Beyond the Great Debt Debate

Posted: August 4, 2011 in Money

I didn’t keep as close an eye as I probably should have on the great 2011 budget default debate because the imposing Ronni Bennett over at As Time Goes By  was doing such a great job:

The best that can be said for the legislation is that there are no cuts, as were included in earlier debt ceiling bills that failed, to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But that doesn’t mean anyone can breathe easy.

As she reports, the new 12-member bipartisan “super committee” is now charged with figuring out $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction cuts by the end of this year, and they can do it without any debate on either floor. Given how successful they were at reaching the recent compromise (the nation didn’t default, but nobody’s happy with it), good luck, suckers. (Lock them in a room and only let them out if they reach a consensus! Curses and threats! Blood on the floor! Serial strangulation! All televised on pay-per-view!)

If only Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security weren’t such giant, fire-ringed targets. With our retirement packages getting thrashed again this week in the Wall Street post-vote jitters* (all my post-December gains were pretty effectively erased, thank you very much), the news that our long-promised (and already paid-for) government benefits are still in jeopardy is forcing me to consider extending my retirement date. And I am NOT amused.

As the resident Old Hag here, let me take out my crystal ball, tarot cards and tea leaves and make a prediction: In a few years, there are going to be a lot of destitute baby boomers out there. Newsmax.com noted that, according to a recent Wells Fargo survey, the average person in their 50s looking ahead to retirement has savings of only $29,000 to rely on once they stop working.

The generation — my generation — that has been catered to by marketers and media since we could toddle is going to step up to the counter and find that the shelves and the cash register have been cleaned out. We’ll be living with our resentful children, or in communal situations that haven’t been invented yet, or maybe even on the street. Those of us who looked forward to travel and leisure will be clipping coupons and taking very long stay-cations in our own slowly decaying homes. We said it would never happen to us, but we’ll join those unhappy folk who can’t afford both our medications and our basic needs. And Generations X, Y, Z and all the others will blame us for everything, from pollution to commodity shortages to inflation to unemployment.

And a lot of us will be utterly astonished at our fate.

As Captain Picard NEVER said: “Make it NOT so.” Call your Congressperson. Call again. Get involved. Speak up. Look ahead. And, please, let’s look out for each other.

*Update: The New York Times just reported that “The Dow Jones industrial average and most stock markets around the world sagged more than 4 percent on Thursday as investors abandoned hope for an economic recovery and began fearing that the United States may be heading for a double-dip recession. With Thursday’s dive, the three major American indexes had erased all of the gains made so far in 2011. Markets from Brazil to Turkey were battered even more deeply.” Have a nice day.

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