November 22, 2020

Imagine If We Treated All Problems This Way: No, Wait. We Do.

We notice a 5-year-old child is struggling with reading. We assume she'll figure it out in time so we ignore the problem. 

By 10 she has fallen behind all her classmates in her ability to comprehend the words in her books. and is at risk of being kept back a grade.

The teacher suggests she spend more time practicing her reading and a little less on video games. Her parents don't seem all that concerned.

At nineteen she finally graduates and tries for a job at a local restaurant but can't read the IRS's W-4 form properly, or even parts of the menu. The owner agrees to use pictures instead of words for each menu item. After all, we are a very visual society.

Far Fetched? Maybe, or maybe not.

Now, take that train of thought and apply it to some of the mess we face in our country at the moment.

The Covid pandemic is sickening 150,000 each day...I say that again...EACH DAY. It has killed over 260,000. The response from tens of millions? It is no biggie. I haven't gotten sick so what's the problem. Wear a mask? And look weak? Restrict my freedoms? This is America. I am free to get sick and make you sick. Where are the hot sports for infection and death at the moment? The two Dakotas, one of which is run by a Governor who refuses to take meaningful steps to save her fellow citizens. 

Frankly, I assumed it was a joke until I read several confirming reports, about a person who died even while denying his Covid case was real. The patient asked the attending nurse to tell him the truth...was it pneumonia, strong flu? Why did he need the tubes and masks if he didn't have the pandemic? This individual literally died while using his last breaths to deny the reality of the virus killing him. That has to be one of the saddest stories I have ever encountered about the harm that a world of "alternate facts" can cause. 

The election from hell drags on. Every time there seems to be a clear path forward someone puts up a barrier. The reality is unable to be faced. So, keep saying "it ain't so" until it ain't. 

You might not like the name, climate change, so call it something that isn't so scary...how about "weird weather?" Regardless, whatever its name it is reality. Coastal cities are flooding on a regular basis. Hurricanes are getting more intense and forming more frequently. Places like Phoenix are getting hotter and drier. The desert southwest will become unlivable within my grandchildren's' lifetime. The climate will continue to change whether we want to admit it or not.

How about the looming disaster facing our Social Security benefits, a train wreck that has been right in front of us for at least twenty years. While the exact date is up for debate (like everything else), at some point in the next 15 years or so the payments to Social Security recipients will have to come from the trust fund, something that hasn't happened since 1982. When that happens, benefits will be cut by at least 20%. And, that will be just the first cut, but it will not be the deepest or last. 

All the warnings and all the demographic trends haven't been enough to motivate politicians to do their job for this problem. Like nearly every important issue of the last few decades, those fine folks in Washington wait until the clock has hit 11:59 before even admitting there is a problem. Knowing that a cut in the monthly checks to nearly 79 million of us is looming isn't enough yet to prompt any serious responses.

This leads me back to my story at the beginning. Knowing about a problem and ignoring it too long never produces the best results. Emergency patches always contain glitches or unintended consequences that must be repaired. By waiting until the last minute, or beyond, the lives of tens of millions of us will be balancing on a razor's edge of uncertainty.

During our retirement, I believe the dangers of not facing a problem head-on are substantial. The same logic applies to how everyday problems, challenges, and hard decisions are resolved.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if we started dealing with what we know is coming instead of turning away or simply closing our eyes, looking for the mythical "they" to solve all the problems so we can skip merrily through life?


27 comments:

  1. Thoughtful post.

    There's only one reason our civilization doesn't collapse: the quiet contributions to its betterment made every working day by kind-hearted people.

    Ayn Rand had it backwards. American civilization rests not on on the shoulders of supermen, but of gentlemen—and, even more so, gentlewomen.

    I often think the vast majority of Americans live in a near-comatose state. How they put their pants on in the morning is anyone's guess (many no longer do, since the pandemic started).

    A friend moved to the Napa Valley. He said people there function (barely) under the "Sonoma Coma." I've encountered comatose Americans in many other places, myself; particularly in Florida, Arizona, and Utah.

