Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What happened to our social security system?

I've been listening to the news over the last few years bemoan the fact that our Social Security is in dire trouble as the Baby Boomers begin to leave the workforce.

We've been having trouble in many different areas as these Baby Boomers leave their jobs because the skilled labor force isn't being replaced either. 

As a business owner in the skilled trades, our company is feeling the pinch of a smaller and smaller pool to draw on as we attempt to fill positions. Other business owners feel the same way across the country in the skilled labor trades. I hear them talk about it at every conference or seminar I attend. I've even written about it in a past post last year!

I had a thought strike me recently. I don't mean it just popped into my head. I mean it almost knocked me down as I realized the magnitude of the concept.

This isn't a right or left wing comment either, so calm down there folks. 

This is simply a recognition of an observation. Anyone can see it. But every time I mention it, each person literally stops walking or talking and stares at me for a full second. 

So that old saying, stopped dead in their tracks, works here. Then I get the exact same comment from each person.

What is my observation?

We don't have a generation to follow us into the work force because we didn't birth the millions of people it would take to keep our workforce going. Whether you believe in abortion or don't believe in it, a non-issue for this purpose. It is a fact that millions of babies were legally aborted since Roe versus Wade entered our legal lives. It is a fact.

This is not a political or religious statement, so please don't go all "postal" on me. Whether you believe abortion should or shouldn't be a legal part of our society isn't the issue at all in this particular discussion. Keep reading and see why . . .

The issue is merely the observation that we have created our own shortage of workers to replace the outgoing workers. We have subsequently cut out from under our elderly, the workforce that would have paid into the Social Security fund.

I know there are other issues involved in why our social security system isn't working too. Again, not the point here.

But it really stunned me when I acknowledged the loss of all those creative and capable people that were never born. It stunned me, the sheer magnitude of an entire lost workforce. It shocked me to realize that our economy has and will suffer from what cannot be.

I just never thought of it that way before.

And that's the same comment I've heard from other people and it doesn't matter which side of the issue they belong to at all. It simply is a fact that there are not millions of people in various stages of experience and adulthood that might have been here to replace those that retire, that pay taxes and social security, and that support their families in old age or even that tithe to the local churches.

Again, this post is not about politics or the right of a woman or whether abortion is murder, this post is about acknowledging  an observation. An observation of choices. We make choices and we live with the consequences of those choices good, bad or unseen.

I find it fascinating that decisions we make can turn out decades later to still have powerful ramifications. (You can put divorce or any major decision here. Things haunt us as we age if we had to make tough choices. Sometimes choices are hard and the best of a tough choice still has ultimate results.)

This is just one real life example that caught me off guard. 

I'm the tail end of the Baby Boomers watching from a unique place as my generation retires and very few come in to replace a multitude. I'm an employer fighting to find workers. I'm the sandwiched woman trying to care for her aging relatives and finish raising kids still at home. I'm the middle aged adult listening to the concerns of those already in the social security system and the fears of those who may not get to use it after having their money taken paycheck after paycheck their entire professional life. I'm not unique in these things.

From the vantage point of age looking back, I think we might see things differently. We as Baby Boomers have contributed to the fact that we have less of a base beneath us now. In our quest for riches, we began limiting ourselves to 2.1 children as an average. We didn't foresee the result we would feel as an aging adult. We saw our own family at the time, our own immediate needs. We didn't foresee how the lack of numbers would affect us 30-40 years later when we would need all the members of society entering the workforce to help balance the needs of those leaving it.

Have you ever thought about it that way?

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