by Benjamin J. Kirby
The undying optimistic patriot in me has always found this popular clip from George Carlin to be a little too cynical -- good, funny, but blindingly harsh (and, if you really didn't know, very much NSFW):
The problem is that there's an awful lot of truth to what he's saying.
I come from a family that values hard work, and so I sometimes kid my parents and talk about my "impending early retirement". It's a joke, because I truly believe my parents -- Baby Boomers -- will be the last generation to utilize any sort of nationally-based retirement system. It'll all be gone by the time I'm their age.
Sure, we can talk about Social Security and whether it will be solvent or even exist as we know it when my generation -- Generation X -- would be ready to retire in 25 or 30 years.
It won't. The Social Security folks say so themselves:
Social Security is not sustainable over the long term at current benefit and tax rates.
They say this, too:
By 2036, there will be almost twice as many older Americans as today -- from 41.9 million today to 78.1 million.
# # # #
There are currently 2.9 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. By 2036, there will be 2.1 workers for each beneficiary.
So in 24 years -- I'll be 64, in what we might call retirement range -- there'll be twice as many people to pay, and less current workers to pay each beneficiary.
Anyway, the political fights around Social Security are largely a red herring.
The real questions lie around what college will cost for at least two kids (two, for right now; let's not get into that conversation, okay?) in eighteen or so years. Skyrocketing tuitions, along with scholarship cuts, mean not just a more precarious future for us and the kids -- it means fewer opportunities for every American.
This is why the Supreme Court's health care decision was such a big deal, and why we watched so closely. No, it may not necessarily reign in costs in the short-term (though that point is debatable), but it is a strong, good step in the right direction for the future.
When I talk to folks who don't usually watch political races, at least not this early, it's hard to get them to understand what this is really about. Education for your kids? Health care for your kids, for you, for retired, fixed-income parents? Isn't this is America? Aren't these things are sacrosanct. We take care of our people.
What's the Someecard's thing I saw on Facebook the other day? The poor people want health care... why would they want to live longer?
Hard to say if it is funny because it is unbearably true, or if you just have no recourse but to laugh at it all.
As it happens, you don't need a third-rate blogger to tell you things are precarious in this country. This is an important election, because this isn't about my retirement -- it's about what's next for all of us, for most everything. It is about who we want to be.
If I won't ever be able to retire, what will life be like for Emeline and Finn when they are ready to retire? What will life be like for their kids.
Well, when you're in the club, you don't give a shit. Don't believe me? Take it from someone who is:
"A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. 'I don't think the common person is getting it,' she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. ...
'We've got the message,' she added. 'But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies -- everybody who's got the right to vote -- they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income -- one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."'
That's from a Koch Brother's fundraiser in the Hamptons for Mitt Romney.
"They don't understand what's going on."
"They don't understand how the systems work."
I've been on a bit of a Ben LaBolt kick the last day or two, but his video response to why Mitt Romney has chosen to off-shore millions and millions of his personal fortune is worth watching:
You and I don't have to worry about off-shore accounts. We ain't in the club, it's true.
But we're not asleep, we can still believe in the American dream. And we don't have to keep taking it up the keister with a red, white, and blue d!%#.