The Opposite Political Interests of the Old and the Young

Bernie accuses me of hating old people, but let’s tie up the LVEDC issue before we get to that.

It is clear from every single one of Bernie’s posts on this issue that his core objection is that summer hours are bad because it *looks* like they’re getting a special privilege. Bernie doesn’t get summer hours, so why should the employees of a publicly-funded organization?

I argued that 40 hours = 40 hours, so there’s no issue here, just dumb resentment politics. Bernie has continued to suggest that LVEDC workers are not really working 40 hours, but offers no proof of this. It’s time to put up or shut up: If Bernie has some actual proof that LVEDC employees aren’t working 40 hours, other than his good word, let him post it in the comments here. If not, I suggest he stop running his mouth with claims he can’t back up.

As to the claim that I “hate older people,” clearly this is much too shrill to be accepted at face value. I want to be clear that I have absolutely no problems with older people on a personal level, as a group or individually. I have an unusually large number of older friends for a guy my age, probably because older people are typically more interested in politics and history than people of my generation.

But I do criticize the older generation a lot here on the blog, so what’s the deal?

The primary goal of this blog is to advocate for the interests of the post-Steel, post-Hess’s generation. My generation has no memory of a thriving Bethlehem Steel or a thriving Hess’s. The older generation saw the Lehigh Valley at its peak and then watched it decline. My generation grew up when the region wasn’t doing as well, and now we are seeing real signs of revitalization. There’s a major difference in perspective there. One of my core beliefs is that we are seeing a turnaround in the Valley’s fortunes because good activist public policy prevailed over entrenched pessimism at key moments. I want to see the progress continue, and that necessarily requires a dramatic shift in political power away from the Hess’s generation toward the post-Hess’s generation.

One of the main goals of this blog is to show that the political interests of the older generation and the younger generation are deeply at odds, and that these are frequently the faultlines in our disagreements on the issues, often much more prominent than the normal Democrat-Republican divisions. Sometimes these debates get heated, and I use the same tone of rhetoric toward the older generation that I would use to criticize any other political interests whose priorites I find repugnant. I will humbly admit to crossing the line here on a few occasions, so I’m sorry and I will be more careful about that.

However, this does not in any way diminish my point about our opposite political interests. There is a direct tension between what is good for older people, and what is good for younger people, especially on the economy. Here is a list of issues where the interests of older people and younger people diverge:

The Economy

The older generation are living on fixed incomes – Social Security, pensions and savings – so higher inflation would be bad for them. Social Security benefits are indexed to inflation, so it’s really wealthier retirees that would feel the pinch. But the disinflation we’re currently experiencing is terrible for workers (particularly recent grads), business owners, the unemployed and debtors. A period of above-trend inflation would mean a tighter labor market, rising wages and faster deleveraging, all of which would be great for younger people. All this deficit hysteria and the calls for tight money is really the creditors and savers acting like a rentier class, dooming the economy to years of slow growth that are going to ruin young people’s economic prospects. Seniors are insulated from labor market conditions, so that’s why there’s way too much fear of inflation, and not nearly enough panic about 9.1% unemployment.


Bernie thinks I’m a “bigot” for saying older people have an inflexible 9-5 clock-puncher view of work. I’m merely guilty of overstating the point – I’m sure it’s not true of all older people – but what is true is that only older people would think there’s something wrong with summer hours. This is the future of work. It’s the direction the economy is moving in. Younger people are more comfortable working remotely, working non-traditional hours, being evaluated on output rather than hours, multitasking, etc. This is increasingly what employers require, and that’s an advantage for young people because they have the freshest skills, and grew up using technology. Older workers lose out if the economy keeps moving in this direction and they don’t update their skills. The slowed pace of retirements caused by the recession is interfering with the normal cycle of turnover that normally allows younger people to get jobs right out of college. Older people are delaying retirement, and that’s an umitigated disaster for my generation. So excuse me if I’m cheering on the technological and normative changes to work that are countering this trend.

LGBT Rights

Support for this issue breaks down pretty cleanly along generational lines. Older people see it as normalizing perversion, younger people can’t understand what all the fuss is about. But because young people are irresponsible about voting in midterm elections, politicians are more scared of the older voter backlash, and progress is painfully slow.  Meanwhile, a whole class of people has to wait for their constituional rights for no good reason.


Older people who support more suburban development and oppose density in the core cities are suffering from major false consciousness. What do they think is going to happen when they are no longer able to drive, but they live in places where they can’t walk to a grocery store or the doctor or the other places they need to go? They really ought to be on Team Density, but more often they are playing for Team Sprawl. Again, it’s a mistake to say that all older people have NIMBY views, but it is only older people who have NIMBY views. The NIMBYs want things to stay exactly as they are, and are pessimistic about efforts to make the core cities more city-like, or make the suburbs support more mixed-use development. Younger people like cities and want more stuff to do. Naturally that’s going to mean a little bit of tension with neighbors. More bars and concert venues means more outside noise. Young people have a higher tolerance for that stuff, but NIMBYs run to the politicians to shut it down.

