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March 25, 2009

Patriotic Retirement


Patriotic Retirement

By Elaine Viets

I would like to herald David Otterson for his solution to fix our economy. He’s right up there with John Maynard Keynes and other economic brains, at least in my opinion.

David Otterson of Largo, Florida, proposed the following plan in the St. Petersburg Times:

"There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force . . . pay them $1 million apiece severance with stipulations.

"They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings – unemployment fixed.

"They buy new American cars. Forty million cars ordered – auto industry fixed.

"They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage – housing crisis fixed."

Three major fixes for a relatively modest price tag of 40 trillion dollars.

I am awestruck.

The St. Pete Times ran an article asking readers how they would fix the economy. Answers ranged from slashing taxes to investing in space missions. My second favorite idea was to legalize pot, which would empty overcrowded jails, bring in billions in tax revenue, and mellow out the nation.

Consider these additional benefits from David Otterson’s plan:

Working people would be rewarded. Instead of enriching useless memo writers and pointless pencil pushers, folks who actually had to sweat for their dollars might see some money.

Increased respect for older Americans.

Old crocks would become vessels of wisdom. Older working persons (and future millionaires) would be appreciated for their intelligence and maturity, not to mention their money.

A fifty-something receptionist who spent thankless years answering phones, fetching coffee and dealing with dunderheads, would become an Uncle Sam millionaire. She could devote her days to deserving young persons, particularly unappreciated pool boys and righteously ripped parking valets.

A sixty-plus gentleman trapped in a nowhere job would cease to be another bore at the bar after work. Young people would hang on his every word and hope he opened his arms – and his bank account.

Marriages would become stronger: Tired of your spouse after twenty years? Think how an infusion of cash would renew interest in each another. The glow of a million dollars could soften harsh wrinkles, reduce unsightly fat and blind you to turkey necks. As mature couples grew closer together, the men could afford the Viagra their miserable insurance now limits to six tabs a month.

If you still didn’t like one another, well, half a mill is a nice parting gift.

Other businesses would benefit: With a million bucks, mature Americans could afford to travel, eat out more often, buy new clothes and save the economy by spending their way to prosperity. They might even pay their credit card bills and other debts.

Conservatives and liberals would agree: The million bucks should go only to us hard-working Americans, not jobless freeloaders.

What would become of the 40 million Americans suddenly thrown out of work? They could devote their time to hobbies such as traveling, boating, beer-drinking and meddling in their children’s lives. All of these activities times would stimulate the economy, especially the last one. Rewriting your will every week or so would put unemployed lawyers back to work.

I can promote this plan without any taint of self-interest. As a full-time writer, I don’t have a corporate job. But my husband does. If he got a million bucks to leave work, he’d trample those twenty-somethings running for the door. He’d cheerfully forgo collecting Social Security for another ten or fifteen years, thereby letting the fund rebuild. It would be his way of paying forward.

When I proposed the patriotic retirement idea to him, he said, "But I don’t want an American car. I love my 23-year-old foreign car."

It’s coots like you who have ruined this country by refusing to spend, sweetheart. You don’t have to drive the new car, just buy it. Parking is scarce in our neighborhood, so you’d stimulate the economy by renting a parking space. Besides, when our cars are in the repair shop, we’ll have something to drive.

"But if forty million people are millionaires, will our money be worth anything?" he asked.

That’s a risk I’m willing to take.


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I'm afraid this guy's math is seriously challenged. There isn't enough money in the Treasury to pay $1,000,000 APIECE to 40,000,000 people, I'm afraid. Try this on your calculator; there are not enough zero place for it to work. A cost of $40,000,000 means that 40,000,000 people each get ONE DOLLAR.

It's too bad, isn't it?

I think I'll just stick with playing 1.50 a week in the lottery with my neighbor. We have as much luck hitting that as having the government give us $.

I love ideas like this, and other letters-to-the-editor ideas that sound as if the person was stoned when he/she proposed them.

Did this guy work at the White House for the past eight years, save two months?

That's 4 followed by 13 zeros. 40,000,000,000,000. Am I wrong, or is that Forty Trillion?