    The leaders of the eugenics movement in the 1920s introduced the terms “idiot,” “imbecile,” and “moron” as scientific descriptors of mental deficiency. They have since then been (rightfully) vilified.

    But, when you consider the vast majority of Americans 100 years later, the eugenicists were on to something—maybe ahead of their time.

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    1. Compared to many other parts of the world our lives are quite comfortable. That makes it too easy for us to just drift through life, allowing others to solve problems, right the wrongs of society, or take a more active part in determining the direction of the country.

      I do feel quite encouraged when I watch shows like Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. The show highlights everyday people doing everything things that make their part of the world just a little nicer.

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    2. You do realize that the advocates of eugenics felt strongly that all babies of Africans who had been enslaved should be aborted. They also believed that poor people should also be sterilized or have their children aborted as well.... Look around, how many of your good friends were born to wealthy families? Americans should,d only be YOU? The perfect?
      Really, going to Darwin should be more on your argument. Only the best survive...what does that mean to the elderly (a term which applies to many reading this)? Only the healthy rule the world. Isn't that how people evolve?

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    3. Yes, Janette, eugenics is a racially motivated "science" based on false premises and designed to make the upper caste feel better about their treatment of those socially and economically beneath them. It has no place in any discussion of our problems.

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    4. Good to see that you agree with me that Goodly brought something into the conversation that is false and has no place in our discussion. I was responding to Goodly.

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    5. I am not advocating eugenics. Chill out. I am suggesting many Americans are idiots. Just as Mary does below. Janette, I suggest you want to take a moment from policing others' comments and learn more about eugenics' dark history. Go here: https://themightycopywriter.blogspot.com/2017/12/butchers-bible.html

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  2. Too many people and not enough brains to go around.

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    1. The brains are there. They just go unused too much of the time.

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  3. I believe we are already getting funds from the trust fund. The problem arises when the trust fund runs out. Then we get the 20% cut. If we fixed SS funding now we could leave the about $3T dollars of trust fund money on the books permanently. Effectively canceling $3T of national debt. Most do not realize cutting SS will not help our national debt problems, once trust fund is depleted. Since it is a pay as you go plan with dedicated funding if we cut benefits we will just cut the payroll deductions. You can't keep the deductions at the same amount and move the money over to the general fund. Our simplest problem to solve and we cannot even tackle that.

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    1. I didn't understand that there are two separate Trust funds, one for retirees and the other for disabled individuals. The current projection is a deficit for the retiree fund in 2035 and the disabled trust fund in 2065. Both are hurt by the pandemic, the government's move to eliminate payroll taxes, and the elimination of taxes on the most expenses health care plans (the so-called Cadillac plans.) are also responsible for the drain on the funds.

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  4. Fred is right -- SS is already paying out more than it takes in thru the payroll tax and so is dipping into the trust funds. I believe, with the unemployment caused by Covid, we don't even have 15 years before the you-know-what hits the fan. Maybe the federal government can just create more money. Classic economics says that would cause inflation and other problems. But recent history suggests maybe not. What is the Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times!

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  5. I can barely breathe when I see the photos of what’s happening at Sky Harbor airport, and when Ken and I drive over to Discovery Park to see HOARDES of teens,kids and adults in huddles, at picnic tables, on volleyball courts, no masks,no distancing! We drove right back home without getting out of the car!! I’m a retired nurse.. I can’t even IMAGINE how someone can ignore the risk. And expose others. CARING FOR MYSELF AND FOR OTHERS is so ingrained, I can’ t help but judge when I see people ignoring the science.Being in Arizona makes it even scarier,with our idiot of a Governor. We’re all just gonna have to take care of ourselves and our families best we can till...??? WHO KNOWS WHEN? AT this rate, we will not be back to normal soon...

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    1. Over the last several years I have written several posts about the shift of responsibility for a decent retirement to the individual. With the death of pension plans, the looming cuts in Social Security, and the government's cuts to the basic safety net, we must take the attitude that the mythical "they" are no longer going to do what is best for us. That is our job.

