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Blue Model Blues
Gray Lady Sings the Blues

The social safety net for the elderly is under strain in developed countries, according to the NYT:

As governments of most industrial nations try to restore long-term financial stability to their pension systems — raising the retirement age, linking benefits more closely to workers’ contributions and the like — there is a growing risk, as the O.E.C.D.’s secretary general, José Ángel Gurría, put it, “that future pensions will not be sufficient.”

This is hardly a shock: Demographics, like ocean liners, move slowly and can be spotted from afar. On top of that, the lackluster growth and high unemployment experienced across much of the Western world in the last few years is going to make it much harder for young workers who expect to retire around midcentury from accumulating enough money to sustain a decent living standard in old age.

That all raises a question that seems to be studiously avoided in polite policy conversations: Is old-age poverty going to pick up again?

In this story, NYT is facing what everybody knows: The retirement systems of the 20th century won’t work in the 21st. U.S. retirees will see declining social security payments after 2035, according to the story, and the private retirement system isn’t working for many people. Additionally, citizens of developed countries continue to do two things that make it hard for retirement systems to work effectively: live longer and have fewer kids. The problem is worse in Europe than it is in the U.S. But even here, without substantial changes in the way we handle old age, the current retirement system will not give millennials and even many Gen Xers the security they need.

It is a good sign that even a deep blue news source like the NYT acknowledges the retirement problem. The shift from the old way of organizing basic social institutions to something that can work in the emerging new world of the information age will only happen as partisan blues gradually and painfully face up to the reality that change is inevitable.

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  • Jim__L

    “Additionally, citizens of developed countries continue to do two things
    that make it hard for retirement systems to work effectively: live
    longer and have fewer kids. ”

    We need a fourth wave of feminism that values young motherhood again.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      That would not be seen as “feminism” by the feminists though. Children, especially white children are not a sign of progress to them, but something retrograde. Mankind needs to be extinguished so that Mother Gaia can live in peace.

      • Jim__L

        /shrug. The vast majority of First-wavers would probably be deeply ashamed of their great-grandchildren. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pendulum swings back and the next few generations are deeply ashamed of this generation.

  • iconoclast

    I thought allowing mass immigration was the solution preferred by the elites. Isn’t allowing in millions of uneducated Muslims working out as planned in Europe?

    • Dagnabbit_42

      Seems to be working out fine, for folks who live in gated communities, have armed bodyguards, send hired hands to do their shopping.

      You know: Your betters.

      Granted, the little people seem unsettled by it all, but the periodic emotional outbursts of the hoi polloi can and should be disregarded.

      Also, let them eat cake.

      • iconoclast

        Charles the First might have some advice for our ‘betters’.

        • Jim__L

          One hopes that they will pay attention to a man who was 5 feet 6 inches tall, rather than a man who was 4 foot 8 inches tall. I’m sure there are Trump supporters willing to entertain the idea of charges of Tyranny these days, but please bear in mind Robespierre might have some advice for those Trump supporters.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Yes, it is working exactly as the elite planned! Europe is becoming the multicultural paradise that our social and moral superiors want us to have. They have just started classes for young Muslim men, to explain to them that most Norwegian women – for some strange reason – don’t look upon violent rape as part of this new social progress. However, in Sweden, the government more or less tells all the Swedish women who are being raped in places like Malmo that in effect, they need to take one for the team. Unfortunately, then women who are gang raped then murdered, well, they don’t get a say.

      Meanwhile is culturally cozy Great Britain, there have been about 1,400 girls who have been raped by “East Asian” men (that means Pakistanis in future speak) over a ten year period and for a long while the only people prosecuted were the parents who – for some strange reason – didn’t see mass rape as a sign of progress as their Labour M.C. and the police did. None of this has received much attention in the media, much less than the burning of a Koran or a Danish cartoon, because what’s a little rape now and then. The police did not want to encourage any “immigrant sentiment.”

      But Europe is not alone, because the States are progressing to progressive progress themselves and increasingly having the same families of Muslims with their girls and women hermetically sealed in burlap sacks. It is of course not “progressive” to hold the view that fundamentalist Islam and the Sharia law its adherents desire is incompatible with western values. There was a post at the Washington Post or New York times a week or so ago that stated that “I would rather live under Sharia, than under Conservative Christians.” The fact that it was conservative Christians, people from Christian backgrounds that read Locke, Smith, Hume and Burke and Montesquieu, the same people who knowledgeable conservatives admire, who have them the right to free speech, the rest of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and the freest nation in the history of the world. The progressives make these comparisons of the Tea Party to ISIS and conservatives to the Taliban, that they actually begin to believe their own rhetoric.

