Sunday, August 02, 2015

Are benefits for today's seniors impoverishing millennials?


Steven Rattner has an op-ed in the New York Times, Sunday, August 2, 2015, p. 3 in Review Section, “Making life too hard for millennials”, link here.

Despite having more college education, the younger generation makes less and has less net worth and more debt.  Arguably, that’s because of policies that spend more money on seniors, for benefits seniors didn’t completely earn on their own before.

We heard a lot of that during two separate spoofs over the debt ceiling, in 2011 and 2014. The question of means testing Social Security would then come up, as would the question as to whether Social Security benefits are an earned annuity (paid for by FICA taxes over the years) or a welfare benefit.  In a practical sense, seniors perceive the former, legally, it’s more the latter.

Two big things stand out in my own situation.  One is how wasteful Medicare can be.  I don’t go to the doctor often for small things.  Why?  I know the doctor will feel obliged to do a cascade of tests, possibly finding things I am just as well off not knowing in practice.  At 72, momentum works to my advantage.  Spending for my mother, who passed at 97, was really excessive and unsustainable.

Another is the complexity (and ambiguity) of tax codes, including states that have an income tax.  Both federal and state (VA) have tripped over my amended return (which I filed after noting I had missed a few securities paying dividends, trying to return about $130 to each jurisdiction); the state wanting forms that don’t even exist.  The time I spend on matters that make very little difference in the total amount owed gets ridiculous.  And I was even pressured to become a tax preparer myself!
  
One more point, mentioned in Rattner’s piece, is neglect of infrastructure, which affects my ability to be productive my own way in retirement, and certainly affects the job market for top wage earners.

In the meantime, I can go to imdb and note the resumes of both Gregory Smith and Richard Harmon, both young and both whom I know, and say to them, “you’re paying for my Social Security” by working on so many movies and TV shows by such a young age.  They’re both Canadians, supporting ME. 

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