The Older Unemployed and Social Security Reform

But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever...Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group — 7.3 percent — is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession. - New York Times

One of the least covered issues facing this country is the growing number of older workers who are now unemployed and who because of it have gone through their savings, investments, and retirement accounts and who may never become employed again. Many of these workers had planned to retire with their savings and retirement accounts to supplement their Social Security and now they will have to rely entirely on the government for their retirement and medical needs. While this is a tragedy in and of itself, the real calamity is that not only will these people be old and poor but they have become the means by which the wealthy has decided to balance the budget. The really sad thing is that many of them will also be highly in debt and will spend their golden years struggling to survive.

As a nation we have decided that our best years are behind us and we are determined to repeat them especially the “Gilded Age”. If the wealthy and the wing-nuts have their way not only will there be no retirement accounts for many but there will also be little if any Social Security to sustain them. Folks this isn’t about class warfare, this isn’t about being envious or hating on the rich, and this isn’t even about taxes, this is about what is the fundamental character of this country. Many of these workers through no fault of their own have found themselves unemployed through downsizing and the “great recession” created by the same folks who want to displace them from the only thing that will separate them from elderly poverty the likes of which we haven’t seen since prior to Social Security.

The insidiousness of what the wealthy are trying to do with Social Security reform is that they recognize that not only is America getting older, but also the aged are going to have fewer resources. Prior to the real estate bubble crashing many of these workers had already racked up tremendous debt using their homes as credit cards which they will be carry into retirement. This environment will cause many people to have to continue to work beyond retirement and thus increasing the pressure to extend the retirement age for Social Security. I suppose the thinking will be since they can’t afford to retire anyway we may as well hold off on their government checks. The unfortunate aspect of all of this is that the wealthy through their minions have convinced a number of Americans to believe that these programs have become obsolete and a waste of taxpayer money. The main impetus of this strategy is to blame the poor and the elderly mantra casting them as lazy and a drain on society.

These were the same folks who lambasted this administration for “pulling the plug” on grandma during the healthcare reform debate. I guess they want the elderly to live, but only in poverty. The strategy is the same in all of their proposals. They fight for the unborn until they are born then they are on their own. They refuse to provide for their education, to stabilize their families, or offer a pathway out of poverty besides their bumper sticker rhetoric. It is obvious they see the writing on the wall and realize that in order to address the long-term structural problems of this nation revenues will have to be increased so in their usual preemptive fashion they are laying the groundwork to minimize their portion or to shift those obligations to others. It is becoming painfully clear that reducing spending will not be enough but I guess they have adopted a scorched earth policy to squeeze as much from the most vulnerable as they can before we even begin to discuss increasing revenues.

I predict in the coming years that poverty amongst the elderly will increase dramatically as they watch their investments being looted, their homes being devalued, and their pensions disappear. These won’t be people who were marginally involved in our economic system but people who had worked hard and played by the rules but who have become expendable like so many before them. These people will be the collateral damage of globalization and free trade. Those who have profited from these strategies will continue to obstruct and demonize any policies to help those they have sacrificed for their own gain. We can continue to ignore the coming catastrophe by clinging to the fear and uncertainty being propagated by the wealthy or we can take a cue from our European brethren and demand that the system begin to work for the 98% for whom it no longer does.

If we refuse to act then many of our parents and relatives who have been replaced way before their time will become the new faces of poverty. Millions of workers will be too young for retirement and too old to work in a shrinking job market. They will have no healthcare, no savings, and plenty of debt as they float in this purgatory of not knowing what their future will hold. In this backdrop the true character of America will emerge and to be honest I am not sure what that character will be. The more I read comments from folks extolling the virtues of giving the wealthy more the less hopeful I am for the future.

“You know, if I listened to him [Michael Dukakis] long enough, I would be convinced we're in an economic downturn and people are homeless and going without food and medical attention and that we've got to do something about the unemployed.” - Ronald Reagan

The Disputed Truth

Tags: unemployed, Older People, Gilded Age, Wing-nuts, Ronald Reagan, Social Security (all tags)

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