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Jewish World Review July 12, 2001 / 21 Tamuz, 5761

Barry Rabin

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Consumer Reports

To Save Social Security: Find Those Two Workers! -- NEWS ITEM: By the year 2030, many economists predict that there will only be 2 workers contributing to the Social Security program for every one retired American collecting benefits. When the program was first designed, there were approximately 40 such workers.

Many Americans have heard this statistic by now. Most folks I know have reacted by feverishly opening up private retirement accounts, pouring money into their employersí 401(k) plans and/or cowering in the basement.

I, however, prefer to take a more direct approach: Letís find those two workers!

My quest brought me to the Happy Daze Preschool in idyllic Modena, Pennsylvania. I arrived there on a recent morning and immediately demanded to speak with two of those future workers.

After I had finally convinced the owner to put down the phone and not call the police, I was allowed to meet with Jimmy & Suzie, ages 4 & 5 respectively. Our conversation went something like this:

ME: Now kids, the reason Iím here today is because you two will be working to pay for me to be on Social Security when Iím retired in a few years.

JIMMY: I have a big truck, and itís red. It makes a big noise!

ME: Great! Terrific! Trucking is a wonderful business. Maybe youíll own a trucking company when you grow up, Jimmy, and...

JIMMY: I want to be a fireman when I grow up!

ME: A fireman? Well yes, thatís actually a very important job, Jimmy. But firemen donít really earn a lot of...

SUZIE: I want to be a ballerina! I want to be a ballerina when I grow up! I want to be a ballerina and wear a pretty pink dress!!

ME: Yes, right, a ballerina. But you know, Suzie, with all of the cutbacks on funding for the arts, you probably wonít earn much as a...

SUZIE: I wanna be a ballerina! I wanna be a ballerina!

ME: Okay. Okay. Now Jimmy, letís get back to you again. Wouldnít you like to be an investment banker? They make lots of money, and you would regularly exceed the maximum contribution level for Social Security tax purposes. And as for the Medicare tax, that would only be a much smaller percentage of your adjusted gross...

JIMMY: And I want to be a cowboy, too! Cowboys shoot guns, and they ride horses and get dirty, and their mommies let them.

ME: A cowboy? Right. Well, that may sound like fun now, Jimmy, but with beef prices lagging behind the Consumer Price Index, Iím not sure you could...

JIMMY: I want to be a cowboy and shoot guns! Bam! Bam!

ME: And Iím not crazy about the gun thing, Jimmy. With only two workers per retiree, you shooting off a gun might kill somebody, and then there would only be one worker to support that retiree, and they might be...

SUZIE: I wanna be a ballerina!

ME: ...and that one worker might be a ballerina, and she might get her arts funding cut off, and then that poor elderly person would be forced to live without any...

SUZIE: Can I be a doctor AND a ballerina? I want to be a doctor AND a ballerina!

ME: An excellent idea! Medical school! Once youíve paid off your student loans, Suzie, you could be making a pretty decent living as a physician.

SUZIE: I want to be a doctor for poor people who donít have a doctor. My mommy says that poor people donít have enough doctors for their babies.

ME: Thatís a very nice thought, Suzie. But I donít think rich people have enough doctors either. You know, liposuction and breast enhancement can be very remunerative these days, what with managed care and...

SUZIE: I changed my mind. I just want to be a ballerina! I donít want to be a doctor anymore.

ME: But Suzie, you just said that you...

JIMMY: I want to be a truck driver AND a cowboy AND a fireman!

ME: Thatís three jobs, Jimmy. Do you really think that you could... Hmmm... Actually, working three jobs might not be such a bad idea. If youíll just sign this affidavit, I can...

JIMMY: I think I just wanna be a truck driver. I wanna drive a big truck, with a big loud horn!

SUZIE: And I want to be a ballerina!

ME: (Sigh) Maybe Iíll get lucky and die early...

JWR contributor Barry Rabin is a lawyer and humor writer (REALLY!). Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Barry Rabin