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Darrell Berkheimer: Nevada County facing loss of vitality

Darrell Berkheimer | Other Voices

If you’ve lived in Nevada County for the past 20 years, I suspect you’ve noticed how there are fewer children playing in your neighborhood.

It’s a sign of what some of us have been saying repeatedly – that Nevada County is losing a part of its vitality as the residential neighborhoods have fewer children, while the county’s population grows older.

It’s a situation that’s particularly noticeable here in Morgan Ranch, where I seldom see more than the one young fellow shooting basketball in front of the house, mostly by himself. Only occasionally does another youngster join him.



And I noticed a similar situation on the street behind us when I walk the neighborhood.

On a rare occasion, I’ll see a different young fellow riding a bicycle down the street.



Even the parks are seldom crowded with children.

And when is the last time you saw a mother pushing a baby carriage, or a stroller, in your neighborhood?

Such are the signs of what’s been happening in Nevada County – well verified by local statistics.

One of the reports issued recently by the county’s 2021-2022 grand jury states that the county’s “public school enrollment declined 27% over the past decade, 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

And during the same decade, the Census Bureau reported the county’s population of folks 60 years old and older increased by 8.7% – from 27.9 to 36.6%. That’s nearly two out of every five county residents is 60 or older.

Maybe it was not so far-fetched when I indicated in a June column last year that our county folks might be leaning toward buying more adult diapers than baby diapers.

These situations all point to the same issues – the lack of affordable housing for our younger adults, and the NIMBYs who continue to battle against higher density housing that will help lower the costs of dwellings.

Most young adults – members of the Millennial and Gen Z generations, in the early 20s through the early 40s – simply can’t afford to live here.

Do you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews who would like to move here? And would you like it if they moved here?

But if you’re one of the those who are against smaller houses on smaller lots, and against accessory dwellings, duplexes or multi-story apartment buildings in your neighborhood, then count yourself as part of a major reason why they can’t afford to move here.

ON SOCIAL SECURITY

Our older residents may be glad to hear, however, that President Joe Biden is pushing for legislation to end the threat of Social Security benefits being reduced in the years ahead.

I suspect you’ve heard the federal projections reporting Social Security costs are expected to increase so much in the years ahead, to the point that the fund will only be able to pay 75% of scheduled benefits.

But cutting Social Security is about as popular as higher gas prices and inflation.

So President Biden, in an effort to meet his campaign promise – to “put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency” – has proposed adding the SS tax to all incomes above $400,000 per year.

That will create a “donut hole” between the $400,000 and the current maximum amount of SS tax – at $147,000 annual income. Over time, however, the gap would shrink and finally disappear – because the maximum earnings amount subject to SS taxes increases every year.

According to a University of Maryland survey published in June, adding the tax to $400,000 and above enjoys strong bipartisan support.

Biden also has proposed simply raising SS benefits, and revising the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to provide increases. Both those measures, however, would again raise the threat of benefit cuts by sometime in the 2030s.

Attaching the tax to all incomes above $400,000 will go a long way toward solving the program’s problems in financing future payments. The University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation estimates that change would eliminate 61% of the projected Social Security shortfall.

Many older workers and recent retirees are relying on those benefits for their future. Boosting benefits now would be nice for some of us, but would put their future benefits in jeopardy – as well as ours, if we live that long.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has nine books available through Amazon. His two Essays books include nearly 120 columns published by The Union, plus a variety of travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com

 

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