Hey Kids, You Want Us Out of the Way? Really?!

how Boomers are annoying the worldPerhaps you’ve noticed… an increasing number of notable bloggers are yelping about how unfaiiiirrr it is that we Boomers refuse to retire, purportedly keeping the unemployment rate high as a result, and some news sites are now jumping on the whine wagon.

Then, there’s Congress, bemoaning our life expectancy as ruinous to Social Security; if we’d just die sooner all would be solvent!  By the way, this one would be laughable given that a majority of Congressfolk are Boomers, except they don’t have to rely on SS so they really don’t care…

Hmmm…. so unless we head on down to FL for early bird specials, or better yet, head on up to that big early bird special in the sky, we’re (fill in the blank):

  • greedy
  • selfish
  • uncaring
  • unscrupulous
  • thoughtless
  • all of the above

Well, kids, bloggers, pundits, Congress, and news folks, here’s another take for you to ponder…and write about if you’re feeling generous:

  • over 60% of Boomers are supporting their grown children in one form or another…you sure you want us to stop working?
  • If you paid as much into the SS system as we did over the last decades, just to have the fund raided by Congress year after year, which is the only reason it’s not solvent (back in the ’80’s President Reagan even made sure that preparations were made for the influx of Boomers he knew to be coming…), and then be told that you really ought’n to expect the return you paid for, you would no doubt really be whining
  • oh, and keep complaining….that’s the way to get an inheritance….or our vote.

We’re here.

For many a year.

Working without fear.

Get used to it.

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Protest Poor Behavior – Don’t Forward that Email…

There’s an email forwarding around the nation with the heading: “This Senior Citizen Nailed It!!!!” and a final proud recommendation that you “pass it on” – it being so good and all.

It’s in response to remarks purportedly made by WY Senator Alan Simpson while he was on President Obama’s Deficit Reduction Committee, calling “senior citizens the Greediest Generation” and comparing Social Security to a milk cow with 310 million teats.  Here’s an excerpt of that email:

“I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills.

I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money….

To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence.  It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the “greedy” ones.  It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream…And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.”

To start, here’s what Senator Simpson actually said after noting that, while every interest group that testified before his committee agreed that the mounting federal debt is a national tragedy, they would then insist that government funding for their interest area shouldn’t be touched:

“We had the greatest generation (meaning his, he’s 79) – I think this is the “greediest generation” (meaning we Boomers).  “I really believe there are more patriots in America than selfish… people.”  So, in reality:

  • he wasn’t talking about “senior citizens” as no Boomer would ever consider him/herself one,
  • he never mentioned cows or their teats,
  • he actually voiced his belief that these “greedy”  folks coming before him did not represent the vast majority of Americans, and
  • his primary recommendation to save SS/Medicare, against which this supposed writer was railing, was to raise the age of eligibility a few years to stay true to the original formula for benefits disbursement, one based on life expectancy (which has lengthened by almost 15 years since SS was first passed in 1935)….

But what’s even sorrier than yet another email making the rounds that is raging against something that didn’t happen (in this case, wasn’t said), is the raging itself as an acceptable if not laudable trait.  The use of rhetoric not even becoming of a 17 year old  is elevated, embraced, celebrated…forwarded (how many parents do you know who would allow their child to talk this way?…well, let’s say how many whose kids aren’t now in foster care…?).

Had Senator Simpson actually said those things, this writer’s point would have been much more powerfully made by allowing the facts to speak for themselves, presented in a more respectful fashion (I have paid my dues and am not greedy to want what I’ve earned; here’s some examples of Congress appearing “greedy” that belie your point).

Nelson Mandela biographer John Carlin, found that this man, one of the greatest world leaders our generation has known in part by being able to impress even his arch enemies, became great because “he learned that succumbing to vengeful passions brought fleeting joys at the cost of lasting benefits” and that “…respect (is a weapon) of political persuasion as powerful as any gun.”

We need not first be Mandela’s – imprisoned and tortured yet able to bring an end to his country’s egregious practice of apartheid through his own forgiveness and generosity; or Ghandi’s – able to bring an end to British imperial occupation of his country through peaceful and passive (fasting/hunger strike) protest – in order to voice our discontent.