      In Texas, according to the Department of Public Safety, there were 3,000 murders by illegal aliens over a six year period. This is just in one state. Now, clearly not all illegal aliens or even a majority of them are criminals, let alone murderers, but does Texas or the United States really need more seasoned drug Cartel killers? Does it need even one more? Should that be on an H-1 application?

      Mass immigration to Western Europe and the United States is the issue of our time. Multiculturalism is of course a sham, but it is just a stalking horse, a convenient tool, a lever, being used to justify mass immigration of poor, largely uneducated and dependent people from the third world to Europe and the United States. The elite in Sweden hate the Swedes just as much as the elite in the states hate the average American. And they all seem to hate Western Cvilization and so through mass immigration, they intend to cut the west down to size and punish it for its sins, pitting race against race, culture against culture and ethnicity against ethnicity, so that eventually the blood will run and Europe and the United States will descend into chaos.
      And out of the mass mayhem and chaos, apparently some sort of leftist utopia is supposed to blossom, like it did in North Korea or Cuba or the Soviet Union.

      The zealous Salafist Muslims want to kill us all so they can go to paradise – 72 virgins for the boys, one good stiffy for the girls is what the Mullahs say – but the progressives want us to kill each other so they can have paradise here.

      • iconoclast

        Wow! Great rant!

        I do love how progressives are so unaware that they want all the benefits of a Christian/classical liberal culture while working hard to destroy that same culture.

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          Yes, cause we know the world would be in such better shape without the Dead White Males and Western Civilization and of course Christianity, so throw out most of the great music and great art. As Saul Bellow used to say, “Show Me the Zulu Tolstoy, I’d like to Meet Him.”

          • Jim__L

            The answer to that is, “The Zulu Tolstoy is Tolstoy.”

            I’m a fan of classical antiquity — of the Roman Republicans, of the values and the intellect. At the time, my ancestors were the devils of Teutoberg forest who nailed legionnaire’s heads to trees. I’m a fan of British history — again, the values and the intellect. My ancestors? The axe-murdering pirate slavers who pulled people’s lungs out while they were still alive for sport.

            The thinkers were not my people. Yet, I (and anyone else!) can claim them for my own, and SHOULD do so.

            The idea that assimilation of another culture’s ideas and great thinkers is a bad idea, or that cultural appropriation is inappropriate, is quite simply a mental deficiency. How did Arminius lead his troops to victory over Varus’ legions? How did Japan avoid China’s fate? How did America assimilate the hordes of Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, Irish (and the rest, who are not of my “stock”), to become the most powerful country on Earth?

            None of this is possible for people who are not willing to identify with the “default”. Fortunately, the inability to identify with the protagonist in a story if that protagonist doesn’t look like you is a learned stupidity, one that typically takes careful training in a “consciousness raising” environment.

            It’s a bad idea that will fall of its own dead weight. And I don’t think it will necessarily take America, or even Europe, down with it. There is still hope, right up until the moment the axe falls.

            Despair is a sin for a reason. Keep hoping, keep hustling, keep at it!

            If the deeply chauvinistic Meiji government of Japan could adopt Western ways to its own advantage, if China can provide the world with so many effective industrialists (and excellent performers of Western Classical music), literally *anyone* can adopt Westernism.

            Ignore the Western students (and their arrested-development professors) throwing temper tantrums, and look at where real progress is being made. Westernism will survive, and will recolonize the Old Countries sooner or later. And don’t give up on it being sooner. We’re not dead yet.

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            Well expressed and I concur. It is a preposterous notion to ignore the incredible progress that has been made since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution a scant quarter of a millennium ago.

            The philosophical system, religion, economic system, legal system, cosmopolitanism as well as geographical advantages meant that virtually all of the world’s progress was made in a small handful of nations, especially the United Kingdom, the United States and France and the entire world is the better for it. Nothing of course runs smoothly and no progress is without trade-offs and many all too human losses, but the progress made in Western Europe, the United States and the U.K. has now lifted much of the world out of abject poverty. On the other hand, the nations and peoples who have not experienced a rising ride usually have their own endemic corruption, tribalism, as well as the self-induced paralysis, isolation and homicidal hostility of hundreds of millions of adherents of one religion – Islam – to thank for their backwardness.

            The few successes the Islamic world has had in the past half century have of course not been in any way, shape or forum of their own making, but because of the simple fact that they have a single exploitable resource, oil and even this was discovered, developed and distributed by Western Europeans and the thanks they get is for the same two-faced petty, head-chopping tyrants to secretly fund Jihad and send radical clerics to sew discord and bomb the non-believers.