The Hess’s generation has views on Lehigh Valley public policy issues that are often sharply at odds with the post-Hess’s generation, and we shouldn’t be pretending otherwise. Sometimes there are issues where you can figure out a solution that works for everybody, and sometimes one side winning means the other side has to lose. My goal is to boil down the political economy of these issues by naming the interest groups in clear, unambiguous terms. That doesn’t mean I “hate” anyone. You don’t have to hate your political opponents to believe they’re wrong and shouldn’t prevail in the political fights of the day. But you do have to identify your political opponents, and make the us-vs-them dynamic compelling and exciting to your own side if you intend to win.


  1. ironpigpen says:

    Oh, Jonny-boy, please give me a break just once…

    You hate lots of people, not just the elderly.

    I hate people, too. Like Carpet-bagging guys who live in NYC and operate and "INDEPENDENT" blog on the payroll of who knows who…

    Difference between me and you — I don't have a problem telling the truth.

  2. Donald Dal Maso says:

    Jon, When writers start arguing with one another, at least one of them is frequently happy to divert the second from his task of being a good writer–tackling difficult topics and making them live for the reader.

    Of course O'Hare isn't really a writer, but you get what I mean. Put your energy where it counts–reaching the real public which is open to hearing and learning and discussing. Anybody who wastes time having anything to do with that guy O'Hare is misusing valuable time.

    Finally, as a somewhat older person I can vouch for the fact that you don't hate us at all. I wouldn't blame you, however, for having a pronounced aversion to physically repulsive phonies of any age.

  3. Bernie O'Hare says:


    Many LVEDC employees are not really working 40-hour weeks. You want me to name names? How 'bout I start with one name – Phil Mitman. He does NOT put in a 40-hour week. I can go below his pay grade, too.

    The "Summer hours" is just an excuse to fuck off even more. It is not really flex time.

    By the way, where is your proof that that LVEDC staff does put in 40-hour weeks?

    And you are a bigot. This is your comment, "Old people still have this old-school clock-puncher 9-5 mentality that's increasingly out of step with where the economy's going. No wonder nobody seems to want to hire them." It speaks for itself.

    And now you compound your bigotry. Incredibly, you claim that "only older people who have NIMBY views."

    Are you out of your fuckin' mind???

    When Angle proposed a GEO detention facility in Upper Mount Bethel Tp, do you think it was opposed only by old people. When Bethlehem wanted to build a Lowe's off 8th Avenue, do you think only old people spoke against it?

    You have no idea what you're talking about, and have proven it yet again.

    I could go on and pick you apart, point by point on LGBT, work, etc.

    I guess the gay bashers who beat people up in bars, and even kill them, are all "oldsters."

    As for work, you miss the point. I have not read one person who has criticized the concept of flexible hours, be that person old or young. What I have read and what I have written is that "Summer hours" are an excuse by slackers at publicly funded LVEDC to fuck off even more. You just don't get that, do you?

    The bottom line? You're a bigot. You are also uninformed. You make incredibly broad assumption about classes of people, a telltale sign of ignorance and bigotry.

  4. Bernie O'Hare says:

    "Of course O'Hare isn't really a writer" … and dal Masshole isn't really a musician.

  5. Rising Sun says:

    I feel like weighing in on this, so I guess I will over my better judgment.

    LVEDC- Using Phil Mitman, the CEO, as an example of someone who doesn't work a 40 hour, punch in-punch out week, is lunacy. CEO's, like elected officials, don't have set hours. There job is, in effect, to make strategic decisions. I know for a fact that the County Executive isn't sitting at his desk from 9-5 each day, and that he's not AWOL from his duties after 5 each night. I could say the same for both Charlie Dent and John Callahan, both of whom are paid a "full-time" salary, but certainly don't work a 9-5 schedule. CEO's are similar in this regard. The CEO of Sony, or Apple, doesn't have a defined schedule. As for the workers there, they are paid, I assume, for a 40 hour week. Within the parameters set by their boss, if they do 40 hours, it really doesn't matter when they do them. I work in a job that sometimes requires way more than 40 hours, not all of them between 9 and 5 at a desk. That's how the world is today. If you work 8-5 Mon-Thur, then work 8-12 on Friday, you have 40 hours. If that's what you're paid for, go golf all afternoon, who cares?

    On the generational divide- Jon's guilty of perhaps speaking in absolutes, but his point is right. There is no large group of people in which 100% of them agree on every issue. While young people believe in gay marriage, and oppose the Bush Tax cuts on the whole, there are probably 30-40% who disagree with the rest. With that said, Jon's right on the details. One must look no further than the last two federal elections, 2008 and 2010. The 2008 election had a younger electorate, and voted for a far more progressive vision of the country. They voted for President Obama, an end to "Reagonism," and a Nancy Pelosi lead Congress. In 2010, the electorate voted to stop that progressive agenda, voting for a return to "Reagan Conservatism." The only difference? They were older. Look at polling. Younger people believe we need to take action on climate change now, on the majority, but older people don't even believe it's real. Younger people believe the solution to the deficit is a tax increase, older people think cuts. Younger people, in the majority, think gay people should be allowed to marry, old people do not. Younger people believe health insurance is a right, older people do not. I could go on all day. To say that there is no difference or something is stupid. The age gap is clear and obvious, and Jon stated that. The fact of the matter is, if you go to most "NIMBY" events, the vast majority of the crowd are older. That's not being a bigot, that's stating the obvious.

