of the seniors at the organizer of the youth protest.

Another man threatened a young female: "We'll deal with you the way we did in the good old days–with a baseball bat," he said, swinging his arms in mock attack. So much for bridging the generations.