Since retiring to Vermont 10 years ago, my mother has joined the ranks of the radical left.
How radical? Picture Berkeley circa 1966.
She can be relied upon to parrot the latest liberal platform, whether it be uncompromising devotion to the Green Mountain State’s socialist congressman, Bernie Sanders, or railing about George W. Bush’s murky agenda to destroy the global ecosystem.
This from a woman who, in the 1964 presidential race, was partially torn between casting her lot for either Lyndon Johnson or Barry Goldwater.
I attribute her recent adoption of this political platform to an over-abundance of rarefied air and a minimum annual snowfall of 185 inches.
But the one area in which I do listen to her is Social Security.
She, like many others, warns against the draining of the retirement program established by FDR over 70 years ago, to the point where once I reach the mandatory retirement age, my Social Security check will more resemble a cell phone rebate, rather than an important part of my income as a senior citizen.
Now, you can debate the pros and cons of Democratic and Republican ideology all you want, but when it comes to something that I’ve paid into for nearly a quarter-century, I want to make damn sure I get mine.
And to be honest, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's remarks before the House Budget Committee last week didn’t exactly fill me with a tank full of optimism. Basically, the chairman said that, given the soaring deficit, the country can’t afford the benefits promised to the 77 million members of the Baby Boom generation — the first wave of whom will start drawing Social Security checks in 2008.
Greenspan urged lawmakers to pare down Social Security benefits to get a handle on the budget deficit, which this year is projected to hit a record $521 billion.
With regard to specific proposals, Greenspan suggested a switch to an alternative measure of inflation for annual cost-of-living adjustments. In lieu of the traditional Consumer Price Index, Greenspan suggested a new chain-weighted CPI that gives lower inflation readings and, subsequently, smaller payment increases.
He said projections show the country will go from having just over three workers supporting each retiree to 2.25 workers for every retiree by 2025.
The 78-year-old chairman also proposed equating the retirement age to be eligible for full benefits to the longer life spans of Americans. In other words, extend the age for full eligibility to one commensurate with the fact Americans are well, basically living longer.
Naturally, the Democratic presidential candidates all came out sharply criticizing Greenspan, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, even calling for the chairman’s resignation. Obviously, Kucinich hasn’t learned much since he was the mayor of Cleveland in the late 1970s and the lake caught fire. And he surely can’t interpret polling numbers.
In an election year, George W. is probably the last person who wants to field proposals about cutting retirement benefits, and he’s made sure to distance himself quite nicely from his Fed chairman’s remarks.
But somebody at 1600 had better start listening.
The last thing I want to hear at age 65 is my 86-year-old mother wagging her finger saying “I told you so.”
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