Ok, let me be clear in the first sentence of this post that I am not saying that the United States is about to turn into anything like Egypt. I don’t want to be accused of fear mongering, but, I think maybe this is what America felt like in 1967 or 1968. It feels to me that we are on the edge of some serious changes in the United States and my friends, people DO NOT LIKE CHANGE. I’d like to take this idea from the big picture down into the specifics of where I work.
First the big picture, our deficit is massive and the government is going to have to take on the big ticket entitlement programs in government, everyone knows this but no one wants to deal with it. You can see a lot of these recommendations in the Deficit Commissions report.
Out of the big programs I think the one change we will absolutely see is the raising of the retirement age for purposes of stabilizing Social Security. Friends I’ve known this was coming my whole adult life, with people living longer and budgets running shorter one solution is to up the age of retirement. It lessens the amount of time people collect benefits and lengthens the time people pay in and that makes great strides in solving the financial issue with the program. So plan on working a bit longer my friends, if you are currently under 40 and probably if you are under 50 years of age.
The second issue is budget cutting in general on both the federal and state level. Living in the state of California I can tell you that all of us are about to feel some real pain in the coming year. This will come in the form of higher taxes, reduced benefits and lower or stagnant salaries while costs start to rise.
Finally a seriously disturbing trend is the attempt by government to remove the rights of, or reduce the influence of unions that represent state employees. This includes state workers, teacher, firefighters, police and of course teachers and state workers are the first ones being taken on over this issue in Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, the governor has proposed that unions only be able to negotiate over salaries and have no collective bargaining rights over anything else, that includes sick days, vacation, and pensions. This is an assault on unions and considering what willmost likely bankrupt most of us later in life is health care and too little money in retirement, this is a big deal. Next up, most likely New York, as Governor Cuomo has been making similar noises there.
All of these things can be lumped under a single term, austerity measures, these measures brought about riots in Greece last year and given the response in Wisconsin and the images of joyous rioters around the world on TV, I think you’ll see the same here. A line by the band Sublime about the Rodney King riots points out, and I think quite accurately, that those riots weren’t about Rodney King, but about the situation people were living under and that will be the reason again.
People are stressed, I see it in my co-workers right now, things are very tight for people, they have less money, because of cutbacks in staffing they are working harder and that can only work for a time before people start to crack. As austerity measures start to bring these issues home, well, people are going to react, stay tuned.