Shopping is the least of it. Everywhere I go, I meet people who would never have lived so long if they’d been born a few decades earlier. Indeed, I’m one of them; I’d likely be deaf without penicillin for childhood ear infections, and dead without the alÂbutÂerol inhaler that was only approved in the U.S. in 1981. Western New York is not the mighty economic colossus that once let Buffalo boast more millionaires per capita than any other city in America, but it is still a better place to live in now than it was then. And it is getting better all the time.
That, too, is our future. Aging will make the economy grow more slowly than we would like, and probably more slowly than we are used to. Social Security and Medicare will almost certainly be financed by a combination of benefit cuts, increased taxes, and higher retirement ages””which means that all of us will work longer than we want to, and pay more in taxes than we have before.
The political battles over all of this will be bitter, and they will probably be, too often, won by the retirees, who vote in force (though not always as a bloc). Those same retirees may also vote against things that are actually in their interest””thus shutting out the immigrants who could help them stay at home, and out of the nursing home, longer; turning down school taxes that could create a more productive workforce to support them; fighting for zoning restrictions that make it harder for the low-income workers who provide their services to live within easy commuting distance.
But if we will be worse off than we could be in an ideal world, we will still be better off than we are now, workers and retirees alike. We’ll not only be at least somewhat richer; we’ll also have years and years more to enjoy our health and wealth. The past in Newark is lovely, but the future, while not without its blemishes, is likely to be better still.