Gallery H

A Bit Costly

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Examining A Citizen-Inspired Plan For Fixing The Economy

By James Donahue

The idea was passed on to me second hand from a man who works in Santa Cruz, California. His idea: Force everyone to retire at age 50 and grant them a retirement pension of one million dollars to cover all their needs for the rest of their lives.

This, he said, would open the job market for the young people with families and stimulate the economy dynamically. The older millionaires would buy homes, cars, appliances and quickly begin circulating a massive amount of cash, thus putting all that bottled-up money back in circulation. Many of them would invest some of their money in small new enterprises, fulfilling life-long dreams. The successful ones would flourish and start creating new jobs.

It sounded great and we were amazed at its simplicity. I took the idea to my desk and began playing with the numbers and quickly learned why it would not, and could not work. There are just too many people in this country aged 50 years and older. They are called the Baby-Boomers.

The government is gearing up for a new census count in 2010, but current statistics estimate the total U. S. population at about 306,000,000. Of this, the number of people aged 50 and older is estimated at 37-40 percent of the population. Using the lower figure we still reach an estimated 112,480,000 grey-haired folks either approaching that old retirement age of 65, or beyond..

If everyone aged 50 and older was given a million dollars, the plan explodes into an amount reaching at the ridiculous level of 112,480 trillion. If you erase 36.3 million, the estimated number of Americans over age 65 who may be, but probably cannot afford to already be in retirement, you have 76,180,000 left to enter the proposed forced retirement. And that calls for million dollar retirement payoffs totaling $76,180 trillion.

Based on the best expert calculations, the total cash in existence in all world economies at this time is estimated at no more than 10,000 trillion. If we tried to give the retiring baby boomers a million dollars at age 50, or even at 55, they would end up controlling all of the money in the world. It is obvious that the million dollar plan, no matter how attractive it sounds to those of us in that category, it just won’t work.

Another major flaw we could see in this idea is that many creative artists, writers, doctors, engineers, architects, editors and corporate leaders often are in the prime of their productive lives between the ages of 40 and 60. They may have spent the first 25 to 30 years of their lives involved in education and acquiring their skills. Forcing retirement at 50 would be wasting what could be the most valuable and productive years of their lives and would be a major loss to humanity.

Most of our presidents have been elected to office after age 50. Thus a plan like this would obviously force some of the best minds in the nation out to early pasture and turn leadership jobs over to young and less experienced people.

The idea might work if we moved the retirement age up a notch and lowered the cash pay-off to a level we could afford. But that is . . . like . . . socialism. Would we dare to try such a thing?

It appears that the solution to the world’s economic crisis is not going to be quite as easy to solve as we might have thought. But people on the street are obviously putting some thought into this mess.