Is that 1M for each person over 50, or 1M per household? Either way, I'd be happy.

As an aside, just switched to AT&T U-Verse, and it's actually cheaper than what we had. Plus, this morning at the Ungodly Hour of 4am, while still learning all of the features, Video on Demand has its own separate on-call "James Bond Channel". The first 17 movies.

Knowing this crowd, and applying my Highly Trained Investigator Instincts, I see an upsurge in subscriptions to U-Verse. A sharp increase in spending is GOOD for the economy, n'est pas?....

Sorry, I don't understand!

In my arithmetics (no need for high mathematics for this) 40 millions "to be retired" x one milion apiece = a huge sum, not 40 milions, but rather 40.000 billions, nobody in the world has it!

so the idea may be good, but there is not enough monez in the whole world to apply it ... sorry!

While I'll gladly take $1 million, and the man's math sounds good, as others have pointed out, it doesn't add up. Now, do I have a better plan? Nope.

William - can you explain AT&T U-Verse?

Sure, Cyndi. It's an all-encompassing package: Digital TV, High-Speed Internet, telephone, and cell phone.


I finally gave in and have gone DVR (although my VHS-VCR is close by and connected!), and am speechless. The variety is incredible, and it's less than what I was paying for telephone and cable. Once I got the Video on Demand figured out, wow....:)

I'd like to see this tied to an AmeriCorps at the other end. For example, retired people are paid handsomely to provide certain mentoring to younger people about finances/job skills.

I can understand slowing down later in life. Sometimes health problems mean you have to stop. But there's no reason to quit entirely and watch TV. That's instant death and depression.

Well, I loved the plan while it lasted, before all you marvelous people discovered the lost zeroes.

Yesterday I did my part to stimulate the economy. I bought the latest Blond Bond DVD at Costco for a full $25, which is more than I ever ever pay for DVDs. Now I'm scared to open the package because it's Blu-Ray. What is that? Do I have that? Does it work on a regular TV? William?

Yes, it's 40 trillion, not billion, and not million. In other words, a heap.

Sarah, I like that idea. Hubby and I were out in Yellowstone two summers ago and met a retired couple who work at the park in a similar fashion during the summers. They live in a motor home, and each have different jobs, and they love it. On the spot, we decided we'd try to do something like that when we hit out 70's, as long as we can. They seemed to be having such fun, and meeting on their lunch hour every day.

Another thing retired business people can do is volunteer for SCORE, Service Corps of Retired Executives, which is part of the Small Business Administration. However, these days one might be leery of ending up with a counselor like Bernie Madoff or a Ken Lay type.

Er, thanks to everyone who noticed the whoppig math error - the total cost is $40 trillion, not $40 million. Journalists did not have to take the extra math classes. I think it's corrected now. Should have gone to Smith.

The mentoring idea is a good one, Sarah, but here's what I'd repeat to younger workers, again and again:
You can love a corporation, but it can't love you back. Go out on nice days, don't stay late to work for the Frendix project, go home to your spouse and spend the weekends with your kids.

And, to quote my mother: "A million isn't what is used to be."

How about the dame on Good Morning America this morning (did I just use the word "dame?") who's asking her soon-to-be-ex husband for alimony of $53,000 a week??? Now, that's an income I could live on!

I'll bring the popcorn, Harley, as soon as you figure out how to watch Blond Bond.

Harley, I know you do not have a Blu-Ray player, so take it back.

Harley, if you have a Blu-Ray DVD player, you're fine with any TV. If it's a standard DVD player, take it back and exhange the Blu-Ray for Standard...:)

Harley, at $25 Costco price, it may be a dual pack. Disney, I have noticed, is releasing some things in a dual DVD/BluRay combo pack. You have both formats so if you only have DVD, you aren't buying it twice when you are forced to change to BluRay. Check the packaging and see if it is a dual format before returning it.

I am all for the 1 mil to those of us over 50 still working. But it had better be for each worker. If the wife is not working, then they would only get 1 mil. Dear Hubby & I would then clean up for 2 mil. Our daughter would be thrilled that she won't have to support us because of our 401k losses & his company stock options tanking.

