Tuesday, March 24, 2009

“You Say You Want a Revolution? Well, You Know, We All Want to Save the World!”

If you are a member of the Great Baby-Boom Generation, you surely recognize these lyrics from The Beatles song, "Revolution".

Here is your first chance to help “Save the Republic”, at least, in terms of alleviating the future crushing burden of debt we are now laying upon our children and grandchildren.

Tell your Member of Congress and both U.S. Senators that you are willing to work past the age of 65 before you are eligible to qualify for full Social Security and Medicare benefits.

After all, you are probably going to have to work a couple of years more anyway to rebuild your retirement funds after the market debacle of the past 2 years.

This one act of noble and genuine sacrifice, this one statement of selfless behavior on the part of every American below the age of 63 today, will do more to help save the future of the American Republic than any other gesture you can do right now in our history.

It will help save your children and grandchildren trillions of dollars in future obligations that will mean their debt and tax burdens will be greatly reduced.

Here’s the great thing about it: The upward revision in the age 65 retirement age for Social Security is already underway and you haven’t felt any pain yet, have you? (Stay tuned for future posts to learn more about the truth of Social Security and Medicare)

So when you see politicians hold their breath and turn blue, rant and rave and stomp their feet and scream at the top of their lungs: “You Can Not Raise the Retirement Age for Social Security!”, you can kindly tell them to please keep it to themselves because it is already happening, even if they don’t know it yet themselves.

Let’s cut to the chase: We all know that Americans are living longer each year, women more than men. The average life expectancy for men is now 75 years; for women it is now approaching 81. There are discrepancies for African-Americans and Latinos and based on socio-economic factors across the board but the fact is that we Americans are living a lot longer than we were back in the day.

Like, in 1935, the numbers were 60 for men and 64 for women. Current life expectancy rates represent a 25% increase in the life expectancy of Americans over the past 75 years, thank goodness.

If the Social Security retirement age had been indexed to be equal to what it represented in 1935, the retirement age would be 81 today. So you are still getting off “easy” when compared to past generations.

The retirement age of 65 was selected for Social Security in 1935 when FDR got it passed, primarily as a way to encourage older Americans to retire so more younger people could be hired to alleviate the joblessness of the Great Depression. It was also intended to be a supplemental income program to help people get through the “Real” Great Depression, not to serve as a de facto ‘permanent’ pension program.

Government programs have a strange habit of starting as “temporary, emergency bills” and morphing into massive perpetual programs.

Watch what comes out of this most current economic crisis in terms of ‘permanent’ programs.

One of the urban legends on Capitol Hill was that when FDR and his advisors were looking for the “right” age to peg for full retirement benefits under Social Security, they looked to the venerable Count Otto von Bismarck, also known as the ‘Iron Chancellor’, who helped unify the German Republic in 1871.

Supposedly, as part of the deal to unify the German Republic, the Iron Chancellor advocated a national retirement benefit program to all German citizens who reached the age of 70 that was finally implemented in 1880.

At a time when the life expectancy of the average German at the time was only 45 years of age, by the way.

That may or may not be exactly true, like so many other things that have helped create our current government edifices but, like that country song says, “That’s my story and I am sticking to it!”

Bismarck apparently was clever enough to use the ‘carrot’ of universal retirement benefits to entice the populace to support the unification of Germany. He was also smart enough to know that at age 70, the average German had been long dead.

The average American in 1935, male or female, only lived to be 62 years old. So FDR and Bismarck shared the same ability to promise full retirement benefits to mollify a nation while at the same time not spending much money to do it.

We are going to spend a lot of time over the next several weeks parsing out the almost unbelievable and magnificent details of how much money can be saved by making seemingly minor initial changes to both Social Security and Medicare at this time in our history so stay tuned.

The thing to remember from today is this: You have it in your power today to tell your friends and neighbors from the Baby Boom generation, the generation that was “born to “change the world”, to contact your senators and congressional representatives in Washington and tell them you want them to raise the retirement ages for Social Security and Medicare now. You can do that right now by clicking on the link to the Senate or the House on the right side of this column, find your elected representatives in a matter of 30 seconds or so, click on the “Contact Your Senator/Congressman” button, enter your name and address and send in your message.

They will get your message, believe me. Every day, the computer administrator downloads a list of all the incoming emails received from the day before, broken down by issue area, pro and con, and gives it to the chief of staff, the legislative director and the elected official. If a lot of people suddenly start swamping them with messages about raising the retirement age, they will take notice. But if no one contacts them, they will keep doing what they have been doing for decades as the problem deepens…nothing.

Your input will help save the republic, it will help save your kids and grandkids from crushing debt loads and tax rates and you can feel good about doing something, finally, to 'make this world a better place, if you can’ as Diana Ross sang about.

What an idealistic generation we Baby-Boomers we used to be!

Now we can do something that will make our parents’ generation, the ones who fought in World War II against Nazism and Japanese Imperialism and suffered through the “Real” Great Depression, really proud of our sacrifice for the nation.

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