Wait. Check that.
Dad would work and mom would stay home, take care of the kids, go shopping, do the laundry, clean house and make dinner. Dad would also grunt all over mom when he was in the mood.
I think they called this The Golden Age.
The point was: One spouse could have a single job that would provide for a middle class lifestyle, with enough earnings to allow the other spouse to not have to work. The job provided for health insurance benefits and a retirement.
Now, I do know what you youngins are saying. “That’s about as likely as rainbows flying out of a unicorn’s arse hole.” I am not shitting you. This sort of reality used to exist in our country. Of course, you guys are the first generation in the history of the United States to be worse off than your parents, so I certainly can understand a skosh of cynical skepticism.
Now you can have a married household where both parents work full time to earn a portion of the lifestyle that used to be achievable by a single wage earner. Worse, besides working twice as hard for less, they have to pay strangers to take care of their children, a little bonus stressor on the traditional family unit for which they get to pay top dollar.
Isn’t progress great? Or, in guru parlance, “Ouchies. Too much fucking change!”
Social Security. A program I’ve paid into, under threat of force, since the day I turned 16. My whole life. I still remember looking at my first paycheck, as a youngin much like yourself, and saying, “Where in the name of Zeus’ butthole did my money go? I got your FICA right here, motherfica.”
Another good memory is when the Social Security Act first came into being way back in 1935. I’m the dude standing behind and just to the (stage) left of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in that famous picture of him at a desk signing that historic legislation. Hint: I’m the only one wearing a white suit with a bright red bow tie. (It’s hard to see because the picture is black and white, but trust me on this.)
Just a reminder for those who have conniptions and scream about Social Security being an “entitlement program.” It was created as a response to the Great Depression when over 50% of America’s elderly were thrust into abject poverty. Something had to be done. And done it was.
Is the program perfect? Obviously not. The wonderful combination of less people paying in and more people taking out has pushed it to the limit.
Even in the beginning, though, Social Security was never intended to be the sole means of support of a retired person’s existence. It was famously described as one-third of a “three legged-stool.” The three legs on that stool represent Social Security, private pensions, and savings and investment.
Those of you with functioning critical thinking skills may already be sensing what I’m about to say.
Private pensions? Please. Those went the way of the dodo long ago. They were replaced by the brilliant concept of linking your retirement to the stock market. That way you can watch your future existence go up and down faster than Paris Hilton’s head on bootleg video.
Do employers even offer pensions any more? It used to be recruitment tool, I guess. It was something that was expected. You did work for a company and they did their little bit to take care of you and help provide for your future. (A long since deceased win-win.) That spirit of cooperation has been replaced with a sense of, “Everyone for themselves!” If this was the Titanic I guess we all know who would beat everyone else down for their seats on the first lifeboats. “Women and children first” is so old and busted. It’s ironic, too, since these are often the same people who deliberately aim for the icebergs on purpose. But I digress.
You can work your entire life and earn no private pension. It’s hard to earn what employers don’t provide. And, news flash, not all employers even offer 401k plans. Personal anecdote: I worked at one company 11 years before my participation in the company 401k was made available to me. For fun I used to run spreadsheets projecting final earnings if I had fully participated from the beginning. Those missing 11 years made the difference between $250,000 and $5,000,000. Wee difference, eh?
Private pensions? Dodo. And there isn’t going to be a Private Pensions Park, either. There’s not enough DNA left in amber. Even Spielberg couldn’t pull that one off.
“Savings and Investment.” In America? People save? Are we even having this discussion? File this under Does Not Exist.
That’s two of three legs sawed clean off the stool. All that remains is Social Security holding our collective asses above those alligators. “Look at those snappers, Ralph. Look at those snappers, would ya.”
Help me, Social Security. You’re My Only Hope!
Thus we arrive at the one-legged stool. We’ve foolishly chucked “pensions” and “savings and investment” into the Hudson River with concrete goulashes. It’s like we’re at the blackjack table and just told the dealer, “I wish to double down on Social Security.”
Now people wish to privatize it. What could possibly go wrong? Or “fix” it, which usually consists of some variation of me not getting back out some portion of what I paid in.
The 40-hour work week sucks, especially when you hate what you do. And we’re working twice as hard just to maintain a reduced existence of the one enjoyed by our parents. And we don’t even get the health insurance, either. (Or, in my case, vacation time and paid days off.) And now they want to take away the final leg on the three-legged stool.
It’s almost enough to make a guru cry and wonder, “What’s the point?” I’m on a wheel, running towards as mythical piece of dangling cheese that I’ll never reach, and my future is being pecked at by vultures. I’m supposed to be worried about Abraham Lincoln and vampires? Please. Budget fixers wielding axes hacking at my only hope are much scarier.
The future’s so blight I gotta share Hades.