And this is about as likely to happen as my winning the lottery!

A million, after the new car and the new house unless they are both the tiny, economy models, is not going to leave an awful lot to live on for the next 20-30-40 years if we aren't allowed to have money-earning jobs.
If writer's are exempt, what about self-employed graphic artists? Won't all the up and coming writers, artists, musicians, etc. complain that we aren't holding to our bargain?
I think my brain is hurting to think about this so early in the morning.

William, we've had U-Verse for almost 2 years now. We were sort of a beta site for it. Love it and just got a HD TV and the pictures are even more fab. Have used Video on demand once or twice but my friend who uses it all the time, loves it. U-Verse just upped our internet speed from 6 to 10 mb download and from .9 to 1.5 upload which Precious says is great speed and I'm sure you know what he is talking about even if I don't. He is thrilled. Like you we saved a boatload of money when we got it. Oh, and when we added the HDTV option, which increased our monthly cost by $20, the agent gave us a $10 a month for 6 months credit for using U-Verse and told me to call back in September and ask to have that credit extended another 6 months. Cyndi it is not available in all areas yet. Call your AT&T provider to find out if it is in your part of Arkansas yet.

I liked the idea, too, until I remembered that a million is less than what my husband and I are aiming for to pay for a very modest retirement (no expensive hobbies, limited travel). Too bad, because I'd retire in a heart beat if I could. Then I'd turn around and work for peanuts either teaching one small class each semester or advising -- I'd be able to do a much better job that way :)

Love the park volunteer idea, though. Parents of a friend of mine worked as docents at Redwood State Park in California. They took a month every summer to volunteer at the gift shop and -- get this! -- sit around in groves waiting to answer tourists' questions. Now, there's my idea of retirement! They went at the same time each year and so became part of a community of retired people; in return for their time, they got free trailer hookup for the month.

Sounds perfect to me . . .

Just for kicks, take a look at this from today's New York Times. I know, I know, it's only one person, but it helped ratchet down my current fury. It's easy to lump all these people into one greedy category, but we shouldn't. Where did this sudden streak of fairness come from? I fear the New Moon.


Kathy, I read that & I had heard that the majority of the people who got the bonuses were not the ones who screwed things up. It is going to be proven that it is unconstitutional to tax those bonuses at 90%, I think. If the people who got the bonuses are like Mr. Desantis, then they should get the bonuses & not feel guilty. They did their job plus clean up the mess from others.

Oh, cry me a river. All those guys are as overpaid as professional athletes, and the false moral outrage just pisses me off.

We had an annuity that hubby bought from me long before we were married, in 1979. The company that held it originally was eventually sold to AIG, which we just realized a couple of months ago. Fortunately, he is now 59 1/2 and could cash it out for the full value. Considering that we've lost almost exactly half of our pensions and other investments in the stock market, we feel pretty fortunate to have gotten that check in our hot little hands. Too bad it wasn't enough to make up for even the tiniest fraction of stock market losses. As self-employed folk, we worked damned hard to save the maximum each year in our pension plans, and to see it vanish like this makes us both heartsick. No, I have zero compassion for the whiny-butts at AIG, or any of the other companies that have gotten bailed out, and I really don't need to be subjected to their nonsense.

Ooh, can you tell I need a mental health day today? Off to finish the blasted tax stuff, and then I'm going shopping for the first time in weeks.

Karen- I hear you and I'm self-employed too. Like you, if I don't work, I don't get paid. And like I said, I'm still furious.

Because one of our specialties is securities law, I know a lot of these Wall Street types. Lots of them are jags, no doubt about it. But there are lots who are regular people too, who had nothing to do with the massive market fraud. We need real accountability for this crisis - and there is plenty to go around - from all levels of government to lobbyists to investment bankers to mortgage brokers. I just don't like demonizing everyone who happened to be in the general area.

I think Elaine has it right, regardless -

"You can love a corporation, but it can't love you back. Go out on nice days, don't stay late to work for the Frendix project, go home to your spouse and spend the weekends with your kids."

P.S. One of my favorite sight gags from the 'so bad it's good' "Rocky and Bullwinkle" movie with DeNiro:

"Crimea River"

Thanks for the reminder, Karen, and I'm going to start using that - love it!

