Why Isn’t The Gov­ern­ment Keep­ing Its’ End Of The Bar­gain?

This month, the Know It All Sisters, Mary Lloyd and Barbara Morris were asked this question:

Dear KIA Sisters,

All this talk about raising taxes and cutting entitlement benefits is making me furious. I’ve worked hard for 44 years and am almost to retirement. Now they are saying it might not be there. Why isn’t the government keeping its’ end of the bargain? How can we make them do the right thing and not change anything?

Getting Stiffed at 66

Sister Mary Says:

Dear Stiffed,

 

Mary Lloyd

Mary Lloyd

It’s a challenge to figure out where to start on your question. Hard work is commendable, and scary situations created by other people warrant empathy. But just agreeing with you and saying “Oh, you poor dear!” isn’t much help. Neither is telling you everything is going to be okay if you just stay the course because that may turn out to be a big fat lie. The best I can offer are some things to think about.

First, let’s admit that “the government” isn’t some ominous alien beast. The government, at least in the United States, is people. People like you and me who agree to serve and create laws and programs for “the good of all.” People who want to do nice things for others. Who those “others” are depends on who we elected. So if you want to make sure the government keep its end if the bargain, get involved in who gets elected.

That will not be enough, however. Things have gotten out of hand in a big way with what we have agreed to as a government. We have a lot more programs going than we can pay for. Something’s going to have to give to get our economy back on an even keel. Exactly what that will be isn’t clear yet, but no one, not even the government, can continue to spend more than it makes. What we are seeing at the local level—where cities and counties are making massive cuts to everything and still struggling is going to come at the federal level. It has to. As part of that we might experience cuts in programs we’re counting on for retirement.

The best way to deal with that possibility is to come up with a Plan B that replaces what you’re currently expecting to come from the government. That may involve moving to a part of the country with a much lower cost of living. (You can buy a sturdy two-bedroom home in central Wisconsin for $38,000.) It may mean earning additional income by finding work you enjoy or taking in a roommate or two. You might decide to be a foster parent.

The big thing in this challenge is to use it as a springboard for making sure the life you get (in lieu of the one you were planning on courtesy of the U.S. Government) suits you well. Quite often, we miss a lot of stuff we would love to do because the stereotype of retirement doesn’t go there.

You need options. When you don’t have them, you feel like a victim at the mercy of “the government.” Options are not one size fits all; you need to design them yourself.

It’s also wise to let go of “fair.” “Fair” changes over time. When Social Security was enacted, it was to deal with a very unfair situation where workers were being forced to retire without any kind of financial safety net. That era’s government stepped up to “do something nice” for people who deserved it—to be fair. Generations of lawmakers have done so again and again to make it “fair” for more and more people. All these things were perceived as “fair.” But only in the short term. It is not fair to burden future generations with debt we incur “to be nice.” Every program seems fair–and essential–to some group. Get ready for a new version of “fair” though because this one is going down flames.

The best way to deal with that is find ways to recapture control of your life rather than living in fear of what might happen with things you have no control over. Create a Plan B that includes both ways to cut spending and add income. Do what you can to be a smart healthcare consumer and a wise citizen. Take an active roll in electing politicians who will balance “fair” with wise. Keep control of your life in every way you can.

Being at someone else’s mercy is never a good plan.

Sister Barbara Says:

Dear  Stiffed:

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris, Editor

You may have been watching the AARP TV ad and other misleading ads on TV warning that Republicans want to push granny over the cliff in her wheelchair and take away your Social Security.

Fear not. There isn’t a politician on the left or right who would dare to do such a thing. Remember, there are more seniors than there politicians. If politicians are interested in doing anything, it’s getting re-elected and hanging on to power.

Without a doubt, unless our financial system totally collapses, anyone over 50 is going to get what they worked all their lives to get – maybe more, maybe less. Depends on how long life lasts.

But here’s thing — Social Security – this Ponzi scheme (yes, it’s a Ponzi scheme – it takes money from one generation and gives it to another) can’t last forever because there simply aren’t enough young people to support old people. You can “tax the rich” up to their wazoo and there still wouldn’t be enough money to take care of everybody. Even if Warren Buffett and Bill Gates gave all their money to the government, it would be gone in no time. Can you say “Solyndra”?

I think younger workers understand Social Security isn’t going to be there for them. And that’s a not bad thing. It forces people to be responsible for themselves which too many Americans no longer want to do. We love the nanny state but the reality is we can’t continue to live on other people’s money forever.

Yes, I said “other people’s money.” Sure, you paid into the system but the money you paid into Social Security is long gone, having been pillaged by politicians, taken from the “lock box” that was supposed to keep our money safe until we retired. I hope young people at least have a choice – to opt into a reformed government system or invest whatever money they have on their own. They may even have to rethink the concept of “retirement.”

We may not want things to change but to expect things to stay the way they are is unrealistic.

To improve things, we need to improve the quality of those we elect. We need to vote more intelligently. We can no longer cast our votes based on opinions of friends, family tradition, or manipulative advertising. We have to get smart and pay attention. It’s not difficult to figure out whom to vote for.

Ask: Who support’s the candidate’s position? Where is the candidate’s money coming from? What organizations does the candidate belong to? Get honest answers to those three questions and you’ll be well on your way to understanding a candidate’s real agenda.

Don’t be intimidated if you have done your homework and decide to support a candidate unpopular with friends or family. If the only evidence they can produce to influence you to change your position is that your candidate is “too liberal” “too conservative” or “too whatever”, tell them to do their homework and recite to them Herbert Spencer’s admonition:

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -That principle is condemnation before investigation.”

Stand up for what you believe. Know what you want from your elected representatives; work for those who support your position, and once elected, hold their feet to the fire. It is our responsibility to do what we can to avoid being victims of the ignorance, stupidity, avarice, or hidden agendas of those we elect to represent us.

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