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Our day of reckoning will come

Nevada County is mostly green. It’s also gray and blue – the green of the foliage, the gray of aging and the blue of the Republican political party. If ever there is a secession, those three colors will make a fitting tri-foil for this area.

Green stands out when looking down from aircraft, as well as on the ground while hiking or riding. Ponderosa pine, black oak and live oak, as well as an abundance of other endemic plants, lure us here. Oh, and don’t overlook the green of tourism money.



Grayer than most counties in California, Nevada County is home to a relatively high percentage of citizens in the over-65-years- of–age category. This puts us up there above the state average in the number of people at least eligible for Social Security. Nevada County’s over-65 population is 16,000 and is 17.2 percent of the population. California’s overall average is 10.6 percent according to the last census posting.




Blue, too, from the symbolic color of the Republican Party, stands out here. The party of Lincoln – and don’t forget Richard Nixon, too – is proudly represented here. At almost 46 percent of the registered voters, Reps are strong and vocal. In fact, during the last Presidential election, Candidate George W. Bush was given nearly 55 percent of the vote, nearly 10 percent more votes than were declared for that party.

So how come, with all that conservative vote, we (pardon the choice of words here) collectively voted for such an advocate of big government and big spending? During last week’s State of the Union Address, Bush proposed to increase both military and homeland defense spending. It will go up by 15 percent for military and doubling whatever the new homeland spending was. That kind of increase under the name of “security” qualifies almost anybody as a proponent of big government. Bush also wants another military pay raise. Needed or not, this will add about another 3 percent to the budget in the years ahead whenever retirement benefits begin to mount up. We can all only wonder just how we can afford to increase military spending on an armed force that had already become uncontestably the strongest in the world. This was the same force, we’ll recall, that was praised so deservedly when it responded swiftly during the attacks in Afghanistan. Remembering how both Bush and running mate Cheney bad-mouthed the condition of our military just a little over a year before, it’s hard to figure how we responded so well. It’s also tough to figure out how we need to pump so much more money into such a powerful military. Recall also, if you will, that Bush himself commented that we shouldn’t throw million-dollar missiles at ten-dollar tents. Could it be that Bush is remembering that his father, the former U.S. president, is a senior advisor for the Carlyle Group, a holding and investment company? Incidentally, among Carlyle’s holdings is United Defense, a Virginia-based company that is a big player in defense contracting. I wonder who might have the major contracts for the rigged missile defense system that Bush wants?

With defense spending going up and tax revenues going down, there will be a day of reckoning. As we found out over eight years ago, when the politicians run up the bills, we still have to pay the principal as well as the interest. It’s not in the best interest of the country to run up a tab and then make others pay later on. With 16,000 currently in the age group for collecting Social Security benefits and another 20,000 more due to arrive at age 65 in 20 years – Nevada County residents need to know: Will there be money left for Social Security? The answer depends on who you talk to. Recently, estimates ranged all the way from “broke in a decade” to “it’s not broke at all.” This much we do know, now. A recent panel returned its findings on a fix for the fund. Recommendations were made to allow individuals a degree of privatization.

Because of the current state of the market, the panel’s report was quietly shelved. The big problem with privatization is that when it comes time to get retirement funds out, where would the market value be? There might be higher rates of return, but which stock would an individual be invested in and at what time? Will an industry spring up to profit from investment advising?

American business has a high failure rate that surpasses its successes. Will the private funds be invested in an Enron?

Larry Shumaker, a resident of Alta Sierra, writes a monthly column.


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