Kerry, Don and I will try to eke out a life on a million. Kathy, you always provide a different perspective, but right now I'm not feeling too sympathetic to anyone working for AIG. Bah, humbug.

PS: Is Blu-Ray worth it? I see the ads, but can't tell the difference on my aged machine.

Blu Ray is only worth it if you have a good (new/big) hi def TV and the movie is a true epic. Otherwise, no. But then, my eyesight is not as sharp as it used to be any way.

I hear you on AiG mess. Just got off the phone with a jerk of an investment banker who is trying to piggyback on the NYT piece. Told him it doesn't apply to the people (like him) marketing and selling the fraudulent swaps. (They hate it when you use FRAUD in conversation, but if the shoe fits and so forth).

So apparently my moments of fair-mindedness are over. I feel better.

Well, IF its true that some of the execs took only $1 in annual salery and stuck it out (even though they could have moved on and made a ton of money) because they were promised compensation later, I do feel sorry that they are taking such heat. If this guy truly was smart to put away his money (& could live without the bonus), I say "You go, guy" for giving it away to people who need it. But we never know what is truly the "truth".

Elaine, I wouldn't unless you and Don also get a Hi-Def TV to go with it. I've just recently replaced most of my video collection on DVD, and refuse to move to Blu-Ray for that reason.

As far as the AIG letter goes, I want proof this guy is legit, or if it's a PR circlejerk. (Sorry ladies, but when I think about AIG, I get kind of mean feeling about it all....)

Thank god TLC readers and writers have come to their collective senses. No sweetness and light for AIG greedheads, unless they want to give me some money. If this was the French revolution, I'd take up knitting and watch them all mount the scaffold.

Seems that the French have a pretty good idea !
I was wondering if my little catnip business would get me $1m with that plan, I'd take it!

Nancie - check out the purses at calicojunction.com. Several models for CCW.
Ya just never know what granny is carrying to the quiltin' bee! LOL

Rita, if cats had a vote, you'd have that million already. My cats go nuts for Rita's catnip toys.

Kathy, William, Elaine, and Pam--thanks for your collective perspective. I'm calmer now, having had a long overdue shopping fix (Organized Living closing, 40-60% off everything; our local bookstore for Harley's new book, yay!). But I also stopped to see my brother the stockbroker, whose income went down almost 60% last year, and he's singing the blues, too.

I didn't want to steal any of Sarah's thunder yesterday with her news about Anna, but we've had one bright spot of news here. Our youngest daughter decided to do her PhD at University of Miami, and she signed the contract this past week. I'm so proud of her!

Karen, Miami sounds like a great place to visit! And I notice there are lots of condos with reduced prices now....

Thanks Rita, those are pretty cool. Yep, grandma could be packin’ a .45 and you’d never know it!

Karen, that is great. Hopefully in a year or so my daughter will be going to PhD school. She's a bit burnt out right now & wants a break...until the boyfriend gets done with his Master's.

From the St. Petersburg Times on April 12:

Editor's note: In February we published reader suggestions — serious and otherwise — for how to fix the economic crisis. This was one of them (not "the winner" as some message boards have suggested):

"There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force … pay them $1 million apiece severance with stipulations. They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings — unemployment fixed. They buy new American cars. Forty million cars ordered — auto industry fixed. They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage — housing crisis fixed."

We didn't print that it would cost $4 trillion, or less than the bailout. But readers are right that this would cost $40 trillion — nearly three times the national gross domestic product and nearly four times the national debt. So, a fun idea? Sure, just like making pro athletes foot the bailout bill, investing in a national bullet train system or legalizing marijuana — all ideas our readers suggested. An effective one? Not at all. Of course, world leaders' ideas haven't been terribly effective yet, either.

It's not too late to share your ideas at www.tampabay.com/news/business/article973953.ece.

Comon now Elaine Scroogie, lol! Just cus they work for AIG...well, whatever, nevermind...


Just because AIG has problems doesn't mean you should be so harsh on the people working for them, Elaine. Come on, people gotta earn a living somewhere, after all.

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