            I and my comrades in Europe do fight and do speak out against Islamist Terror and people I know live in save houses because of it. The risk is tremendous. If I were one to give up, I would not work to spread awareness of the horrors of militant Islam and work to wake Americans up to the unholy marriage of radical Islam and the radical left, who make common cause against the west. But times are bleak because the left now runs the Deep State, virtually every government bureaucracy in every western nation as well as the mis-educational system. They all work assiduously each and every day to destroy all the progress we have made over the past two hundred and fifty years.

            My father fought against the National Socialists and experienced the Soviet Union first hand in 1944/1945, so I never had any illusions about these two great evils of the left. I grew up around displaced persons, refugees and those who fled the Nazis and the Communists and my father campaigned against Castro until he died. I had my own experiences in the old DDR, so I saw the world of the Stasi and communists first hand. The west beat back those challenges, but now we are faced with the noxious, bespawling, bobolyne, gnashgabs of the left, who have poisoned our system and have worked to destroy us through the massive immigration of millions of people who are in direct opposition to our system and our values, that is when they don’t want to engage in the mass rape of our women and murder our men. So, it’s a tall order now, but it all has to start by putting a stop to unchecked, unchallenged immigration, especially from the lands of the Mohammedans.

  • Anthony

    Organizing economic activity (institutions/people) to emerging new world conditions may not be such a new idea – its been point of societal tension before. The Grey Lady may be singing the blues but it’s only the latest rendition of an old tune.

    A book, “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth” ask whether progress (material and moral) is inevitable. It concludes that neither economic nor moral progress is to be taken for granted. The New York Times piece proceeds logically in that both creation and sustainability of social insurance, i.e., pensions, ought not be taken for granted.

    On the other hand, “within the lifetime of any person, or generation, whether progress occurs depends in large part on the choices and actions people take, both individually and collectively.” If that be the case and reality of change is inevitable as post asserts, then we can presume retirement policy applies and connection between society and progress will continue to be meliorated.

    • Jim__L

      Ameliorated at whose expense? Will they be able to afford to pay? Will there even be enough of them to pay? If immigration from poorer countries (i.e., everywhere else) is to solve our problems, who is to say that the immigrants will see the Boomers’ retirement expectations as reasonable? As for native-born children, what if the Boomers’ expectations are mutually exclusive with the expectations of the rising, working (sandwich) generation?

      “Organized economic activity” (how is this different from Big Government?) will not be able to solve problems if the resources aren’t there — and the social policies of the Left are destroying those resources everywhere we look. Eurosocialism is hostile to the having of children, plain and simple. I deal with a lot of Europeans all the time, and the news from “utopian” Sweden say that Swedes typically live alone in an apartment, because social ties get so attenuated in a Big Government welfare state.

      On a more positive note, can the Left not see any value in non-material benefits of having meaningful emotional connections (children, grandchildren) as an essential value in old age?
      “Organized economic activity” is no replacement for Family. Period.

      • Anthony

        What! Reread post; writer suggest organized…

        • Jim__L

          Anthony, your syntax is frequently garbled, and many of your comments lack sufficient detail to communicate the ideas you’re trying to get across.

          • Anthony

            Two things: 1) I have no idea what you writing about beyond some personal frustration; 2) Jim, like I do with your material bypass and ignore (I shared as much upon your return months ago – nothing fundamentally has change; And most importantly, please don’t compare yourself with ronetc – he had something to contribute). End this my friend, thanks.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Don’t wrestle with a pig, you will get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it…

            A very Merry Christmas to you…

          • Anthony

            Scott, here’s better advise since the pig is verboten to some cultures and religions: “the stranger among you should be as one born among you and you shall love him as yourself.” Now if you celebrate the Holy Days, Merry Christmas to you!

  • 2035 is wildly optimistic. It assumes, as nearly all federal projections do, a return to the mean for all good things. Growth, for one, is to return, not to 4% but to an AVERAGE of 4%. To regain that average we will need 8% growth…. for years. Anybody think that is happening? Forward.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Yes, it’s all based on wildly optimistic assumptions, but any time a politician speaks about even extending the working years in the corrupt Social Security system they are pilloried. It’s all headed for a collapse, but a complete collapse of Western Europe and the United States in order to punish the west for its sins seems to be the general plan anyway.

      • Curious Mayhem

        Maybe so. We used to get reform periodically, though — we got Social Security/Medicare reform in 1983 (Reagan even accepted a tax increase that time!), a splendid tax reform in 1986 (that Congress has now ruined), and welfare reform in 1996 (that Obama has worked hard to undermine, to keep the otherwise unemployed out of the labor force and official statistics).

