Backtalk July/August 2009 Issue
It's the Stupid Economy
If "retirement" means lots of travel, golfing, and fine dining, then I guess James Ridgeway ("Who Shredded Our Safety Net?") is in as much trouble as he says he is. If retirement means downsizing and simplifying life, then what's his problem? He's over 70, so he has Social Security benefits, plus his investments—shrunken from their 2007 high but still bigger than they were in, say, 2002. That's enough to live on. I took a huge hit in income in order to retire—to a simpler place and a simpler life—10 years ago. Recovery from upper-middle-class consumerism was quite a wrestling match at the beginning, but I wouldn't take back a day of it.
Port Angeles, Washington
Ordinary investing is like gambling, concentrating only on return. Socially responsible investing, though, is a genuine commitment of resources to something we believe in. If business switched to a "defined benefit" goal rather than the goal of maximizing profit, then investors and businesses could become assets to the planet.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Your series of articles on the economy provides further insight and information as to what the hell happened to the US and world economy, and why. This especially in contrast to the mainstream experts and pundits. Thanks for all your continued efforts.
The point of James K. Galbraith's "Security Blanket" is that the depth of the crisis is far more serious than people realize and will have consequences that require new safety-net measures. Some studies suggest that about half of retirees over the next 20 years will have only Social Security and Medicare. This is not due to their failure to save, but because of the economy's inability to provide enough high-wage jobs to fund that savings.
As far as increasing Social Security payments—LMAO! I'm a small-business owner. I already pay an extra 7.65 percent for each employee on top of 15.3 percent for myself. This means I can hire fewer people, generating fewer goods and services, which in turn generates less tax revenue! I think a little light Adam Smith before he goes to bed might do Mr. Galbraith some good.
We need to understand that it's the government, and not business or the individual, that has the ability to provide quality retirement. I've been the owner of a small business for almost 50 years, and I can't understand the greed of young business managers who've never built a business but believe the wealth they've achieved is solely due to their abilities and creativity.
The Charity Fix
I read Dave Gilson's "Give When It Hurts" the day after my office did a fundraising event to buy water filters for Third World countries. All our income for the day went to this cause. It felt nice to do this, even though I doubt that any amount of charitable efforts will fix anything. The problem is, there are nearly 7 billion of us, and Earth's carrying capacity is more like 1 billion.
Recycling only treats the symptoms of excessive consumption and waste ("Waste Not Want Not"). It's time we took up the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Bruce Falconer's "The FBI's Least Wanted" indicated that agent Bassem Youssef came to the US in 1972 at age 13 and that his dream was to fly F-14s. It parenthetically added that Top Gun had just come out when he graduated from college, implying the movie had figured into his dream career. But Top Gun came out in 1986, when he would have been 27 years old, suggesting that he developed his career dreams several years after graduating college.
Livingston, New Jersey
Our fact-checkers appreciate your attention to the details they labor over. Youssef indeed graduated from college in his late 20s; the timing is correct.
Mail to the Chief
We love Mother Jones. Please send complimentary copies of each issue to the entire White House staff. They need your excellent data.
Credit Is Due
In Jonathan Torgovnik's May/June photo essay on Rwandan women, we failed to name his project's book, Intended Consequences, published by the Aperture Foundation.