Financial markets have now become a function of how investors are guessing the drama in Washington, DC will play out. Stock prices on Wall Street are moving up or down based on the latest debating points emanating from Republicans, Democrats and the President. On the world stage, we are not looking very grown up as the world’s greatest democracy. There will be a resolution, of course. A compromise will be hammered out eventually to preserve the full faith and credit of the United States. But the public relations cost has been an expensive one.
When it is clear that our country has not fallen off a cliff economically, our will focus will turn back to our own financial situation. In our first update, I spoke of the great concentration of wealth 60 and 70 year olds possess. Many of us have worked hard and achieved much. There is, of course, a flip side to this coin.
According to a recent New York Times report, more Americans 65 and older are descending into poverty at a faster rate than ever before. 3.1% of women are now classified as extremely poor, and 2.3% of men. This is not good. The Census Bureau considers someone with a yearly income of $11,011 or less, living alone as extremely poor. The increase in poverty requires our attention. For the most part, Social Security has protected older Americans from later-life destitution. But some older Americans are among the long-term unemployed, whose jobless benefits have been cut or run out. Or, they could be having trouble qualifying for benefits from the government in the face of administrative cutbacks at the state and federal levels.
My grandfather told me back when he was in college around the start of the first World War, “we all learned to paddle our own canoe”. In other words, he and his classmates were expected to take personal responsibility for their situation. Some 100 years later, it’s never been for difficult for less fortunate Americans to keep their heads above water, let alone keep the oars moving. And the trend is still edging lower.