Saturday, July 09, 2011

Baby Boomers meet Social Security

I turned 64 yesterday, born in 1947. In celebration I favored a chocolate pie over a chocolate cake, thereby forgoing the call I'd need to make to the local fire department, informing them that what looked like a house ablaze was just a lot of birthday candles.

As part of the adjustment to my "maturity" I've been going through Life archives online, trying to understand the postwar world folks my age were born into. We are the Baby Boomer generation, a huge bulge in the population. January 1, 1946, eighteen months before I was born, is the "official" start of the Baby Boomers. Our fathers came home from the war and got down to business with our mothers. As a nation, Americans have been paying ever since.

The above soap ad is a precursor: ". . .2,700,000 babies for 1946!" It leads to another ad reflecting the 1946 American reality: a pretty young mother and her brand-new baby on brand-new sheets. That scene is idealized, but in various forms around the nation it was being repeated millions of times.

My point is that everyone was aware of the high birth rate, and everyone scrambled to make room. Schools could not be built fast enough. When I lived in Washington State in the mid-fifties I went to three different schools in two years. I didn't move, but because of the number of school age children the boundaries did. Having many people applying for Social Security and Medicare should not be a big surprise to anyone in America.

Now, 65 years later there are people who are trying to take advantage of that high birthrate by making it seem that us Baby Boomers are robbing the national treasury. They couldn't kill us all off in the Vietnam War, or kill us with drugs in the sixties. They couldn't even kill us all (yet) with environmentally-related diseases, so now they just want to take away those benefits we've earned over a lifetime by surviving!

The way Social Security is structured we workers paid for our parents and grandparents in their retirements, and now feel we're entitled to have someone else pay for ours. Unfortunately, there are those of our lawmakers who feel we're a burden on the system, so they want to cut our long-expected benefits.

I've got news for those politicians: we're not standing by idly, letting it happen. I'm going to speak up loudly to protect what I feel is our birthright as Americans: to go into old age with someone else footing the bill. Oh yeah, we still have to pay for food, gasoline and all the things we paid for when we were working and paying into the Social Security system, so perhaps our officials should think of it that way. By paying us, we're contributing back into the system and isn't that the way America works? Buying things we don't need so that stores like Walmart can exist?

In this final ad from 1946, thanks to some smart planning a couple is able to retire on $200 a month. That wasn't a lot of money even then, but coupled with Social Security or even a company pension, probably adequate to live on. I'm not sure, but even with my pension and Social Security much more than $200, in today's money I'm probably about the same as this couple right after World War II. I certainly don't need any of my income cut.


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