Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Hot Showers and Indoor Toilets
Indoor toilets and hot showers are great. Both are only short steps from my bed and I start every day with them. Central heat is nice too. I hope to have all three for the rest of my days - about twenty more years for an almost-sixty-year-old, heterosexual white guy according to the actuaries - but I’m not fully confident that I will. For that, I’ll need steady and affordable supplies of electricity and fossil fuel for the next two decades and those require a stable infrastructure, both physical and financial. In spite of what the lefty Cassandras proclaim about us running out of fossil fuels, we’re not, and we won’t for centuries to come. It’s the cracks in our financial infrastructure that worry me. Maybe it’s the widespread strikes in France over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. French unions are shutting down refineries and pipelines. Maybe it’s the riots in Greece over similar benefit and retirement issues. Both portend unrest here in America, which is on the same path many European countries have been traveling. Frenchmen and Greeks and many other Europeans are like petulant children who expect their parent government to take care of them while they put their feet up and relax. They want to retire young, then collect full pensions and benefits for two or three decades. They don’t seem to care or even understand how unrealistic those expectations are. They don’t have enough young people to work and pay the taxes necessary to keep it all going - and it’s their own fault.
When so many French, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, and Greeks choose not to bear enough children even to replace themselves, who did they think was going to keep working to support them in their declining years? Yeah, I know children are expensive, take a lot of energy and sacrifice and are a pain to raise sometimes, but what’s the alternative? Did they think immigrants were going to fill in for the children they never had? Immigrants, legal and illegal, have swarmed into Europe from Muslim countries to the south, but they’re not assimilating. They don’t want to become Frenchmen, Spaniards, Norwegians, Swedes, or Italians, and they are proving to be a net drain on government services instead of contributing to the pensions and benefits of aging Europeans. Rather than showing affection for their new homelands, the new immigrants seem disdainful. Immigrant neighborhoods are breeding grounds for terrorists. All this has lead German Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare that multiculturalism - the liberal dream that people from every culture would come to Europe and be smiling, happy people holding hands - “has utterly failed.” She might as well have said that European socialism has utterly failed as well because it has. It’s responsible for a generation of selfish, pampered, spoiled citizens who want what they want no matter what it costs. They don’t care if everything comes crashing down after them, as long as they get theirs while they’re still living.
After 33+ years as a public-school teacher in Maine, there’s a pension coming to me for the rest of my days - theoretically. I have no debts. My expenses are low. My wife and I know how to live frugally, having spent most of our lives together working multiple jobs, paying the bills and raising a family. With a pension, we could cut back our workload a bit and live fairly comfortably but one thing nags at me: Can I depend on that that pension being there in five years? Ten years? Maybe. Maybe not. State pension funds are in trouble all over the country, underfunded by over $3 trillion. As Andrew Biggs writes in the Wall Street Journal: “According to accounting rules adopted by the states, a public sector pension plan may call itself "fully funded" even if there is a better-than-even chance it will be unable to meet its obligations.” Many don’t even reach that threshold. Just as in Europe, government employee unions and left-wing politicians here signed extremely generous agreements over the years that both sides must have known were little better than Ponzi schemes. They worked well for the first waves of retirees, but - as with Social Security - bankruptcy looms for baby boomers like me who are beginning to retire now. The forty million babies aborted in America over the last four decades would have come in handy about now, but oh well. It’s likely they’d have been much more productive than the 12-20 million illegal immigrants from Latin countries to our south who have been allowed in to replace them. Like Muslim immigrants in European countries, they’re a net drain on our system, but at least they’re not plotting to bring down western civilization as Muslim immigrants are in Europe. That’s a consolation. Socialist Democrats running the White House and Congress have added over $3 trillion to our national debt in less than two years. The Federal Reserve is printing $100 billion a month, yet unemployment is still rising. Nonetheless, my toilet worked this morning. Hot water was there in the shower. The heat came on. I still have a job to go to and the election is less than two weeks away.
One day at a time.