Back in the late 1990s, during the internet bubble, Crabby Old Lady’s 20-something colleagues were all invested in Wall Street. Over lunch and after-work conviviality, they spoke of buying and selling online, of their personal trading accounts, of their gains - which were sometimes eye-popping - and they exhorted Crabby to join the game.
“Ever heard of the Wall Street crash in 1929?” Crabby asked the group. A nod or two around the table. “How about the crash of 1987?” Blank stares.
To Crabby, Wall Street is no more than the world’s biggest gambling casino in which the odds are rigged in favor of institutional investors and people of wealth. Anybody remember Enron? Worldcom? Martha Stewart? Last year’s mutual funds scandal? Yes, a couple of people went to jail, but they didn't lose their ill-gotten gains, and there are a lot of older people who lost all their retirement investments. No one writes stories about how they're getting by now. They are forgotten in their impoverished retirement or greeter jobs at Wal-mart at $7 an hour.
Crabby’s young friends lost most, if not all, of their gains and their initial investments when technology stocks tanked in 1999/2000 but at least, unlike older people, they have another 40 years or so to make up their losses.
Imagine that part of your otherwise safe retirement funds (Social Security) were invested in the stock market and it crashed the day before your official retirement. Are you willing to risk that for yourself? For your children and grandchildren? You had better be if President Bush succeeds in his quest to privatize Social Security.
Mr. Bush assures us that only those workers younger than 55 will be allowed to invest a portion of their Social Security payroll tax in the stock market and in doing so, is trying to divide the nation by age so that older folks, who vote in greater numbers than younger people and are more likely to pressure their representatives, will go along.
His success is dependent on younger people believing their retirement is so far in the future they can’t imagine it (you can remember that, can’t you?), and on having no memory or knowledge of the downside of the stock market.
Next week, during the Congressional recess for Presidents’ Day, Democratic representatives will fan out in their districts around the country to hold hundreds of town meetings and other events on Social Security privatization. If there’s one in your area, do try to attend. And bring a young person with you.
It may be, though not certain yet, that privatization would leave older folks’ Social Security benefits unchanged, but that is not the point. Crabby Old Lady believes it is the solemn responsibility of older folks to help protect the future of younger generations who haven’t lived long enough yet to accumulate our knowledge and experience, and who may not realize the real risks to them of privatization. Those promoting it are counting on us not caring enough to speak up.
Tell the president and your Washington legislators what you want at this website. Do it today and do it often. There is power in numbers.
...to be continued...