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Retirement is for Losers!

© Tom Tomorrow

More proof that the unemployed are just lazy!



  1. I can’t make this venting shorter it seems, but this comic hits on a very sore point for me.

    I think the US government has a bloated military, justified by some irrational/emotional/self-serving arguments about safety. It needs to be shrunk, dramatically, and we need to get out of other people’s business and tend to our own house.

    Nevertheless, we also need to change the way we view retirement. Frankly, it was not originally designed to be a 10-30 year vacation. It was supposed to be about 2-5 years. (The retirement age, when set at 65, was around the same time when the median age of death was, I believe, 68.) Now, people are pulling from SSN for way longer than it was designed for originally. What we’ve done to accommodate those longer lifespans appears to be finally backfiring.

    Mind, I’ve lived all my life knowing that there will never be anything there for me in my old age, especially now that I’ve gone through nearly 5 years of under- and un-employment. So I have very little patience with people who think that their 10-30 year vacations are earned. Frankly, if it wasn’t for my husband being nearly 20 years my junior, I would fully expect to die homeless, destitute, starving. I do fully expect to see that be the condition for many Gen Xers in 30 years or so.

    SSN *won’t* be there for me, or for any of us “younger” people. My “retirement” nest egg can’t be built with no job. And there’s no money available for re-education so I can get a job. (My background is English/communications, and I’m “over-qualified” for most positions. I would literally need to return to college and get a new degree.)

    So yeah, I have little patience with some of the older people I know who assume that their retirement is some sort of American birthright. Like *hell* it is. Those retirements were never meant to last that long, and they were the result of careful fiscal planning that has been ignored for decades now.

    Pessimistic much? Yup. What we don’t need is a huge military policing the world (most of which can fully take care of itself, thank you very much). What we need is to focus our attention on our capital base–our infrastructure (which is collapsing from neglect) and our people (who have to pay excessively for sufficient education to compete in a changing, global economy). What we need is a capital improvement drive, and an awareness that there’s no free decades long vacations for anyone who is healthy. What we don’t need is a monster military that fundamentally drains our long-term capital.

    It’s time we took care of our own fiscal house. The deficit isn’t the real problem: our focus on other people’s business instead of our infrastructure is our problem.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    The institutionalizing of “retirement” in the US was done around the time of the Great Depression to create jobs for younger workers and at the end of WWII for returning soldiers.

    The NY Times has a funny article about the History of Retirement:

    By the way, Thought Dancer has been a long time participant in this blog, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a full-blown rant from her.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  3. I don’t rant, much, do I? 😉 I promise to save it up for times when things just get boring. And boy, can we tell from the news that most reporters/editors/etc are on summer holidays?

    And thanks for the link / corrections.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  4. mickey wrote:

    ThoughtDancer, I”m glad you classified your own post as a rant, because thats what it was.

    You never did come out and say whether you thought Social Security was a good thing or not. Is it?

    Neither did you propose any solutions to the problems you perceive, other than cutting the defense budget. If we did that (and I, incidentally wouldnt have a problem with it), what would you propose we do with the money? Pay out more benefits? Or try to pay down the deficit? Since the deficit “isnt our problem” I would guess you’d like more benefits?

    Also, what about the thousands of jobs our wonderful govt has “created” by spending on defense? What about those people?

    If I’m wrong then by all means set me straight here.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  5. Mickey. Oh, yeah, it was classic “rant” material. 😉 And much of this thinking is ill-formed and under-researched. So, I don’t have numbers or support. But this is the thinking that’s been running around in my head for the last few years.

    SSN is fine, if it is to support people who are truly near the end of their lives. But I hate to see perfectly capable people effectively “put out to pasture” just because of a calendar. It’s not happening as much as it once did, or, at least, not directly. But people are encouraged to leave jobs, or are not hired to new jobs, based on simple age–not ability or long-term potential. I also don’t accept the idea that removing the older people from the workforce is a good way to get jobs to younger people. All it does is force one job to carry the weight of the person who holds it and some percentage of a person on SSN. Instead, we need to grow the economy itself, so that both the older person and the younger person can have jobs. That, or we need to not be having so many kids. (What we did historically was conquer new frontiers: “go west young man”. But there’s no “west” to go to these days, and until we can start going into Space, we need a new way of growing the economy. Conquering new lands isn’t doing it any more.)

