Friday, February 11, 2011

The Amazon Trail - Social Insecurity

The Amazon Trail

Social Insecurity

Wow! I just got my first Social Security check!

Darn, I must be really, really old.

Not as old as Washington is planning for its kids and grandkids to be. As often as I hear that Social Security is about to go bust, I hear that it’s fine. Hey, you guys in D.C., like they say in twelve step programs, if it works, don’t fix it!

I imagine visiting the Capitol Building and buttonholing a Congressperson. Look, Representative Womanizer, I’d say, try this for a hypothetical. Your once-favored child grows up. He becomes an artisan, a tile setter, a job he’s great at, but there’s no pension. He saves the best he can, but one of his kids has a chronic disease and you voted to disembowel universal health care, so he’s broke from medical bills. His partner dies, but your son doesn’t benefit from his pension because you voted to outlaw gay marriage. Sonny boy’s job does in his knees and back and he develops an allergy to the glue he uses. In constant pain, asthmatic, he manages to keep setting tiles until age 65. But, wait, you voted to increase the retirement age to 70! You’d help him, but you’re dead or in prison for skimming or scamming or conspiring. Is this the life you wanted for daddy’s little boy?

The word security is pretty misleading these days. My father had a secure job with the federal government. When he died my mother received a pension and health care for life. Which was good, since she’d light out of the house every day, well into her 90s, get on a bus or subway and go shopping somewhere, anywhere. She was thrifty as only someone who survived the American Great Depression can be, so she only spent at sales.

Security died with my mother and father. The very concept of security gets more obsolete every year.

All my life I’d planned to retire at age 65. Then congress changed the rules. So, okay, I can wait till 66. Only I didn’t. The Republicans won some elections this November and are yammering about fixing Social Security. While I didn’t lie awake worrying, exactly, I did panic.

Okay, I thought. If I retire in November, 2010, how soon will I break even with the amount Social Security would have paid me if I’d waited another 12 months? I got as far as stating the problem in words and then I spaced out, escaping into a daydream of winning the lottery, enabling my sweetheart to retire and me to write full time.

A month or so later, I took up the problem again. This time I mentioned it to my sweetheart. She’s the math-head in this marriage. A minute later, or less, she’d calculated my answer. We had a decision to make. I could apply for Social Security immediately and start working at my job only three days a week. That sounded wonderful! I could take my first checks and buy the Mac Book Air I’d been drooling over. Tempting, but kind of splurgy for a semi-retiree. I could stash the whole year’s payments – down to eleven months by now – in the bank and have it as a cushion. Or I could quit my job altogether and maybe finish my new book by the promised deadline. Wow. This was exciting. Thirty years earlier I would have gone for finishing the book.

But I don’t have a pension. Or a 401K or company stock. I let all that go to finish the last dozen books. What I have is Social Security and you politicians are messing with it. What are you thinking? That no one you care about will ever actually need to live on the rather paltry stipend Americans are awarded for working all our lives? Well, I say, stop it, Representative Womanizer!

Stop kicking aging Americans’ futures around in your power plays. Be fiscally conservative at the expense of someone who can afford it, like the beneficiaries of boondoggles from Boston to Bagdad.

Ah, Representative Womanizer, does it rile you to think entitlement programs feed and clothe Democrats and gays? Are you afraid seniors are going to use birth control and get abortions?

Wait! Social security isn’t an entitlement program! It’s completely funded by employers and employees. We pay for it with chunks of our wages. We gave it to our government to hold until we needed it. Now, when more of us than ever do need it, you want to treat our contributions to our own futures as taxes so you can make government look lean? And keep your congressional seat? I don’t think so.

I don’t trust you, Representative Womanizer. I’ve decided: I’m going to keep working at my job, continue writing my subversive lesbian books. Then I’m going to vote you out of office.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2011

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