An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Retirees’

Eating the Bread of the Laborer Part 1

The Doctrine & Covenants instructs us, “He that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.” (42:42)

Many Mormons interpret this passage to mean assistance should not be extended to needy individuals unless they perform some sort of compensating labor. Exceptions are generally made for the elderly, the ill, the physically handicapped, children, and mothers of small children. In general, American Mormons see no need for government welfare programs, believing that welfare promotes idleness.

According to a study published by the University of Texas, 90% of welfare recipients in the US are single moms.  The elderly and disabled are covered under Social Security rather than welfare programs.

Government statistics reveal that 1.7% of Americans receive 50% or more of their income from welfare programs, and 8% receive some type of assistance such as food stamps.  If children and single moms make up most of the 9.7% of Americans receiving partial or full welfare benefits—a group most Mormons would agree needs help in providing for their own— who then are the idle?

According to the census bureau, 13.3% of Americans are over 65—most of us drawing Social Security. Many of us are under the illusion that we’ve earned everything we get back. Not true in most cases. The rate at which a retiree receives back all she has paid varies according to her income. Lower earning workers draw out more quickly than higher paid workers. Government estimates are that workers receive all benefits they have paid within a few years.  Legal immigrants who have worked in the US and paid Social Security taxes are only eligible for seven years of retirement benefits, so it’s fair to say the government believes most retirees have used up their contributions before that time.

What I’m driving at, is that the idle who eat the bread of the workers pretty much has to include those of us who have been on Social Security longer than a few years. I’m not saying we should send our SS checks back, but I do think those of us receiving more retirement benefits than we earned should take a more charitable attitude to fellow welfare recipients—and maybe we should be less strident about demanding our benefits be preserved no matter what other government spending cuts must be made.

The Selfish Generation

Beginning with the post WWII baby boomers, the media has labeled succeeding generations—including Generation X, the Millennials, and now the Connected Generation. From what I’m seeing, the current generation of retirees deserves a name of our own—the Selfish Generation.

The Selfish Generation (SG) is distinguished by elderly people who fervently believe age should not deter them from living as they have always lived. The fact that they no longer need and no longer have the energy or income to keep up their family home does not suggest to these people that they should move to a condo, an apartment, or retirement community or assisted living facility.

SG members are content to let family, friends, and church members shoulder the burdens of snow shoveling, yard care, housework, meal preparation, transportation, and house repairs for them. In older Utah neighborhoods, the ratio of those needing care to those able to provide care is high enough to constitute serious problems. Even the youngest, most generous people have limits to the time and energy they can devote to helping neighbors.

SG members refuse to give up driving just because of physical impairment. A Salt Lake City gentleman in his ‘90s with impaired vision recently totaled his car and incurred a huge fine after rear-ending a car waiting for a stoplight. Unfortunately, the driver did not lose his license.  He can’t afford to replace his car, but can get around SLC on the bus. Still, he wants to rent a car to drive to his vacation home in Southern Utah. Since he’s driven there so many times in the past, he figures he’ll be okay to drive there alone. I only hope he doesn’t find a rental agency willing to risk lending him a car.

Two years ago, I attended several meetings in Utah where legislators wrestled with the problem of funding state retirees from a retirement fund whacked by the stock market drop. Retirees were adamant that their benefits not be touched. Retired teachers were willing to take money from school budgets rather than cut their retirement checks. They finally backed a plan leaving current retirees’ and employees’ benefits intact, but dropping new employees from the guaranteed retirement program—offering them only 401K donations instead.  I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to think I had to live on my 401K after the 2009 crash.

Adult guppies that eat their young are still productive members of their group—considering that the function of adult guppies is to reproduce. Nature apparently condones cannibalizing a few infant guppies so the main group can survive. It’s harder to forgive nonworking, non-productive Selfish Generation members who insist their Social Security and Medicare benefits not be part of any needed budget cuts. SG members generally agree to cuts in benefits for everyone under the age of 55. In essence, they are asking their children and grandchildren to fund their benefits with no hope of collecting equivalent benefits for their own retirement.

Evolution promotes survival of the fittest. The Selfish Generation is calling for survival of the oldest.

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