Work til You Drop: Is that such a bad idea?
Social Security is slated to run out of money in 2033, three years earlier than expected. So maybe it's time for politicians to stop pandering when it comes to shoring up the system and instead rethink the retirement entitlement altogether. Maybe we just need to look back at our history. In the early 1900s, nearly 80 percent of Americans over the age of 65 had a job. Dora Costa, an economic historian at UCLA, says people stopped working only if they were no longer physically able to. They expected to work as long as they lived. Is that really such a terrible idea?
This is one area in which I do not like to hark back to the 'good old days.' While Ms Meade and Ms Costa might like to suggest that we all 'work till we drop' like in the good old days, I say that this is one way in which we really 'can't turn back the clock.'
First of all, in America in the early 1900s, most women did not work outside the home. Even spinsters who had no husbands to provide for them usually lived with relatives and provided help in rearing the younger generations. Some few worked at 'female' jobs like schoolteacher or nurse or clerical work. Many did not. Men dominated the work force, and they were given preference for many jobs simply because it was assumed they had to work for a living, whereas most women were engaged in domestic life. Hiring a woman for a particular job was depriving male breadwinners a job, at least in popular thinking. Only the two world wars and the consequence of a reduced male population opened the job market to large numbers of women. And not until the feminist revolution of the 1970s and onward did 'most women' work full-time.
Also, many people in the 'good old days' worked till they dropped not by choice, but out of grim necessity. In the early 1900s there was no social security. And most 'conservatives' would say that this was a good thing, a praiseworthy thing; rugged individualism, self-reliance, no old-age ''welfare deadbeats'' being coddled.
But what of the infirm oldsters who had no family to take them in or support them, and no savings to live on for the rest of their lives? The workhouse, the poorhouse, or perhaps dying in a gutter in some cases.
These were not pleasant alternatives, and certainly not ones that any of us would choose for ourselves or our parents -- though I may be wrong about the latter these days. Some would probably be happy to dump their parents in a poorhouse or have them put down like aged dogs.
It was much better, of course, when the extended family was still strong, and when people lived in real communities -- not 'communities' as the left likes to use that word today. People often lived in the same town or county for most, or all, of their lives. Fewer people lived in urban areas where people can live all their lives without even knowing their neighbors, much less caring for them.
It is all well and good to say that the 'social safety net' is not needed because 'nobody had it in the 1900s, and if they did without, so can we.' This is a different world in 2012. The past truly was another country, as we usually find.
These days, people are more often rootless, mobile, disconnected from their ancestral connections to a definite locality, disconnected from family, both from close relatives and from the extended family and clan. I grew up in a family and a place where there were vestiges of the old community and extended family system still existing, still alive and well. But now, our extended family is connected more tenuously, separated geographically as well as emotionally. Almost everyone today is centered on the small nuclear family, if even that; our society today has probably greater numbers of isolated individuals than ever before. There are many who have no near family members, no spouses, no children, no church family or other local involvements. People are hunkered down in their living rooms or hanging out on the Internet as a 'social' outlet.
This is true to a lesser extent in smaller towns, in Christian or otherwise traditional communities, but in comparison with earlier generations, we are more isolated, less communal, more selfish generally. Anyone who feels charitable impulses seems drawn to give their money and time to 'inner city' project or to 'dig wells in Africa' or adopt Haitian orphans. At least this is true in the area where I live.
Too few of us feel drawn to help our kinsmen or our actual neighbors.
And this is especially sad in light of the fact that more of our neighbors are experiencing hard economic times, possibly being unemployed for an extended period, having to exhaust savings just to survive. Many formerly middle-class people are experiencing real need. I know of a number of such cases.
Given that we live in a time when jobs are scarce, this idea that we should require the oldest members of society to work till they drop is just unrealistic as much as it is callous and spiteful.
Who will hire these oldsters, many of whom suffer from various age-related infirmities? Why hire an old person when you can hire a twenty-something with much more energy and stamina? The link in the paragraph before this one notes that the unemployed older people are most likely to be unemployed longer.
Some of the knee-jerk conservative comments on AT suggest that the old geezers just 'get fit' and stay active and eat healthy so they can work till they drop. If you have health problems, say these people, you brought them on yourselves. Deal with it.
Now, I am not one who believes that old people should just take to their rocking chairs, or if active, spend their time golfing or 'vacationing'. My beloved grandma worked until she was in her late 80s; she never grew old or 'thought old.' But she could do that, because she owned her own business. She still spent much time with her many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren but she always kept busy and active in working life. I admired that.
But not everybody has the choices she had, nor the health to exercise the choices. Most old people do not own their own businesses, and most employers decidedly favor the younger employees.