  6. Jon Geeting says:

    Bernie, LVEDC has stated their policy clearly that summer hours are conditional on making up the time elsewhere. The burden of proof lies on you to prove that's not happening. Again, if you have proof that Phil Mitman doesn't work 40 hours a week, where's his timesheet? As usual, it's just class grievance politics from you.

    Sorry, but is that comment wrong? I think I overstated the degree but it's totally true in a broad sense. Look at the hiring patterns.

    I specified who I think the NIMBYs are – it's the pro-suburbanization anti-density faction. The GEO was a terrible idea and so was Lowe's. There were principled reasons to oppose both of those projects, not just vague fear of change. Lowe's in particular would've brought Big Box development way too close to downtown Bethlehem.

    Regarding LGBT, look at that poll. Yes, lots of ignorant people of all ages beat up gay people. But it's not my generation that's holding up legislative action on these issues. It's yours.

    Your generation is responsible for everything that's wrong with the Lehigh Valley. The insistence of your generation on clinging to 20th century public policy ideas that don't make sense anymore, especially on the land use issues, is actively hampering economic progress.

  7. Charlie on the PA Turnpike says:

    I don't agree with you often — indeed, today may well be a first.

    However I am employed by a private contractor to the US DoD, so I have some insight to the schedules of public employees.

    On the Federal level, government offices routinely work flex time, particularly in the summer months. Odds are slim you'll find people at their desk after lunch on any given Friday (May-September), if they're even in at all!

  8. Jon Geeting says:

    I want to amend that last statement – you can't blame my generation for the disastrous sprawl, or the massive segregation in the education system, but you can blame us for not voting often enough to stop it.

    Thanks for chiming in Charlie.

  9. Monkey Momma says:

    Mr. Geeting –
    Regarding the age thing: your post is incredibly offensive. Not to mention wrong. However, I have come to the conclusion that you are unable and unwilling to understand the reasons why someone would disagree with you.

    All I can say is this: one day, if you are lucky, you will be old. And you will regret your words, I absolutely guarantee it. But right now, you are too young and far too ignorant to get it.

    I wish you luck and good fortune in your life – I won't be a reader any longer.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Rich Wilkins, Dal Maso and Geeting all on the same blog —

    It's like stupid surround sound.

    It's like a murder's row of dumb.

    It's the event horizon of a black hole of dimness.

    I think the single funniest statment ace truth-teller Jon Geeting has ever written is this:

    Bernie, LVEDC has stated their policy clearly that summer hours are conditional on making up the time elsewhere.

    — Gosh. It must be true then. I mean they stated it and all.

  11. Rising Sun says:

    Ok Anon, much like with Bernie, where's your evidence they don't work 40 hours? Or is this just more stupid, right-wing slime, without a drop of merit? You have a "tweet" saying they work summer hours. What's that mean? You probably have no idea, so you'll just make something up.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Bernie has a policy to avoid "vulgarity" on his blog, but constantly and daily litters this blog with the f-bomb and now personal insults like calling people M-assholes.

  13. Jon Geeting says:

    Monkey Momma – I can definitely understand why you would disagree with me. I made a more radical version of the point than I should have, and I could have been more diplomatic. To be honest it just gets really frustrating sometimes being the only person in the local blogosphere speaking up for the Millenial perspective.

    All I was trying to say is that if politicians from my generation had a majority on Northampton County Council, there's no way LVEDC would have had to worry that their funding was in danger for being cut for being open about their summer hours policy. My generation wouldn't see anything wrong or improper about it.

    I also think I have a strong point about the opposite economic imperatives of the older and younger generations. Workers my age need more inflation and we need older workers who are at the retirement age to retire faster.

    Most of all, I just think there needs to be a better balance between the generations in local government. It looks like that could happen in this election.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Monkey Momma. Even when he tries to explain himself, the ignorance shines throuh. I won't be back.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The last thing we need is people to retire faster. Jon, the fact is kids your age are next to worthless from an employment standpoint.

    Your whole life you've been getting trophies for 7th place finishes and been told how incredibly talented and special you are. Reality – you've spent your life accomplishing nothing, developing no work ethic, probably live at home and have no motivation whatsoever, slippery morals and ethics, and at the same time are under the delusion that you're valuable.

    I hire people, and kids like you are at the bottom of the list.

  16. Jon Geeting said…
    To be honest it just gets really frustrating sometimes being the only person in the local blogosphere speaking up for the Millenial perspective.

    That's interesting.

    I was going to respond to this but I figured I better make sure what "Millenial perspective" means before I assume it's meaning. I'm glad I did. There's a few different usages of that term nowadays – just what do you mean when you use it? Might make an interesting separate post.

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