Friday, October 17

How To Tell The World You Own Everything

I had the privilege in college to have two black roommates. One of them, K, told me the story of a group of girls she knew who tied scarves around their heads in specific knots to say certain encoded things about themselves. One of the girls was wildly derided when she showed up for a meal one day with a headscarf that said, we hope accidentally, "I own everything in the world."

I thought of that woman when I read this article at Motley Fool, an article which made me laugh given the current "volatility of the markets." No one would have questioned the importance of 401K's six months ago, and saving is of course, still important, but the idea that we "can't trust" Social Security and MUST use the old 401K model or face inevitable personal economic disaster? Really, Fools.

The first comment at that article reminded me of the woman with the "own everything" head dress:

If you think the Baby Boomers are going to allow the Government to cut our SS you are crazy. We will have the White House, Capital [sic], and the Pentagon in downtown DC before we allow a cut. Remember we vote and if you think Politicians kowtow to seniors now just wait to we retire en masse.

That commenter does not speak for all boomers or even all retirees. I know one woman who actually wrote to AARP many years ago to cancel her membership, because at that time she felt the organization was founded on generational greed.

I've mentioned before a friend of mine who was born during the first days of the Baby Boom, in 1946. She said that what that meant for her was that every single time she changed from one school level to the next, she had a brand new school building that no one else had ever used before.

The next President will either be in his forties or in his seventies. It looks like the post-boomer is going to win this one, and he's going to have a time with certain members of the preceding generation. Whether it's about "entitlements" (what a word) or even about the election just past (remember the primaries and the generations represented at the end of the Democratic race, ahem), a great many people in that generation have a sense that the world belongs to them. Think about the rhetoric surrounding the 401K/stock market debacle, "MY savings have been ROBBED," not to mention the "stolen primary season" of Terry MacAuliffe Hillary Clinton: as if there should be no risk or responsibility in the stock market or the campaign trail.

Hopefully Obama can take that sense of ownership and translate it into a sense of responsibility. I doubt that will work for an internet commenter who threatens to take over the Pentagon if she doesn't get her monthly direct deposit in full.


  1. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Hi BG; most thought provoking! Convalescence becomes you.

    The disease of conservatism that currently afflicts our social fabric tells us we don't have to care about anyone but ourselves. That philosophy is the acme of materialistic ugliness.

    A society that takes no responsibility for the plight of its infirm and aged members has not emerged from barbarism. A government "of the people, by the people, for the people" should be just that— an education for every child, a job for every citizen, and decent security in old age.

    The commenter Kellyjam at Foolish Readers did have an air of entitlement, but her indignation at facing a future of rodent stews in a freezing hovel may also be founded on a sense of shared responsibility for all rather than a selfish sense of entitlement for a few.

    Our government could fund old-age pensions on one day's earnings a month from everyone, and everyone who can should be working in America. Add bequests from wealthy citizens, compulsory labor from prisons, and the income from our nation's natural resources; yes— take the frakkin' oil, timber, etc., AWAY from a few citizens and establish a social trust for all Americans. Use the munny to prevent disease; educate geniuses and statesmen; and pay for everyone's social security.

  2. There is a culture of narcissism going on, as cliche as it may be to point this out.

    We are very spoiled and there are many who think all the things we take for granted at the moment are birthrights.

    But what I do know is that all institutions and all government change with time and that we will have to make some reductions in our own lives. Just try to drown out the voices of those who will bitch and complain all the way.

  3. "You gotta fight for your right to party!"

  4. I've been hearing for the past 40 years that Social Security would not be available for "the next generation" ... and yet somehow it always seems to be there!

    I do think many have forgotten that SS was never intended to be someone's only source of income upon retirement, but to supplement either a private or employee funded retirement plan.

    By the time I can retire I will have worked almost 50 years.

    As someone who came from working class roots, shared with my parents the responsibility of paying for my college education, never received a penny of inheritance when my parents died -- and who has worked hard for everything I have, I do expect to receive the full benefits promised. If someone thinks less of me because of this view I guess that's just the way it will have to be.


  5. Hey BAC my kids and I are essentially living off of Social Security right now. This post isn't an attack on SS. I don't agree with those who say "I got mine f you" though. And current retirees have more than once come across to me that way.

    I'll bet, BAC, that like me, you also went to public schools and support taxes to fund education. I'm sure it infuriates us equally to hear when people who are better off than most vote against school funding ballots.

    We, all of us, need to act as a community and a nation, and some beneficiaries of that community and nation have no idea what they owe to it or that they owe anything. Just saying.


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