      Historically, that has been the reality. For the last half century we have been lulled into a false sense of security. Now, the shoe is on the other foot...ours.

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  6. I always ask, "They who?" No one knows.

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  7. The conspiracy websites and the people who spread them have done a good job of poisoning the minds of way too many people. I don't see how we can ever get that changed around again so that facts, science and now math matters again. I'm really angry over how so many Republicans can ignore that Trump is not allowing for a peaceful transfer of power after the election. If this was happening in a 3rd world country we'd call it a power grab or tempted overthrow of the government.

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    1. Betty and I were talking this morning about the future of the Republican Party. Based on the last four years and their lack of moral courage to declare Mr. Biden the winner due to fear of their "base," it may be quite a long time before that party is again relevant. Just from a political marketing standpoint, their candidates will have a hard time defusing the obvious problems of being silent during this time aND making their vows to the Constitution simply hollow words and promises.

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  8. Any number of things are best addressed early, like saving for retirement! Start saving early in your working life it's not pleasant but at least manageable. Leave it until you are only a few years away from retirement and it’s a Herculean task. Human nature being what it is we tend to prioritize the present and discount the future, more simply put, we take the money and run.

    I did start saving early for retirement but there were a lot of discussions with my wife who felt we had more pressing immediate needs. In our house with the struggle between the future and the present, the future had an uphill battle to fight. I am happy to say that we mostly stuck to the plan and now that we are comfortably retired, the future we planned for has arrived.

    The reality is that it takes a lot of planning and sacrifice to build the future and there are often no immediate rewards. Usually there are eventually rewards, like a secure retirement, but some rewards are so far into the future we may not even live to see them. Climate change is perhaps one of those, maybe even our Social Security benefits if we were to pass away before collecting. No wonder it's a hard sell to get people to sacrifice now, even when it’s absolutely necessary.

    As I heard someone say once... " I understand about climate change and that we all need to do something but I have to drive to work today!"

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    1. The point has been made many times before that human have a very short view of the future...it tends to end well before the horizon. We are still hard-wired like our caveman ancestors: worry about being eaten by the woolly mammoth today. If not, tomorrow is irrelevant.

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    2. I think many of us oldsters have learned to take the long view since we've been around for a while and have seen firsthand how things have changed.

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  9. I am so grateful that, at a young age, we decided to assume Social Security wouldn't be much for us, if any. We saved like it was 100% up to us. We're just 59. Will be interesting to observe what happens over the next 11 years.

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    1. We didn't use SS in our planning, either. It is a very nice supplement now that we receive it and means we draw down our retirement accounts much more slowly. But, it was not part of my calculations at all.

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  10. I have two possible explanations for our inability as a nation to make tough choices to address tough problems: The first is our love as a culture for the technological fix. We convince ourselves that we don't really need to deal with this problem because someone will create a magic technological silver bullet (a high-tech vaccine, clever climate engineering) to solve the problem without our having to inconvenience ourselves. The second is an idealistic streak in our culture which makes some people want to hold out for the perfect solution; in these cases, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

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    1. I agree with both parts of your analysis, but think the former is the most damaging. We assume "they" will fix it, "they" will do the hard work. At some point we must realize we are the "they."

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  11. I don't even know where to start on this one -- so many reasons that we are where we are. So I will defer to your assessment and to those in the comments, and just wish you and Betty a Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. Right back at ya...to you and your precious family. We will have our family gathering on Saturday this year, so actual Thanksgiving will be quiet.

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  12. Regarding the future of the Republican party, I was astonished that Trump still got somewhere around 70 million votes in the election. Clearly these voters mostly agree with the way that Trump and the party ran the country for 4 years. To me, that means we could easily see another "Trump like" character in the future.

    Derek

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    1. Yews, that stunned me. Plus, Republican gains in several areas was a surprise. But, that does say people split their votes, rejecting Trump but supporting down ballot people. THat is the way informed voters are supposed to react.

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