America's Seniors Are Not Cowards
February 5, 2005
By Mary Pitt
the public debate over the proposed "reform" of Social Security,
the Democrats are being accused of "trying to scare the old folks"
by opposing the eventual destruction of the most successful social
program in our history. It is said that the nation's senior citizens
are afraid of losing their benefits, and that fear is leading to
the opposition by the AARP and all other senior organizations.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
As a reminder for those with short memories, the people in question
comprise the "Greatest Generation" of which Tom Brokaw wrote
so glowingly. This generation began during the depth of the Great
Depression and, almost without exception, were intimately familiar
with the privations of their own families during that horrible ordeal.
Many recall the impoverishment of senior family members, grandparents
and, even, great-grandparents whom the parents of the children felt
obligated to help despite the poverty of their own nuclear families.
Virtually anybody born after 1925 has memories of living in conditions
that were far short of being desirable during those long, miserable
By the time this generation matured, the nation was at war and
they were called upon to defend freedom all around the globe. Many
fell in battle while others were maimed for life. The women who
were left behind became heroic in their own right, throwing off
the concept of "women's work" and going into factories and shipyards
to keep materiel flowing to their loved ones who were in danger.
The children of that generation also were deprived of the things
which we take for granted today. Food was rationed, money was scarce,
and toys were rare.
For those who are seniors today, poverty and want were facts of
life and they knew how to survive. They still do. While they do
not desire to return to that state, they know their strength as
well as their negative value in the current scheme of things. Few
are so selfish that they would want to deprive their descendants
of any of the pleasures which they currently enjoy in order to provide
for these aged relatives. Much of the standard of living which we
enjoy today should be credited to the fact that families no longer
have to support their elder members.
This generation of elders are not a bunch of pathetic little invalids,
cringing in nursing homes and hovels and crying for a public handout.
They are your parents and grandparents, strong and still very much
in charge of their lives and their decisions, in most cases, and
expecting the respect to which you were taught that they are entitled.
Their judgement and their actions have formed the framework of
your life up until now. They are the same people whom you tried
to convince that you were the perfect child, and they were there
to provide pennies and nickels and then the quarters, dollars, and
the "Benjamins" whenever you felt the need. They are the same people
with the ability to cut through your best fabrications and insist
that you tell the truth and then to help you to face the consequences.
They have lost loved ones to wars, to accidents, and to natural
causes, but they have continued to provide you with homes, love,
and other necessities of life, rearing the wealthiest, most pampered
generation in history.
However, they retain the wisdom which they have gained the hard
way. They have been conned by experts, survived wars and rumors
of wars, fallen for lies by previous politicians, (some of whom
they sent packing), and have developed their defenses against the
threats and promises of scoundrels.
They know that there is still almost two trillion dollars in the
"trust fund" in Treasury bonds that can be used to continue the
benefits far into the future. They know that the national debt has
been allowed to grow so large that it will be inconvenient for these
bonds to be redeemed. And they also know that defaulting on the
debt which these bonds represent is tantamount to declaring national
bankruptcy. Let's see them try that with China, our major national
creditor! They are not at all likely to accept the excuse that there
is no money to pay because American millionaires needed tax cuts.
Now the people in your government are trying to convince you that
you are in danger of having your money used to pay the benefits
for your parents because Congress and a long line of Presidents
have spent the money that was entrusted to them and cannot afford
to pay it back.
Seniors are also reasonable people. If the President had proposed
a national mutual fund system to which people could subscribe individually
in small increments, in addition to Social Security, they would
have applauded the opportunity for younger people to contribute
toward their own supplemental retirement income, since all other
plans have proven to be risky and unsatisfactory. But, in order
to do that, it should not be necessary to strip those same young
people of the safety net of Social Security in case of premature
death or disability.
They know of the sorts of disasters that can occur within families,
having experienced many of them on a personal level. Any family
has a possibility of having a developmentally disabled child, one
who is autistic, or one who suffers from a chronic childhood disease
that requires lifetime care. Even with an insignificant investment
in the stock market, the average family cannot afford to maintain
these dependent children.
Without the Survivors and Dependents provisions of the Social Security
system, the loss of the breadwinner would be no less than disastrous
and destructive to the entire family. It does little good to have
a retirement fund when you are unable to work and need disability
The Greatest Generation has watched with great pride as their
children and grandchildren emerged into the American work-place,
well educated and ambitious, gaining in stature and in wealth, and
knowing that the opportunites that they enjoy are made possible
by the fact that they did not have to quit school and go to work
in order to contribute to the care of their families, that they
are able to establish their own homes and families without concern
for any impoverished elders or dependent brothers and sisters.
No, the concerns of the senior citizens of America are not for
themselves. Their thoughts have always been concentrated on the
welfare of those who come after them. They have walked through the
fire and survived. They have saved the world for democracy. They
are empowered and they know it, and their energies are channeled
toward leaving our country and the world a better place.
To that end, they oppose the virtual destruction of a system that
has provided security for them and their parents, saving two generations
of Americans from the shame of inflicting grinding poverty upon
those they love.
On the other hand, they have paid into Social Security all their
working lives and have seen their money, in addition to the income
taxes that they have paid, pay for unbelievable growth in the American
economy and the flowering of prosperity throughout the land. They
are glad that the funds that were deposited in the United States
Treasury were safe, due to the "good faith and credit" of the nation.
Now they learn that there is no good faith in those in charge of
the government and the ballooning deficit has resulted in the loss
of the nation's credit. The payments that are being made by the
workers now is proposed to be used for paying current benefits,
leaving the funds that they themselves have paid over the years
as disposable income to the current government, an indebtedness
that will be subject to default rather than returned to the rightful
In addition, these people know from painful experience the foolhardiness
of relying for retirement income on the mercurial stock market,
on 401k's which are dependent on that market, or even on company
pensions plans which rely on honesty and the business savvy of the
directors of the corporations.
When those things fail, as they have been known to do, Social Security,
in its present form, is, has been, and will be an invaluable safety
net to guard against total impoverishment.
While privatizing Social Security to make it a part of "the ownership
society" may impress those who are still wet behind the ears and
willing to buy into the get-rich-quick promises of a bunch of vacuum
cleaner salesmen, it is important that those with intent to harm
the program under the guise of "reform" understand that our seniors
will not be led astray by their lies or by their assurances.
Furthermore, these are not the sort of people to whom one can
lie with impunity. They are experienced in inter-personal relationships
and have been lied to by all sorts of con men and bull**** salesmen.
They have demonstrated the fact that they are not buying the hokum
that is currently being fed to them in an effort to con the American
people once again.
It would behoove the President and the Congress to pay attention
to their protests. They do vote, more reliably than any other component
of the electorate and are quite ready, willing, and able to offer
tickets home for any elected representative that dares threaten
their families and the American way of life.
If this effort to destroy the most stable and effective program
of the governmental system in our history continues, a regime change
could be taking place in Washington, beginning with the next election.
Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and
active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation
family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with
a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Comments and criticism may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.