Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dear Mr. President: Please save our (babyboomer) butts!!

Dear President Obama,
Now that you are beyond the election, now that you've dodged December's fiscal cliff and are into your second term, here are FIVE THINGS I'd like you to do on behalf of retiring baby boomers.
1. Deal with Social Security. The solution is rather straightforward....raise the Social Security eligibility age to 68 or 70 for those 55 or younger. Get together with Congress and make it happen. We Americans are living 20, 25 years longer than when Social Security was first set up. The program can not afford to start giving people retirement benefits as early as age 62...Not with the average life expectancy for women 80-plus, and for men near 80. A later retirement age insures that Social Security will be around for another generation or two.
For more, read this New York Times article, click here.
2. Rein in Medicare. Yes, I like the Medicare health insurance benefit at 65 but maybe that age eligibility should also be raised to 68 or 70. Secondarily don't pay for this program on the backs of front-line caregivers who are only paid 80 percent of the going discounted cost of care. All this does is push insurance premiums for the unemployed and for the self-employed. It is ruining hospital budgets not meant to carry this burden of the uninsured.
Again the solution is straightforward....raise the eligibility age for Medicare benefits, allow the federal government to negotiate drug costs, require that wealthy retirees pay more of their own health care costs and tighten up eligibility requirements for the disabled. Disability entitlement programs are out of control. All this has been studied. Just do it.
3. Reform the federal tax code. Stop playing brinkmanship with tax policy. More than 60 percent of all taxpayers hire someone to do their taxes. It shouldn't be that way, says national columnist Michelle Singletary. According to the experts, tax rates could be substantially lowered in exchange for ending tax breaks and deductions. The bureaucratic tax nightmare is turning us all into cynical citizens out to "beat" the system.
4. Devise a sensible national energy policy that spells out the trade-offs we are making to bring more alternative and "green" energy into our system. We've turned environmentalism into a religion without any consideration for the thousands of family-wage jobs being lost to higher energy costs related to alternative energy. Every electric bill in the nation is going up. That's a growing burden for low-income and retired people who are struggling to remain in their homes. Higher power bills, higher-priced fuel-efficient vehicles, even more expensive light bulbs are all pushing people out of the middle class. For more, click here. Or click here.
And make sure you and Congress understand the consequences of declining federal fuel tax revenue. No I don't like the idea of paying a tax on the miles I drive. Again that puts the burden on those who live in rural or suburban areas who must commute because they can't afford to live in high-cost urban areas in fancy high rises. Energy efficiency is a great idea....let's make sure it's cost-effective for our entire economy. It's nice to have unreliable wind power in the power system mix but at twice the cost of reliable natural gas? I'm not so sure.
5. Reform government. Neither national political party wants to tackle this issue. Elected representatives must look at consolidation, streamlining and over-haul. All scary words to those on the federal payroll. The reality is that we baby boomers have been living on borrowed money for the past 25 years as we drained equity out of our houses, borrowed money to send our kids to college, buy new cars and vacation houses. All that borrowed money is spent.
The reality is that we're broke and the sooner something is done to right the economic ship, the better.
In Athens, Greece this winter, people are burning their furniture to keep warm because their pensions have been cut and their government jobs eliminated. Tough medicine. We are in a much better situation but we've just barely started to solve the problem of government overspending and inefficiency. Reform must come for us....just take it slow and steady. As the non-government economy improves we will feel less pain when government jobs go away.
As someone who would like to have a reasonable retirement by living off my savings and investments, Social Security and part-time work, I call on you Mr. President to find common ground for reform.
Thanks for listening.

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