A sobering article from the Los Angeles Times: Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die. My spouse and I have diligently worked and saved our whole married life, to provide for our own retirement and our kids’ educations. Our parents did the same, but had more of a safety net, such as company-funded retirement benefits. Those seem to have gone the way of the Dodo.
I don’t think our country has any real idea of the crisis that’s going to hit when that demographic phenomenon known as the Baby Boom hits its 70s, which starts this year, seventy years after the Baby Boom began in 1946. We’ve allowed a generation’s worth of unprecedented wealth creation to become concentrated in the hands of billionaires and corporations since 1980. We’ve allowed infrastructure and basic public services to crumble. And if we don’t get our act together and reclaim some of that undertaxed wealth through revised estate taxes for these mega-fortunes, we risk permanently entrenching this concentration of money and power.
The billionaires distract us by linking their situation to that of people like my family: middle-class people who worked and saved in the hope of being independent and comfortable, not obscenely rich, in our old age. Basically, they are asserting that if they get taxed, savers like us will also lose what we’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Baloney. There’s a huge difference between the size of their estates and ours. We need to stop getting distracted by the political gibberings of the likes of Donald Trump. While we react to his outrageous “campaign”, he is laughing all the way to the bank.
Disappearing Fathers by Faith Shearin
Sometime after I turned forty the fathers from my childhood
began disappearing; they had heart attacks
during business dinners or while digging their shovels
into a late April snow. Some fathers began forgetting things:
their phone numbers, which neighborhoods belonged
to them, which houses. They had a shortness of breath,
the world’s air suddenly too thin, as if it came
from some other altitude. They were gone:
the fathers I had seen dissecting cars
in garages, the fathers with suits
and briefcases, the fathers who slipped down
rivers on fishing boats and the ones
who drank television and beer. Most of my friends
still had mothers but the fathers
were endangered, then extinct.
I was surprised, though I had always known
the ladies lasted longer; the fathers fooled me
with their toughness; I had been duped
by their jogging and heavy lifting, misled
by their strength when they slapped
me on the back or shook my hand. I kept imagining
I would see them again: out walking their dogs
on the roads near my childhood house,
lighting cigars on their porches, waving to me
from their canoes while I waited on shore.
Source: Disappearing Fathers by Faith Shearin | Friday, January 15, 2016 | The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor
I have been somewhat AWOL in recent weeks partly because I am in the process of losing my surviving parent. And I am sad. But this is a beautiful piece, so I’m sharing it.
Source: What I want you to know about losing your parent as an adult
The viral news of this week — leaving aside the serious issues of war and peace in the Middle East, ongoing genocide in Africa, incursions into international waters by China, etc. — was the reaction of undergraduates at Yale College to two emails sent to them by various faculty and administrators. The first, send by a group concerned with Intercultural Affairs, reminded students to avoid racially and ethnically offensive Halloween costumes. The second, sent to students in one of the residential colleges by its Associate Master, criticized the first message and questioned whether it was appropriate for Yale to manage expression by its students or if it would be preferable for Yale students to monitor each other and — gasp! — have thoughtful, respectful conversations about their disagreements.
So far, just another tempest in an academic teapot. But when an advocacy group called FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) got hold of the story, and its president recorded and aired a video showing a confrontation between some students and the Master of Silliman College (who is married to the Associate Master), the story went viral. Lines were drawn in the sand and loud voices at both extremes of the political spectrum have been raised. Score one for FIRE! Free publicity!
Here is my take on it, in part. Continue reading
For those of you who may not read The New York Times, here’s a sobering piece of news: Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans. Basically, so many white Americans with less than a college education are dying prematurely from things like suicide and substance abuse that they are causing a statistical anomaly. This came to researchers’ attention when they realized that “unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” So they started digging into the details of that data. ” [P]oorly educated American whites … are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.” Dr. Angus Deaton, by the way, is a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Economics.
Furthermore, the impact of this sudden increase in death rates in a specific age group is so dramatic, “Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. ‘Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,’ he said.” Continue reading
This week I am chortling, not screaming, at my new middle-aged heroes: Hilarious Parents Re-Create Daughter’s Sexy Selfies With Boyfriend. I love these people! What a way to make their point with a sense of humor!
Selfies. What a concept. And yes, it does irritate me when I find that one of the several teenagers who live here has taken numerous silly selfies on my unattended iPhone. Though if I REALLY minded that much, I would just post them on their Facebook pages for all the world to see. Hmmm …
Illustration: Mark Knight, Herald Sun, 6 September 2013
Sara Lukinson has written an extraordinary piece in today’s New York Times, about her relationship with her terminally ill sister and her role as caregiver while her sister is dying.
“What can I do?” I ask feebly. “Be patient,” she says. And I want to hide my inner impatience with shame. Because for decades, I’ve bristled at her edge-of-fear look, that hesitancy before taking a step. Only now it’s longer and deeper. Watching it seize her makes me feel I’m being sucked out of the sky. Her life had become a full-time managing of her disease, hiding the next turn in the road.
But until death is in the room, it’s easier than you’d think to revert to lifelong habits of instant annoyances, petty bickering.
A turn of her head, a certain faraway look, and I could forget she’s sick and get mad at her. I yelled at her not long ago over some important tax forms, I can’t remember anymore why. Horrible me.
Raging As My Sister’s Light Dims
Ms. Lukinson goes on to write:
Sitting with her I am calm and furious, loving and angry, knowing what a gift it is to have such a sister. Wretched to be forced, again, into the slavery of disease. Of having to serve it, and bow to it. I want to escape and be in the light of life. Then, I feel gutted and guilty for wanting to flee.
But here is how her essay concludes:
Now, as the breath of life ebbs away, I keep close to her side. She has never seemed braver or more beautiful to me. Still herself, still my sister.
Extraordinary. Both sisters.
Image: Jon Han, The New York Times
Usually I save my weekly vents until the weekend, when I can process the outrages of the previous seven days, including an entire work week. However, this week merits its very own, special, midweek Weekly Vent. Yes, today was my office’s semi-regular, offsite, daylong, management retreat. Shoot me now.
I like my job. Just spare me the management retreat and let me DO my job. Trapped in a room for seven straight hours. The platitudes. The hypocrisy. The blatant falsehoods. The false friendliness. The colleagues texting and reading email while their unfortunate peers make forced presentations. The plans that will gather dust until the next offsite retreat. The collecting of ammunition to be used later to stab
rivals colleagues in the back. Here’s why they call these “retreats” — because work has become a battlefield, if not a war of attrition. Only Dilbert can adequately express the pain.
Cartoon: copyright Scott Adams