Fiscal Realism

I keep returning to the sentiments of Reality Check – that we need to realize that on tough issues we will not be able to satisfy everyone and that the decisions we make must be based on what is best and not merely based on what offends the fewest people. This comes up again as I read the platform for Divided We Fail. This is an initiative of the AARP. I do not wish to accuse the AARP of not caring for the future, but I think it is fair to note that when push comes to shove the best solution for the next 5 years is going to be more favorable to the AARP than the best solution for 30 years from now.

Their platform consists of 6 points – 3 on social security and 3 on health care:

  • All Americans should have access to affordable health care, including prescription drugs, and these costs should not burden future generations.
    • This sounds like a noble and universal sentiment.
    • We can deduce from their other points that the path they envision is one of government backed health care which is not possible without being a burden on future generations so this goal is unattainable in its fullness – one part has to give.
    • For more insights here go read No Free Lunch.
  • Wellness and prevention efforts, including changes in personal behavior such as diet and exercise, should be top national priorities.
    • Absolutely. This is the one undeniable truth, and the single most influential factor in the rising costs of our current health care system. How do we go about doing this?
  • Americans should have choices when it comes to long-term care – allowing them to maintain their independence at home or in their communities with expanded and affordable financing options.
    • Agreed. Only, what “affordable financing options” do they have in mind?
  • Our children and grandchildren should have an adequate quality of life when they retire. Social Security must be strengthened without burdening future generations.
    • Everyone (the AARP as well as their children and grandchildren) deserves an adequate quality of life when they retire. We might need to define “adequate quality of life” because what that seems to be today may well be unsustainable.
    • On the other hand, there is no possible way to strengthen social security without increasing the burden on future generations. Some generation is going to have to take the fall on this one. The program needs to receive its sunset – Sadly, I feel compelled to volunteer my generation. I don’t expect to receive social security benefits. Even if social security benefits are still available I hope not to avail myself of that benefit. (Why should I be a burden to my posterity?)
  • Workers should be provided with financial incentives to save, should have access to effective retirement plans, and should be able to keep working and contributing to society regardless of age.
    • I agree.
  • Americans of all ages should have access to tools to help manage their finances, and save for the future and better, easy to understand information to help them increase their financial literacy and manage their money wisely.
    • This is another point that sounds good but the pessimist in me is skeptical that we will ever really educate the majority of our population on money matters.
    • I also believe that managing money more wisely requires more than financial literacy – it requires a new attitude about the value and nature of wealth. So long as we are driven to keep up with the Joneses financial literacy won’t make us wise managers of our money.
Similar Posts | Saving Social Security |

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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8 Responses to Fiscal Realism

  1. Fiscal realism is not something advocacy groups are noted for. In this case, we’ve got all these expensive ideas that would be good things to have. However, how to pay for it and efficiently dispense it is left out of the equation.

    On the flip side, conservatives are notorious for saying we should cut taxes. Yes, I’d to keep more of my paycheck, just like everyone else, but the issue is, what government services are we willing to go without to pay for it? Usually it comes down to, services used by someone else.

  2. David says:

    That’s absolutely true. I often lament the number of politicians who talk about fiscal restraint but then they follow it up by pushing for their pet projects so that they will get re-elected. They’re just as bad as the voters who talk about fiscal restraint and then applaud every time their elected representatives pass a bill to fund the local museum (or whatever other pet project they get funding for).

    I’m willing to go without my social security benefits in order to eventually end that program, but what I contribute won’t be enough – do you think I can convince 20 million other people to do likewise so that we can continue to support those who are already dependent on the program and then retire it when we retire? I wish I could be optimistic about our chances on this.

  3. Jesse Harris says:

    The AARP is the most head-in-the-sand organization in America. They want to keep the gravy trains of Social Security and Medicare flowing to their members but refuse to acknowledge that the rapidly increasing costs of those programs are being paid for by their children and grandchildren. This selfish irresponsibility is what keeps my mother from joining this group of bandits. She’s not willing to sell out my future for her own and there are millions more like her; they just don’t have a powerful lobby to counter the AARP.

  4. David says:

    In all fairness, the AARP represents a generation that paid into Social Security for the benefit of their parents who had not paid into it. I can understand why they want the benefits that they expected and paid for all their working lives. While their goals are unsustainable we should still admit that they have good reason to wish for the fulfillment of those goals.

  5. Jesse Harris says:

    No single drop believes it is to blame for the flood. The currently retired don’t want to be (or can’t afford to be) cut off, the soon to retire have been planning on Social Security their entire lives and the far from retiring are the ones to pick up the tab. At some point, someone is going to have to eat it, but the AARP seems blissfully unaware of it. Their conflicting goals on Social Security (“strengthing” without “burdening”) are proof positive.

  6. David says:

    I completely agree. How do we band together to bring a voice that will be heard to those like your mother who will not join the AARP? How to we build a coalition of people who are willing to say, “No more – the blindness and shortsighted rush to economic ruin ends with me.”

    What we need is a large group who will voluntarily abandon the benefits they have been told to expect and who will push to find the safest way to climb down off this financial precipice.

  7. Jesse Harris says:

    Such groups have to survive pressure from competing groups, the inevitable infighting and splinter groups, an inability to get the message out… in short, it takes a charismatic individual with a boatload of money from a wealthy patron to make it happen. (A good crisis never hurt either.) Even with that, look at what happened with the Reform Party. Ross Perot sunk in billions of dollars around Jesse Ventura but the party crumbled within a few years.

  8. David says:

    So you are not very optimistic that such a group (not necessarily a party) would be sustainable? I wish I could say that I was very optimistic, but I am concerned enough that I think it has to be attempted.

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