Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Anyone else nervous?

We're old enough to remember some hard financial years. At the time we graduated with our undergraduate degrees, headlines blared that it was the worst time for college graduates since the Great Depression. We can both attest to that fact with our patchwork job histories during that time.

But honestly, things seem worse now. It's almost like a "perfect storm" of economic woes. It's not just the housing crisis, which is horrible enough as it is. It's also crises related to oil/gas prices, the stock market, inflation, unemployment, layoffs, wars, health care unavailability, climate change. And let's not forget education. Our greatest resources are going to waste in an antiquated educational system that is letting us down in nearly every way possible, including our ability to compete globally.

There's probably more, but that's enough for us to start shaking in our boots.

Right now, we feel lucky to have jobs, a roof over our heads, a little money in the bank, and the prospect of an investment property that may help ease our retirement. Lord knows we don't have any other retirement funds to speak of. We have worked hard for what we do have, so we try to see the glass as half full.

We support Obama's candidacy and his idea of hope for America. But it's going to require a lot more than hope to turn this country around.

Europe doesn't have all the answers, and we know that. But if you think that America is the most advanced country in the world, you haven't traveled to Europe lately. As a recent column in the NY Times mentioned, traveling from JFK to a European airport is like traveling from The Flintstones to The Jetsons. We are so far behind in nearly every area we listed above, it's frightening.

We understand that it's difficult for some to relate to our desire to grow old elsewhere. The truth is, if we believed the U.S. was headed down a good path in all of those things, we would stay.

Here's the "but": We're nervous about growing old in this country. We want more security. We have no problem paying taxes in order to get it. The average American probably pays the same overall in taxes as people in Europe. Income taxes, payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, business taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes, property taxes. Are we forgetting anything?

We are eyeing France, of course, but also Scandinavia (Sweden is a beautiful place). We need to be thoughtful about this, and we are already laying the groundwork for our next move.

Yes, we love our country and are proud to be Americans (except when our president authorizes illegal wars and torture). Unfortunately, we no longer believe that this is the best place for us to live out the rest of our lives. Maybe if we were multi-millionaires, we would think differently--hard to know for sure. But should that be the only way to feel secure about old age? Having millions of dollars in the bank?

A society has an obligation to its people. The United States has forgotten that. But we haven't, and we need to find a country that still believes that making sure everyone has their basic needs met is more important than capitalism. It's more than a money issue for us. It's a moral imperative.

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