"Today the ratio of working taxpayers to nonworking pensioners in the developed world is around 3:1. By 2030, absent reform, this ratio will fall to 1.5:1, and in some countries, such as Germany and Italy, it will drop all the way down to 1:1 or even lower. While the longevity revolution represents a miraculous triumph of modern medicine and the extra years of life will surely be treasured by the elderly and their families, pension plans and other retirement benefit programs were not designed to provide these billions of extra years of payouts" (Peterson, G. Peter. Grey Dawn: The Global Aging Crisis. Foreign Affairs. Jan/Feb 1999).
The reasoning behind portraying the elderly as dependent is as follows: since the elderly, like the unemployed, do not participate in the productive process they are not entitled to any kind of support. And, because those populations do not participate in productive life, the rest of the able-bodied population is forced to subsidize their indolence. A serious challenge to the rationale for austerity rejects the idea of dependence completely and reframes government assistance as an issue of freedom. In an essay for the Nation last year, Corey Robin discussed how this might be done:
"We must develop an argument that the market is a source of constraint and government an instrument of freedom. Without a strong government hand in the economy, men and women are at the mercy of their employer, who has the power to determine not only their wages, benefits and hours but also their lives and those of their families, on and off the job."