But we can at least refuse to admire words…and emails…like this one.

Boomers….Beware “Entitlement Reform”

social security administrationWhen we hear about the need to tackle entitlements if we are to have even the wisp of a hope of getting the federal budget under control, the two compelling questions become:

  1. Are Boomers “entitled” to Medicare and Social Security (is the term itself accurate), and;
  2. Is there actually a need to “reform” them?

First, to the question of entitlement.

I’ve paid into Social Security my entire working life (I started @ 16… that would be a ton of candles on my worker cake…), the promise being receipt of the benefits I’ve earned upon reaching a certain age.

The same goes for Medicare, which, like Social Security, is funded by payroll taxes; it gets additional funding by income taxes on SS benefits (which we will be paying) and interest earned on trust fund investments.

So…yes…we are entitled to them which is “beware #1”: Any argument to the contrary, often used to base debate on a complete overhaul of both systems, is incorrect.

Now, onto the need to “reform” them.

SS & Medicare were set up to pay for themselves, and in fact Social Security would be running a surplus were it not for the raiding of it over the decades to pay for other things.  Medicare is indeed rife with fraud (I’ve seen it with these two aging eyes as billing took place for my father for services that never occurred…we reported it…Medicare ignored it), but the good news is, unless the Medicare trust fund is being handled by Bernie Madoff, it ought to be doing well, so that’s a plus.

So, unfortunately, we do need reform them, which leads to “beware #2”:

Any reform will be useless without the most important change, not even whispered on Capital Hill –
Legislators’ ability to get their hands on those monies for uses other than the purposes of SS & Medicare.  Make both the Medicare & the SS Trust Funds off limits, period.

Once that’s in place, a few tweaks and we’re good to go.  For Social Security:

  • Change the formula for SS deductions so that income on earnings over $106K goes into the pot
  • Allow those making over $106K a year to claim only the percentage of SS equal to the percentage of their income they invested
  • Allow those making over a certain income upon retirement to not claim their benefits, if they wish to do so, putting that back into the pot
  • Raise the age at which we can claim our benefits, to match life expectancy (which was the original formula, we just haven’t been following it)

Onto Medicare.  This is one is simpler; rout out the fraud, and the system is solvent once more.  Yes that will take some investment in more investigators, etc., but the pay-off will be huge, the ROI significant.

Boomers are in charge, we have all the influence needed to make these reforms a reality.  We are entitled to these programs, so let’s be unafraid to fix them so they work well, now and through the coming decades.

Boomers & The Work Place…A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…

boomers needing work…in a great land known as The USA, there were a whole bunch of people known as “Boomers” – in fact, there were almost 78 million of them!  They partied hearty as youngsters, and worked just as heartily when they got out into what was known as “the world of work”!  They worked and worked and worked, for many decades, and many of them rose to higher paying positions as a reward for all that hard work!

But alas, one day, The USA experienced a terrible “economic downturn” called The Great Recession, and as a result, businesses started closing up or getting rid of lots of their employees, so lots of people lost their jobs.  And the people who were hit the hardest were the Boomers.

That’s because the Boomers were now getting older, and because they were making the most money at these companies, they were the first to get what was called “the boot” meaning a kick in the a** out the door so the company could save lots of money on their salaries.

Alack, when those Boomers tried to find new jobs, they had great difficulty because of a number of “factors” otherwise known as “myths” that employers used to keep from hiring them:

  • Myth #1: Boomers cost more for health insurance (in fact, younger workers are more likely to get sports injuries, get pregnant, or have children in need of costly medical care)
  • Myth #2: Boomers are too old to learn the newest ways of conducting business (in fact, Boomers were always learning the newest ways of conducting business, including being the first to use computers)
  • Myth #3: Boomers don’t have the same energy as younger workers (in fact, Boomers are quite vibrant even at middle age, unlike any generation before them)
  • Myth #4: Boomers will take the job and then leave in a year or two for retirement (in fact, many Boomers plan to work for at least a decade to come, and with Social Security set to raise its age for qualification to 67, even those who didn’t want to keep working will have to)

The saddest thing of all was that of all the people businesses could hire, the Boomers had the most knowledge, experience, and skill-sets, something that “whippersnappers” as the young workers were called, wouldn’t possess for another 20 years….  And Boomers were willing to work for the same salary as the whippersnappers if that meant getting hired.