And the fact that we have tens of millions of 'young' immigrants (and demographically, they are younger) means that there are just that many fewer jobs to be had. We all know this. The existence of isolated exceptions here and there does not alter the situation.
So, I wonder where Ms Meade thinks these jobs are going to come from?
Some of the commenters also suggest that old folks be press-ganged into working for their social security by 'working in inner-city schools.' What, is that another approach to the 'death panels?' Sounds like it to me. What have old folks done to be consigned to that fate?
Besides, I though the regime was starting some kind of 'mandatory service corps' for people between 18 and 35, to do such 'service' in 'underserved communities.' Perhaps they'd benefit more from such jobs, as they are often the most socially liberal. Maybe their eyes would be opened by working in urban areas.
There are a number of alternatives to cutting off seniors' means of support. First, one option would be to make Social Security means-tested. The wealthy or the financially comfortable should be ashamed of receiving it, but many such people do accept it. Make it available only to people who have no other means of sustenance.
Make SSI (supposedly for the infirm with little work record and the indigent elderly) available to citizens only. As it is, many elderly immigrants, brought here by their working adult children, are put immediately onto SSI. This is wrong. If we can't take care of our own old folks, then we surely can't afford to take care of the world's old folks -- but people like Ms Meade do not even mention the role played by immigration in the job situation and the shortfalls in our budgets. Cowards.
No benefits of any kind for non-citizens, or for people with adequate means. There would be quite a savings there.
The proponents of cutting off old people's benefits say that ''they should have saved up enough for their retirement.'' Are these knee-jerk types cognizant of the fact that even $1 million in savings is not enough to retire on in today's economy? And as things are getting more costly all the time, how much would it take to live on for years, given today's inflation? Far more than many people can realistically save, given today's economy.
Then, too, even some people who thought their retirement funds were adequate -- and safe -- saw those funds evaporate in the financial debacle of a few years ago. I guess that was their fault, too. Yes, throw them to the wolves for being so stupid.
I think one of the worst features of our 21st century world is the general lack of caring for our neighbors, our folk, and even our own families. People are ''without natural affections'' in many cases today. And nobody feels any shame about it; they are much more out in the open with their callous attitudes today, where once people would have been ashamed to express such hard-hearted attitudes towards their own folk.
One of the things which turned me off about many Republicans when I was younger is their Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude towards their fellow man. Perhaps this is a result of liberals trying to force charity out of their fellow citizens, trying to coerce people to 'love their neighbor.' Of course the liberal is wrong to do this. Charity is not charity if it is compulsory or coerced. But just because liberals use 'compassion' as an excuse for extorting money from the rest of us, from the productive, that does not make charity a bad thing, or compassion a weakness. It can be exploited, but only if we let it.
We need to exercise compassion with justice; take care of our own, while avoiding being emotionally manipulated to coddle the whole world, as liberals (including some Republicans) would have us do. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Compassion is not a dirty word; just because the liberal has polluted it and distorted it, does not make it something to shun.
Too many on our side have become hardened toward everybody rather than directing their ire and resistance toward the rightful target. It's less dangerous to say 'cut off all social programs', than to say 'cut off benefits to non-citizens' or 'to those with higher incomes.' The latter might be 'bigoted', you see.
There is no populist political party in this country, no one who looks out for the interests of the 'little people.' Both major parties truly represent the wealthiest and most powerful, while using the 'poor suffering Others' as a means of coercing 'love and tolerance' from us.
If those of us who claim to be ethnopatriots, that is, lovers of our own folk, could show that kind of patriotism or loyalty by offering support and help for our own in these hard times, we might find that we are filling a void, and that people would respond. I think people are looking for some kind of movement that cares about them as people. Republican 'conservatives' have a heart only for their own wealth or, in public, for the poor immigrants and Others. Democrats talk the talk, but don't walk the walk; they, too, care only about the abstract suffering World, and not about their neighbors, especially if said neighbor is White, working-class, Christian, and/or Southron.
We need, if we want to win people's minds and hearts, to have a heart for our folk. Look for people in our own communities who are out of work or in need of help or support, even if only moral support. The dog-eat-dog ethic is not what is needed in a world which has far too much self-absorption and hyper-individualism.
We need more loyalty towards our own; if we show it, we might elicit it in return.
I think of a Peanuts comic in which Lucy says, ''I love mankind; it's people I can't stand.''
That's a common attitude these days. The antidote is not to 'love all mankind' which is too abstract and unrealistic, but to love those close to us, our rightful folk, and not to exclude others based on age, social class, or education.