|Happy Birthday Lila|
“I like birthdays,” said my granddaughter last year. “You get presents. You turn another number.” She had just turned five. “Next year, I’ll be six,” she added matter-of-factly and that day comes Saturday. She’s a New-Year’s-Eve baby who arrived just in time to give her parents a tax deduction for 2010. I’ll be in attendance, bringing her a present — the Calico Critters Hazelnut Chipmunk Family Playset. It’s a box of four tiny anthropomorphic chipmunk figurines for $25. If I were shopping blindly for a present to give her and saw this on a shelf somewhere, I would never have purchased it. It looks overpriced, but that’s what she wants according to her mother. It’s not the $25 because that’s not a big number for us; it’s the objective value — but then I’m not objective when it comes to my grandchildren. She loves those little critters.
It so happens that I turn another number soon myself: 66. I’ll be entering my late sixties, one could say, and I’m going to start collecting Social Security. I’ll only be getting 30% of what I would have otherwise been entitled to because of a law signed by President Reagan thirty years ago to prevent double dipping by teachers in states like Maine. As a career public school teacher in this state, neither I nor my school district paid into Social Security for my teacher salary over 34 years. We both paid instead into the Maine State Retirement System. Because I worked other jobs all during that time, I paid into Social Security for those salaries, and I still do in the form of self-employment tax because I still work part time. If I’m only going to get 30% of my SS benefit, I should only pay in 30%, right? But no, I have to kick in the entire amount. Will I get back what I paid in? Well, that depends on how long I live, and who knows how long that will be? I don’t want to know.
Will the checks continue if I make it past 80? Probably not unless serious changes are made. There are simply too many people collecting and not enough paying in. Any dummy knows that can’t go on forever but neither President Obama nor President-elect Trump have any announced plans to address that. There’s nothing but IOUs in the Social Security Trust Fund. More than 90 million Americans are out of the workforce and obviously not contributing.
Meanwhile, there’s more than $12 billion in the Maine Public Employees Retirement Fund. It’s over 80% funded and Governor LePage has made provisions to steadily increase that percentage. Compared to retired teachers in other states like California and Illinois, my pension is meager and I can’t survive on it alone. Teachers and other public employees there get defined benefits that are two, three, and in some cases ten times what mine are, but those states are close to bankruptcy because of it. According to Forbes Magazine, Illinois has a $111 billion pension shortfall in 2016. Chicago’s alone is $9.5 billion. California had an unfunded pension liability of over $500 billion in 2014. It’s worse now despite Governor Moonbeam’s rosy reports on California fiscal situation.
Democrats have been running those states for generations. They’ve made commitments to public employee unions they knew couldn’t be kept. They also knew they’d be gone when the bills came due and they didn’t care. It’s called “kicking the can down the road.” They’re still kicking, but the end of the road is approaching fast. Should the federal government bail them out? Over my dead body.
I’m at that stage of life during which many of my contemporaries are dying or becoming debilitated with various aliments. I’m not what I used to be, but I’m doing well compared to most, and so is my wife. We both hate to exercise, but we do it anyway and it’s paying off. She also nags me about eating vegetables. Life is good, for now. I’ve been on Medicare since my last birthday and she goes on it in 2017when she turns 65. But Medicare is another kind of Ponzi scheme like Social Security. More and more are collecting it but the number paying in isn’t nearly keeping pace. Are our “leaders” in Washington addressing that? You know the answer.
President Obama has been patting himself on the back as his administration is about to end. When it does, he will have more than doubled our national debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. All I can do about that issue and the others outlined above above is write about them. I’ll keep on pointing it all out to people, most of whom don’t want to hear it. When I attend my granddaughter’s birthday next Saturday where all my other grandchildren will be, I’ll think about it but I won’t say anything. Why ruin a good party?