Yesterday, on cable television, there was a story about retirement security. The gist of it was that many people approaching the age of retirement in the U. S. have very little wealth to retire on. This is particularly true since the recession of 2008 when many had to prematurely withdraw money from savings, pensions and Keogh funds to feed and shelter themselves. We almost all have Social Security but, as most of us realize, unless you have a home that is paid off and no significant recurring bills (health care for example), Social Security is not sufficient. At the same time, political forces are trying to reduce Social Security by increasing the age at which full benefits can be obtained. Also, many interests want to make it a free market investment plan which will only put it at risk. They ignore that people in their middle to late sixties may no longer have the physical or mental energy and abilities to continue productive work. Some do, some don’t. They also ignore that the way to keep Social Security solvent is to raise the income limit on which it is funded, but not the rate. And, as said above, Social Security is not enough by itself to support the elderly.
I don’t know what these political forces intend that the elderly should do to stay afloat. We no longer live in a society where generations of families stay together in the same locale, and younger earners, now often burdened for many years by student loans and the costs of their children’s education, support their elders as they grow old. It’s just not the way we live now. I don’t think that the intent is that the elders just wander off and die, but that is about what it amounts to.
I want to change the topic briefly and then tie the two topics together. At last weeks caucus, the topic of Social Democracy was brought up. The fact of much higher taxes in Social Democracies was raised, along with the doubt that U. S. citizens would ever accept this. It’s true that the tax burden in the Scandinavian countries are much higher than in the U. S., but ours is 31.5% with all taxes considered. During the discussion that followed, no one mentioned what the benefits were in the Social Democratic countries. I don’t encourage us to become a Social Democracy but, for the purposes of this writing, here are some: Healthcare is paid for; Education is paid for; Retirement and Childcare are paid for; plus there is much more time off and sick leave. To add to this, the top “Happiest” nations in the world are Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherland, and Sweden, all except Switzerland and Iceland in the top ten most Socialistic nations. So, they’re doing something right.
To try to tie things together, our population is getting older, living longer, with not much wealth to support them. Our businesses would rather support as few employees as possible, relying instead on automation. There are many people that just can’t perform hi-tech jobs, but can do jobs that automation is replacing. We have problems that we are not even trying to solve. Instead, we let politicians, and those with a great deal of wealth, tell us that our problems are all caused by someone else: immigrants, poor people, those thrown out of work by automation or recession. It ain’t true. Our problems are our own and, to solve them, we need to elect people who really intend to work on the problems, not those most interested in fomenting fear and hate, and gaining stature and wealth for themselves.