Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has done it again. By coming out with realistic news he has gotten a great number of people excited. Naturally, they all want to shoot the messenger.
The retirement programs were created some time ago as a political ploy to convince people that they wouldn’t have to place nice with their children so the children will take care of them later in life. Since most people don’t want to have anything more to do with their families than necessary, this program was very popular. You can imagine a voter of the time saying, “You mean when I’m too old to work I’ll be taken care of without having to rely on these brats? Well, sign me up and call me retired!” Though many were surprised to find that the money was siphoned out of their paychecks as they worked, the program was still popular. The idea of being able to stop working at some point really sold the ones who liked their kids.
Unfortunately, the program was administered by the federal government. When the politicians saw all that money just sitting there, they had to have it. Congress began borrowing from the retirement pool. Eventually somebody smacked their greedy little hands and made them put the money back. I’m still not sure that all of the cash found its way home. (This annoys me most because I didn’t get any illicit cash of my own and if people are getting illicit cash, I want my cut.)
The baby boomers are the generation born in the years immediately following the Second World War. American soldiers returned home from Europe and the Pacific and were in a hurry to spread their new venereal diseases. As a result, we ended up with huge numbers of babies being born. To show that this is a bad thing, remember that many of them grew up to be hippies.
That’s right, the hippy generation are the same people who are going to retire in a few years.
Anyway, their numbers are bigger than any generation since then. That makes the boomers a formidable demographic. It also makes them easy to pick on. (Picture one of them telling others to use drugs to “expand your consciousness” and now the same person screaming at his or her teenaged grandchild, “Don’t you know those drugs will ruin your life!”) Then there is always disco.
So, what do we tell them now that they want to retire and there are insufficient funds from which to pay them? I have a few thoughts. First, remind them that with modern medicine they should be able to work to a far older age than their parents. If they buy that, fewer of them will retire. Many of them may work till they actually drop. Again, that lightens the load on system.
Secondly, we try to use reason (like that ever works) and tell them the only way to get more money for them is to take it out of programs that feed small children. Since many boomers have the same maturity as small children, they will be able to empathize. If they seem like they don’t want to go along, tell them, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” For some reason they always fall for that little False Dichotomy.
Third, we can suggest that their wisdom and experience is desperately needed. This works on their sense of social volunteerism. Once they’ve volunteered in large numbers, we can put them in places that could benefit from some social wisdom. Right now, Haiti needs some wisdom. The Philippines could use some social activism in the rebel held territories. Wouldn’t some free-loving hippy wisdom help tensions between India and Pakistan? Give peace a chance.
Finally, we can legalize marijuana. Normally I’m a little hesitant about this issue, but more as a states’ rights issue than a drug issue. In this case, though, anyone born between 1945 and 1955 should be allowed to smoke all the pot they want. At first, it may cause a few small social problems. However, any complaining about a lack of Social Security funds will be limited to the couch in the basement. Though this doesn’t generate more funds for retirement, it does decrease the amount of complaining heard in the public.
As a member of Generation X, I am not relying on the existence of retirement funds when I get older. I know better. Though the program has many really good points, having it be in the control of Congress is like having a three year old be in charge in the cookie jar. The Generation Y (I guess they’re called Millennials now) is too young to even start thinking about it yet. Hopefully, as more boomers snuff it, my generation will come into enough control and convince those younger than us to plan for a life full of work (and that they should pull their damned pants up.)