        Whatever happened to that?

    • Curious Mayhem

      Yes, it is absurdly optimistic. Medicare will be bankrupt by the end of this decade, and Social Security by the end of the next. We won’t need to wait til 2035.

      • peterjohn936

        Can’t actually go bankrupt since it depends on a tax on current earnings. What you meant to say is that they will run a deficit. Of course that can easily be fixed by doing all of the followings: Raise the Minimum Wage, Raise the Tax Rate, Lower the Benefits, Raise the Income Cap. Problem solved.

        • Curious Mayhem

          What I meant was that the Medicare trust fund will be empty. It’s already been running a current deficit for a while. The same will happen with Social Security: some time in the next few years, it too will start running in the red on an annual basis, then its trust fund will empty out by the end of the 2020s.

          Of course it’s not hard to solve these impending crises, at least in principle. But the political will is not yet there, in part because “progressives” largely still have their heads in the sand about it. Raising the minimum wage is not a solution, as it will reduce employment in low-wage jobs, especially for younger workers — we’ve already had a major decline in the 25-44-age labor force participation; we don’t need more of that.

          It’s been clear for decades what the simple solutions are: reduce benefits, especially by means-testing; raise the retirement age, which is something that should happen for other reasons anyway; raise the salary cap on the FICA tax, although it’s a regressive tax on jobs. Some newer and potentially powerful solutions include replacing FICA with a national sales tax or VAT, as was done in Canada in the 1990s (it was pretty unpopular); making a concerted effort to change Americans’ diet while they’re younger to reduce their intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars (the source of so many conditions of aging, from diabetes to heart problems).

          My preference is a mix of means-testing benefits (it’s a scandal that they aren’t already); raising the retirement age (which is already happening, just not fast enough); replacing FICA; and abolishing the AHA and Ag Dept’s idiotic “food pyramid” and promotion of low-fat, high-carb diets.

          • Jim__L

            It’s no scandal — you would cost the program a lot of support if you made it means-tested. From a certain point of view the whole point of the exercise was to unify Americans across classes — if you pay in, you get benefits because you paid in, no matter if you’re rich or poor.

            Short term: raise the retirement age, pop the high-income cap off of FICA taxes. Longer term: develop a plan for individuals to be able to direct a portion of their FICA contributions to a 401k plan. Social Security is “part of this balanced breakfast” so to speak, so it shouldn’t be ended, but anyone with the least sense that true compassion requires prudence should be spreading the word that the current system not ideal — or even sustainable.

          • peterjohn936

            No one has ever proved that raising the minimum wages drastically increases unemployment. All the studies done have indicated no effect.

            VAT increases the cost of goods which lowers production which lowers employment. VAT is a bad idea. Income tax of the rich is a good idea since that money was never going to be spent anyway.

            The problem with mean testing is that Social Security then becomes welfare. And we know what happen to welfare.

  • AdrianCrownauer

    Except of course, your analysis ignores what everyone also knows, the money is out there to fix the problems. Lift the cap on SS payroll taxes and the program is then funded as it should be.

  • It is a good sign that even a deep blue news source like the NYT acknowledges the retirement problem.

    Beware the next step: their “suggestions for improvement.” They’re bound to be along the lines of Teresa Ghilarducci’s proposal that all 401(k) accounts and private pensions be confiscated and annexed to Social Security.

    A left-liberal organ like the Times can occasionally pretend to good sense but such pretenses seldom last for very long.

  • peterjohn936

    Another factor is that most businesses do not provide a guarantee pension anymore. And interest rates on safe investments are so low that it is difficult to create a nest egg for retirement.

  • bittman

    I guess this means that the NYT no longer believes that the government has kept the funds in a secured lock box in spite of the Democrats having insisted for decades that this lockbox truly existed.

  • Andrew Allison

    This is a demographic problem, pure and simple. The solution is obvious: increase retirement age to reflect increased longevity and increase the FICA tax to force people who who refuse to save to do so.

  • teapartydoc

    Western countries are going broke because the high cost of health care has made the welfare state necessary. This is because health care in all of these countries is a hyperregulated monopoly, and this in turn is due to medical licensing.
    The only way out of this is to drop occupational licensing for health care.
    Medical licensing delenda est.

  • PhonecardMike

    I am 56 and have been paying into SS for 36 years. I wonder how much I would have in my retirement account if I could have kept 50% and allowed it to grow and compound.

    That is the system we need to go to so we can slowly allow the current retirees to live off of SS until no is left on this political football. However, the Democrats keep telling us the system if fine and won’t allow any adjustment to even be discussed.

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