This is a departure from my usual posts, but it’s been bugging me. And what do writers do when something’s bugging them? They write about it.
Pogo used to be my favourite source of cartoon satire. The lead character was Pogo Possum, a generous, philosophical sort whose most famous line was, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
I’m reminded of that line a lot these days. I turned 65 a couple weeks ago, one of the lead figures in that dreaded cohort that is vilified at every turn. We keep on working, barring the way for younger workers. We don’t work and are a drain on pension funds. We have too much money and are spending it all. We don’t spend enough so are not supporting economic recovery. We have saved too little and are going to bankrupt Social Security and Canada Pension Plan (the two I’m most familiar with). We have saved too much and are using it for luxury vacations. Blah, blah, blah.
Like most stereotyping, Boomer bashing takes social complexities and reduces them to sound bites. Take Social Security. No, let me rephrase that. Don’t take Social Security, or at least don’t take it away. Right-leaning American conservatives seem to think they have a right to consider slashing it. They don’t.
Boomers didn’t raid the coffers. The U.S. government did. In the years since the scheme was enacted and removed millions of people from the poverty rolls, plenty of money has been paid into it to provide ongoing payments as people retire, even people as plentiful as the post-World War II generation. The Baby Boomers paid a lot more into it than was being taken out because the scheme was set up to be self-perpetuating.
No one would be nattering away, as the Tea Party and Republicans keep doing, if the U.S. government had kept its hands out of the cookie jar. They didn’t, and they need to pay that money back. It was not government money. It was – and is – an insurance scheme. Any plan to reduce or eliminate Social Security is theft, pure and simple. Boomers paid enough into Social Security to keep the scheme solvent. All the government had to do was let the money keep growing, as it was doing before they “borrowed” it.
The people threatening Social Security are cut from the same cloth as those who enacted the Bush/Reagan tax cuts. Those reductions only helped wealthier Americans, and they cost the government something in the order of $8.25 trillion. They are the reason for the huge deficit. Social Security bailed out the government, but now it’s time for government to act honourably and repay the debt owed to the fund.
There is a very easy way to do it. Reinstate the taxes that were cut. Make corporations and the rich pay their fair share. It is a solution that is simple, ethical, and fair.
And that’s the problem. Those concepts are in short supply at the moment. The U.S. Congress is stymied by racism (came out of the woodwork when Obama was elected), ageism (screaming ramped up January 2011, when the first Boomers hit retirement age), self-interest (seldom hear the right leaners speak rationally about the common good) and greed (consumerism touted over equity).
Sounds like the last days of Rome. It does not have to be that way. Stop throwing verbal bricks. Behave like grownups. Put the country back on the rails. Or be prepared to explain to your grandchildren why you helped to bring down the country.