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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Retirement, Plantation Style

North Miami Beach, FL 01-18-2005
A.H. Schectman

There was a letter in the NY Times this morning that reminded us that we need not look to other nations having problems with privatizing their retirement plans. This writer wanted us to remember that BEFORE Social Security there was only the retirement plans (and minimal ones at that) provided by SOME forward looking businesses for some way of looking into the future and making plans for it.

But, we can look to a more ancient private retirement scheme back before the Civil War in this country.  This is RETIREMENT, PLANTATION STYLE. Does anyone remember the halcyon days of the old plantation when the slave, past working days, is allowed to sit in a rocking chair in the doorway of his “quarters” to while away his days – doing absolutely nothing? This is the picture many of us today have of retirement and it looks good because you are being taken care of by “Ol Massa” who never sold a slave down the river that he didn’t like.

Mr. Rich Man and Mr. Tycoon have no need of retirement policies.  In a moment of lucidity, one of my cousins who hit it big in the days following a hurricane in New Jersey when all the new-fangled TV antennae were blown down said that a rich man and a tycoon do not need retirement and, in fact, do not need INSURANCE. This cousin made it big and was a minor tycoon when he died for he had a good business sense, was a Ham Radio operator, created a simple, reliable and inexpensive TV antenna and made his first fortune.  He did not need Social Security or Insurance Policies. But, then, there are the rest of us.

The lie about retirement, plantation style is that it never happened on a national scale. In the slave owning South, the slave was squeezed for all productivity in him and in the “Free” North, the WAGE SLAVE was squeezed for all the productivity in him and there was no plan for either retirement. Women and children were substituted for men for they could be paid less and there were no plans for the end of their work. If you were lucky and your family was able to provide for you, the non-working elder could sit around the house and be fed.  No longer was there a society in which nomads traveled across the world with all their goods on their backs and on their animals and when Grandma and Grandpa could no longer keep up they were left off to the side to die. These were the private plans.

Privatization is fine for those who can think up and pay for a fund to take care of them and their families. The Plantation Retirement Scheme no longer exists and that is why Social Security was instituted and has been such a success. Mr. Bush and his cronies like this plan: RETIREMENT, PLANTATION STYLE.



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