Gen-Xers and the Government's Money

As a so-called "Gen-Xer," (as well as a writer who has covered "Gen-X issues") I take exception to one aspect of "Selling Skeptical Gen-Xers on Social Security" (Feb. 12): I must confess that your depiction of my generation is disconcerting.

Yes, Gen-X does not believe in Social Security. Years ago we saw that it would be depleted by the baby boomers. But unfortunately, you seem to have attributed to us certain other odd ideas: No, we don't think we can work forever. Rather, we're scared to death we're going to have to work forever, as the cost of living grows, and safety nets become increasingly unreliable.

And we don't think we'll all become millionaires, although young executives - more ruthless and conservative than their "yuppie" predecessors - may achieve this. Most of us are concerned that we're going to age dead broke, resigned to the idea of relinquishing most social benefits to our children.

President Clinton did wonders for the college educational system, but most of my generation had graduated by then. Still, his work program and student aid increases endeared him to us, if only because we wish that Reagan or Bush had been so inclined. Most of us are ridiculously in debt because of our near-useless college educations. Other educational movements are aimed at the "Millennials," the generation following ours. Most of us are fine with this - about time they got it right.

I'm still concerned that "Gen-X" is viewed with such derision by its elders. Boomers have no right to criticize. On the average, we out-scored them on both SATs and college GPAs, and, despite the slacker reputation, have higher employment rates for our age bracket then they did at the time.

So, if we're cynical about what our country can do for us, sorry. Maybe if people can get past looking down their noses at us, they might see that we're more concerned with what we can do for our country than they have ever been.

Victor D. Infante

Costa Mesa, Calif.

I am always confused when a news source (the Monitor is not the only one) prints separate articles on (1) what to do when Social Security runs out of money, (2) what to do with a budget surplus when we get one, (3) how Congress has used Social Security monies as a general fund (and still does), and (4) how we finally made a principal payment on the trillion-dollar national debt after 17 years of payments only on interest.

I am certain that if members of Congress were not involved in personally aggrandizing political power plays, they would see what readers probably all see: They should act with fiscal good sense. Vote for the bill to secure Social Security monies for Social Security payments only. If they hadn't had their political fingers sneaking out that money through the decades, think what the 1980s stock market could have done for the fund. But better late than never.

Only after the budget stops counting dedicated monies (and S.S. isn't the only fund it steals from) as general income can Congress start talking "budget surpluses." When they do get a bona fide surplus, isn't it obvious they should start making regular payments of principal to lower our national debt? Then help out Social Security if it's still in trouble.

Only after that should politicians start playing their habitual game of whether to return surpluses to the public whose money it was to begin with (yea for the Republicans!) or use it as an insurance program for people who are having at least temporary trouble taking care of themselves (yea for the Democrats!). And why not a 50-50 compromise on that, so everyone gets his wish a little bit?

Many of us have become accustomed to politicians being illogical to get reelected. But we expect our newspaper to relate facts to each other when appropriate. If you talk about a shortfall in Social Security, mention how the inviolate fund has been violated steadily by Congress. Even if that doesn't change anything, it will help your readers think critically.

Marcia Elder

Bedford, Mass.

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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