For the first time in history, more folks receive Social Security benefits than pay into the program. This means the cliff we feared and failed to address is here, and we are staring down the barrel of the Social Security program’s demise. Social Security is no longer a reliable safety net for my generation and those born after me. My generation is one of the first where pensions are largely unavailable to sustain a secure baseline financial future and we are left to our own savings for retirement. But anyone who thinks that a 401k is the answer to a satisfying retirement is fooling themselves; 401ks are subject to stock market fluctuation, and even if you save $1 million, that’s the equivalent of about $40,000 annually you can safely withdraw.
Income taxes, property taxes and health care will eat a large chunk of those funds, leaving many “millionaires” impoverished in retirement. The fact is we need Social Security. There are several options available to fix the Social Security program including: taxing income regardless of the amount earned (currently Social Security tax is only paid on incomes up to $132,900 and then ceases), increasing the recipient age for folks born after 1970 to 70 (since we are supposed to live into our 90s anyway), and allowing for a paid family leave component to be incorporated into the program to encourage the young to procreate responsibly, which adds more payers for long term stability.
Our nation’s debt surpassed $21 trillion with no downward adjustment on the horizon. Government continues to spend more than it receives in revenues. I know a few folks who chose to max out their credit cards in preparation for bankruptcy. That way, they could buy everything they wanted now, knowing they would not owe the debt in bankruptcy as the government forced creditors to forgive the debt if their income could not cover the debt payments. I also know folks who spend tax refunds on brand new big screen TVs rather than past due rent or mortgages. I have always been bothered by this approach to bankruptcy and consumerism, but I can see that the logic may follow “if the government does it why shouldn’t I?” The reality is however, the government can’t bail itself out when it has maxed out its credit; China isn’t going to forgive the debt.
With Democrats holding the House and Republicans holding the Senate, finding bipartisan issues to resolve is a far better alternative to gridlock. Since neither party wants to be responsible for elders starving in the streets, perhaps instead of focusing on hating/defending President Donald Trump, reelection prospects, and party power plays, the focus should be on resolving issues lethal to America.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.