By Wilson Caldwell
As the debate on privatization of the Social Security System rages on, I have been forced to consider many factors of where we came from, where we are and where we are going. I first reflect on what people did before the system was instituted as a safety net for those who could not sustain an ongoing method of income to meet basic needs. In those unenlightened days [as some would say], family and community personally were considered the safety net of last resort. In those days, elderly family members who no longer could support themselves was generally taken in by family or sometimes a concerned community member. Before I go too far sounding like a conservative, let’s seriously examine this ever-fading phenomenon.
In almost every culture on Earth, the value of elders is elevated to one of ultimate respect, admiration, love and devotion. Elders are appreciated for their experience in life, knowledge, wisdom, and mother wit shared out of love. Family loyalty becomes enhanced and members of the family from children to working adults benefited in ways that would and should be passed down through many generations. With the onset of the Great Depression, then-President Franklin Roosevelt saw that many families and communities were sinking under the heavy burden of very few family members having the opportunity for even limited income. Thus Social Security was born.
This system over the past 70 years has taken on a life of its own even to the point where now it is commonly referred to as "an entitlement" per the federal government. All working people, including the self-employed, must contribute to the system. As the system has grown, spurred by both population increases and the higher number of working women today, demands on the payout of benefits is predicted to eventually bankrupt the system. Although this bankruptcy is estimated not to occur for at least 20 years, the present administration insists it must be fixed immediately.
Why the urgency, you may ask? Well, the answer is apparent even though few want to see it. The economy is a disaster and the administration feels it can only be fixed by giving Wall Street a tool to pump it up. Good idea for those who understand the stock market, but how many working people understand the stock market well enough to manage their own investments? Thus enter the professional money managers — stockbrokers, investment counselors, bond salesmen, and fund managers. Aren’t these the people who take their commissions off the top? Aren’t these the people who contribute heavily to political campaigns? Face it, my good people — it is already a done deal.
Where do we go from here, you may ask? The answer is one that may be hard to swallow. We must change our priorities and protect ourselves. Again, I may be sounding like a conservative, but as the old saying goes: "If you can’t beat them, join them." By that, I mean we must start saving more. If you can give 10 percent to the church, then you can give 10 percent to yourself. When this automatic system kicks in, you will be way ahead of the game if you have already started your own savings, investment or retirement plan. Oh, you say, I can hardly make ends meet. Well, if you find money for overpriced sneakers, trips to the mall, expensive restaurants, tobacco, a car that is a status symbol [that you can’t afford] and expensive beverages, you can find that 10 percent to put into your savings account every payday. I know that some of you really are struggling to take care of the necessities and must find some relief in splurging every now and then even if you have to run up debt on the credit card with its high interest. Unfortunately, this only puts you farther behind and less likely to save or invest. All I can say is, change your lifestyle or the government will change it for you.