    Anyhow, so, SSN is ok: but our notion that it should support us for nearly a second lifetime (which 30 years is), strikes me as a bad idea.

    Also, I’m not against all military spending: I’m frustrated by our current military set-up. We’re still infantry/army heavy, even as we prove again that most wars won’t be like WW2. We need to “provide for the common defense”, but in our technological environment, that “defense” needs to be mobile, tactical units and sufficient deterrence to stop opportunism. (Though, seriously, do we need to be able to blow up the world *that* many times over?) We also don’t need an Empire to protect our own borders: well, we wouldn’t if most countries were allies or friends of our allies. Wars of opportunism are necessary in some forms of Empire. I just don’t seem them as being necessary for us.

    As a part of that, I don’t count terrorism as something the military should be answering at all. Terrorism, to my mind, is caused by clashes of cultures: usually from one group that feels that it has a grievance but have no means to have that grievance redressed. That sort of simmering resentment against our government and our culture should be the job of a much expanded and supported State department. (You can’t fight an idea with a bullet, but you can fight it with representatives advocating for our position and being in dialogue with those people who believe they grievances against us. And, if they do have legitimate grievances, those grievances, by rights, should be redressed. Doing so isn’t weakness, it’s making friends, and having friends/allies makes us stronger.)

    The acts of the actual “terrorists” are criminal acts–murder, not warfare–and should be treated as such, by our government and by our allies governments. Frankly, they don’t deserve our respect enough to be treated like they are some sort of warrior. No one who uses terror as a weapon deserves to be treated as anything other than a barbarian: in some ways, sending our military after them gives them too much respect, too much legitimacy. Instead, working with the police forces of the countries where they hide, we should stop their criminal acts. As such, I would increase our support of Interpol and would, again, work through the State department.

    The solutions I would like to see are extensive jobs programs in the US and extensive retraining/education programs. I would like to see massive amounts of money spent on building our infrastructure–rail, electrical, airports, roads, hospitals, schools, sewer systems, fuels (nuclear to solar to wind). If the military was “right-sized” to my mind, that would itself release lots of money and lots of personnel for the rebuilding of America.

    I would also like to see education/human development placed as a priority. I would not leave these opportunities open to everyone–there would be standardized admissions that one has to pass. Colleges have become party-schools: that’s wasting people, as they get wasted, not building our human resources. Instead, I would want to have the tax-payers pay for anyone who can get into college and keep high grades (and some system to kill grade inflation). But, those people getting the college educations would have to be entering fields that the US needs for future growth–sciences, health care, technology, and such. Also, I would have the opportunity be open to any citizen, even if they already have a degree. But, if one already has a degree, one has to wait a decade before going for another free one. (If you don’t want to go in to one of the careers that is designated as having need, then you’ll just have to pay for college: I wouldn’t remove the loan programs, just strongly incentivize people being educated for careers that will grow the country’s overall potential.)

    (I would also want to find ways to re-balance the rich/poor split: frankly, the very wealthiest US citizens pay too little in taxes that would go to making the US a country where they can earn more money in the long run. A country that has a strong infrastructure and a strong education system might cost a bit more to do business in, but businesses that think in the long term would rather do their work in such a stable environment. Instead of “trickling down” the wealth, I would “trickle up” to the businesses an society that has excellent long-term prospects.)

    Much of this is massively disruptive to our economy: I know it won’t happen. And some people who remember the mistakes of the USSR will scream “command economy” at me. I know that the disruption would make these changes impossible–much as a single-payer health care system is currently impossible. (Health care is something like a sixth of our economy, I believe? Disrupting that much of our economy would cause unacceptable chaos–if single-payer is to happen, it must happen slowly, over decades, or so I gather.) And the attack of a “command economy” is one I just don’t care about. One bad example does not a case make, nor do I think that this would be “command economy”–people would be doing work that’s needed and being trained for positions that will make the US grow. What we then do with that infrastructure and that training would still be in the hands of private enterprise.

