Last Saturday I demonstrated my love to my mother (Hi, Mom!) by missing my daughter's first basketball game of the season, a Ladies Retreat meeting, and a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in February to sit in on a 4-hour seminar on the public employees retirement system (PERS) for upcoming retirees. Did I mention this seminar was in a windowless room and nearly every other person present was retirement age?
I learned several important details about PERS that I hadn't known before, not least of which was that if I had been smart I would have started working as a public employee in Oregon prior to 1996.
The best part of the seminar, however, was the second half, in which an extremely small, energetic financial planner gave lots of financial bad news with unholy glee. Honestly, none of it was really news to me. I work in the financial industry, so I'm well aware of the issues our nation and our world are facing on the economic front. I did really love a graphic she used in her presentation, though, and I wanted to share it here.
If I can direct your attention to the graphic at left, I will point out something that I think every American of all political persuasions needs to understand. See the tower on the left? That's our federal spending. That really big chunk at the bottom? That's Medicare and Medicaid. That biggish section in the middle? That's Social Security. Everything else . . . EVERYTHING ELSE that the federal government spends money on is in the top two sections, and that includes defense.
Now look at the tower on the right. The black areas are all the revenues the federal government brings in. I'd like to point out to you that all those revenues are not enough to even pay for Social Security & Medicare. See that? We can cut expenses out the wazoo, but if we don't do something to change revenues or those neat programs that take care of our parents (Hi, Mom!), we are sinking into a deep quagmire of debt at an amazing rate.
In the last issue of Newsweek, Eleanor Clift had an interesting column highlighting the findings of the Simpson-Bowles commission (and subsequent inaction) that gives a little more information on the political side of this, but I hate politics, so I'm not going to go there. You can, though.
The bottom line is that we're going to have to do something daring and innovative in order to balance the federal budget. We're going to have to cut spending (a lot) and raise revenues (probably also a lot).
This is why I don't run for political office. This is probably also why all the characters in my novels end up with superpowers whether I originally intended it or not. Sometimes we just need some superpowers.