The Most Privileged Americans

Income insecurity is not an important problem for retired Americans.  Not at present.  In fact, it’s just the opposite. Retired Americans probably enjoy more income security than the vast majority of people around the world and throughout history.

I’m a retired American on the brink of 70. I’m not wealthy or even affluent, but neither am I poor or insecure. I’m very grateful for the life and security I enjoy at this point.

The most privileged people in the world today are the following:

  1. The top one percent or five percent of Americans. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line. Maybe it’s the top 20 percent or 40 percent.
  2. Most elderly and retired Americans. (However, it must also be acknowledged that too many Americans, including elderly Americans, remain trapped in poverty.)

Just my opinion.

Some people reportedly believe that older Americans are a wealthy class, living the high life at the expense of impoverished children and struggling younger adults. That’s because we enjoy remarkable income security, thanks to Social Security and Medicare. Many of us also have some pension benefits and even some savings. Younger and middle-aged Americans are rightly skeptical that they will enjoy similar benefits. The stage is set for intergenerational contention. The future is impossible to predict. The income security of younger generations is a matter of politics and economics, and I don’t want to go there. At least not today.

What I want is to present an honest picture about the realities of retired life. It’s not all about money. It’s true that many will need to cut back spending and lifestyle to be in balance with our retirement income. But my previous post about income and spending may have left an incorrect impression linking income and spending issues entirely with retirement. In fact, people can suffer a sudden loss of income at any time in life, and for myriad reasons. Loss of job, divorce, recession, business failure, and illness, to name a few.

Most of the natural world and human life run in cycles. It’s Biblical. Seven wet years and seven dry years. And so forth. The business cycle of expansion and recession is notorious and causes much misery. Financial consequences can be cumulative. An adjustment of income and spending at retirement is simply a part of the much larger cycle of human life. It may be that we are at the peak of the Social Security and Medicare cycle. I hope not.

I will turn soon to lighter subject matter.

— John


2 thoughts on “The Most Privileged Americans

  1. One of the things that has gotten under my skin for years is the tendency for the conservatives to weaponize the intergenerational divide on exactly this point. Young people are coached to resent paying into a system that offers a stable, predictable income stream and health coverage for people over 65, while those younger enjoy no such security or privilege. The logical thing would seem to be to lift everyone up, but instead we get subjected to this rhetoric suggesting that old people are parasites.

    Medicare, though it works pretty well, could be better managed and our end-of-life medical practices could be made simultaneously less costly and more humane by greater acceptance of palliative care (Barbara Bush may have opened this subject up in a way that hasn’t been done previously through her own end-of-life choice to be “comfortable” rather than endure resuscitations and overtreatment). But most of these problems come from the greed of the for-profit system, which the conservative crowd insist is always the best way — the market, the market, the market.

    I think the market is all of us and our government elected officials and agencies are the ones that need to satisfy it. Once again it all comes down to voting. Lord knows the wealth exists in this country to allow everyone just a decent standard of living. I read yesterday that the world’s billionaires made enough in the past year to eliminate extreme poverty seven times over, though I can’t quote you the exact numbers. People have been brainwashed into believing in absolute scarcity.


    • Thank you!! “Weaponize the intergenerational divide.” Perfectly said! We Americans and our politicians have perfected the techniques for finding and irritating every sore point that divides us. This intergenerational one scares me. I hesitated to even bring up doubts about the future of Social Security and Medicare because I think it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. I agree that we should lift everyone up. Extend Medicare to everyone by gradually reducing the eligibility age to 55, then 45, etc. I’ve always been optimistic that we could do it. But as I get older, I find myself more and more cynical. I’ve become pessimistic that the self-fulfilling prophesy will win. Politics has been poisoned and our economic system seems intentionally mean and committed to concentration of wealth. Despite my cynicism, we need to fight the good fight for economic justice. Thank you again for your clarity.

      Liked by 2 people

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