    Ok, sorry for the long-windedness. And as I said, these are ideas that have been wandering around in my head for a while. (I’ve tried to use some of them for material in one of the SF/F series I’m trying to write/publish. In some ways, the practicality of doing these things has been less of an interest to me than the “what if” for how characters would act in a society that had some of these features. Especially if that society had other reasons to have internal strife.

    So, again, long-winded for no good reason. Hope you found it interesting, at least. 😉

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  6. mickey wrote:

    I found it very interesting. And utopian. But at least you admitted most of it was a pipe dream.

    I will assume that youre a liberal type of person, since you think Social security is anything but a disaster, and with all the govt programs youd like to see created. If I’m wrong then I apologize.

    In regards to your education/ human development plan, its impossible for govt to do this. You mention standardized acceptance criteria. What happens when over 90% of those who meet the standards are white? Lower the standards? Suddenly make it available to everyone except white students? And how would you kill grade inflation? The govt controls things in your scenario. Therefore the govt will pay schools according to the number of students they have and according to their performance. So……would you expect many to flunk out in this case? The bottom line is that we already have strikingly similar programs today, and they have all failed or are failing.

    In regards to rebalancing the ‘rich/ poor split’… you realize that over 80 years ago Roosevelt set this country on the path to doing exactly that? And do you also realize that in that time frame, the gap that you want to close has only gotten wider? Do you really think adding a couple more programs will change anything? Why is it that places and neighborhoods which have received the most govt “help” over the last couple decades just happen to be the most crime ridden, drug infested, downtrodden places in the country?

    You say the wealthy dont pay enough taxes. Interesting. I would suppose you support the current administration in letting the Bush tax cuts expire? Do you realize that these tax cuts not only raise the tax on the rich but also on EVERYONE else? Do you realize that the LOWEST tax brackets increase by 50% and 87% respectively? Do you realize the HIGHEST tax bracket goes up by less than 10%? If you didnt know that then I dont blame you since the media only tells says BUSH’S and TAX BREAKS FOR THE WEALTHY every 10 minutes in an attempt to fire everyone up. Dont ever believe the hype coming out of Washington and stop putting so much faith in them.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Mickey, check out — scroll down to Table 4. The Bush Tax cuts very strongly benefited the rich. The top 40% received 85% of the benefits, the top 1% receiving 26% of the cuts. And Obama has already enacted tax cuts for the middle class, so I say let Bush’s tax cuts expire (even though that will increase my taxes quite a bit). Time for the Republicans to put their money where their mouth is, and reduce the deficit.

    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  8. mickey wrote:

    Good info, Knee.

    But heres the thing. I really dont care about the tax situation as it pertains to the “poor” because they dont pay anything anyway. In my book, “poor” people dont have iPhones and Tahoes. 47% of the people in this country dont pay ANY taxes and many of those actually get money back anyway. So in the table, the bottom 20%, and second 20%, likely pay NO taxes anyway. And I’d guess that only a very small number in the third 20% pay them.

    And still, none of it changes the fact that those in the lower tax brackets will feel it the worst IF the tax cuts expire. There will no longer be a 10% bracket- it will now be 15%- a FIFTY % increase (for those who actually pay, anyway). The 15% bracket will now be a 28% bracket if the cuts expire- an EIGHTY-SEVEN % increase.

    I am a proponent of a FairTax type of system. I dont accept it as a foregone conclusion that the rich “should” foot most of the bill. I dont accept it as a foregone conclusion that the “bill” is correct either. I think our federal govt is WAY too big. I simply cannot understand for the life of me how some people put so much faith in the federal govt to “help”. As I have pointed out a couple times before…..go to any area or neighborhood that the govt has been “helping” for the last few years or decades and ask yourself why its so run down, drug infested, and crime ridden.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink