Dispatch From the Class War | Letters | Chicago Reader

Dispatch From the Class War 

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To the editors:

Richard Jackson caught Bruce Chapman ["Policy: The Last Days of the Baby Boom"] with a standard Conservative Con: describe a real problem, then promote "solutions" which have nothing to do with the problem but do redistribute income to the rich.

First, the problem. "By 2020 the share of the population that is over 65 will have doubled." Fewer workers will have to produce for more retirees.

Note that the only variables are the amount produced and the level of retirees' consumption. If retired boomers live off their Social Security, their private pension plans, their savings, their children, they still consume what others are producing. We can't bake the bread now, put it in a freezer, and eat it in 2030.

Fake solution. Jackson advocates "government incentives to save," especially IRAs, and paying Social Security to those still working after 65.

IRAs are usually misrepresented as enabling savings of ordinary workers. Joe Taxpayer can't save a dime, the government promises that he can take $300 off his income taxes (SS taxes, a bigger chunk of his money, are never lessened for IRAs) if he saves $2,000. Suddenly, he finds $1,700 which he couldn't have found otherwise, saves it and the subsidy, and he has $2,000 in the bank.

What happens more often is this. Sam Taxavoider has loads of investments he inherited. He takes $2,000 of this and calls it an IRA. Uncle Sugar gives him $560 for changing the name of his investment. He goes off and has a night on the town. The treasury borrows the $560 from the Japanese.

Working after 65 is mostly a class issue. If you are a lawyer, other professional, or an executive, the idea looks good. You can slow down--nobody checks up on you, anyway. The work is pleasant. Giving orders is even more pleasant after 65, taking them is harder. The guy on the assembly line, the clerk or secretary, the army of hamburger flippers that Reaganomics created, don't want to keep going. So Jackson urges us to pay more to the top brackets who stay on the job. But the problem was that there were too few resources for all the retirees. The solution is to give those scarce resources to comfortable nonretirees. This is a solution???

While there is no real solution, there are palliatives.

Since the federal government must take an enormous percentage of production for Social Security from 2020 through 2050, it should take as little as possible for other purposes. That means especially: the federal debt (not merely the deficit) should be pared down to a minimum over the next 30 years, and the public infrastructure should be spanking new and in need of little repair by the time that process begins. The work force of that period, the kids in school today, should be as productive as possible. Not only government, but industry as well, should be paying as little in interest and dividends as possible: workers have not only to produce for retirees but for all other receivers of interest.

A comparison of Jackson's proposals and mine will show that (1) he is using the coming crisis to divide those who are going to go under from those who are not, and proposes the government resources be used to increase the differences; and (2) the Reagan-Bush agenda is a lot closer to his proposal than to mine.

I'll be accused of preaching class war. Actually, class war has been waged since before 1980; the people fighting it just don't want it mentioned.

Frank Palmer

W. Argyle

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