Even a child could see that hiring a Boomer would be a really smart business move!  Alas, children weren’t running the businesses…what a shame!  They’d probably be run much better if they were!

Well, our fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending…yet.  9 officials known around the land as “The Supreme Court” made it pretty much impossible to prove age discrimination, so the Boomers weren’t able to change businesses’ hiring practices that were really obviously discriminatory…another one of those things that the children could see…

But, there may be a happy ending after all!  If the Boomers learn the facts vs. the myths, they can use that information to greatly increase their chances of getting hired!  They can cover these concepts in their resumes and cover letters, and during the interview!  They can show a prospective employer that they are the best thing for the company, not the worst!  They can change what are called the employers’ “perception” about hiring an “older” worker by the way they present themselves!

Will the Boomers be able to do it?  Well, we have about 20 years to go to find out.

Top 6 Things President Obama Must Handle in the First 100 Days

We Boomers pretty much embody the nexus for the nation’s most pressing ills that must be made well if America is to once again be great.   As far-reaching as that sounds, it couldn’t be more true.

Using myself as an example, I am:

  • a business owner;
  • a mother of young adults in the work world;
  • a person who is nearing retirement;
  • a caretaker for elderly parents, and;
  • a person who is part of the generation that called for an end pollution and corporate bad behavior

These correlate to the following ills already identified as most pressing by voters and pundits alike (in order of appearance above):

  • Taxes and global trade laws
  • Job creation; adequate healthcare
  • Social Security & Medicare; retirement account capacity
  • ditto; plus Healthcare
  • Clean energy/energy efficiency

So, here is my guidance to our young and idealistic President Elect – the top 6 things to be handled in the first 100 days from a Boomer’s perspective:

  1. Economy: Ensure the proper handling of the immediate steps needed to begin meaningful economic recovery by seeking/receiving ideas from economists, not politicians, from both ends of the “how-to-fix-this” spectrum, then doing what falls in the middle-ground
  2. Healthcare: any form of “universal healthcare” is at best a long way off in this country (rightly or wrongly…) and at worst not going to happen at all in this country; ensure a first step response that will at least mitigate the outrageous costs of healthcare/health insurance, thus providing immediate relief that will go far to create a healthier populace (on which, after all, all else is dependent)
  3. Taxes: Immediately roll back or eliminate tax breaks for companies that cheat (off shore bank accounts to avoid taxes, for example), steal (eliminate jobs here in the US so their CEO’s can grab hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation), and pollute without care for the planetary result but to increase their bottom-line; rework the tax code to eliminate huge tax loopholes for those making over a certain amount (your cut-off of $250,000 is fine) so they are paying a fair ratio of income tax to income
  4. Social Security/Medicare: SS – move the cap at which SS deductions are taken, from the current $89K to $250K; Medicare – immediately establish a department that investigates/handles only Medicare fraud, as I can tell you from first hand experience that what we’re doing now is completely inadequate, and the money being greedily siphoned from this excellent program could pay for it and the department’s salaries, possibly 2X over
  5. NAFTA: do not eliminate this treaty, instead make it more effective and even-handed for all countries involved (including ours….)
  6. Job Creation through Clean Energy Sources (value added…Energy Independence): In addition to the aspects of #’s 3 & 5 above that will result in the creation of a certain amount of jobs, immediately invest in alternative energy projects and the job training needed to prepare unemployed/soon to be unemployed folks from last century industries, for those jobs.

And your foundation for all of this: Be unwavering on your determination that ideology will not trump reality, particularly within your own party.

My fellow Boomers and I were around in the heady days of the 60’s/70’s that America (if not the world…) is in process of reliving.  Unfortunately, we became “the Man” we so distrusted; we became the polluters and resource wasters we so derided; in essence, we got lost from our ideals, too busy making a living to remember the importance of sustaining life.

Do not get lost once in the Oval Office.  Keep your grounding.  Make sure that you and the youth you so inspire, don’t stop living your ideals as we did.

Build on our historic successes and don’t repeat our failures.  Then, maybe this time around America can finish what it started.