Millions of Americans are Going to Die Poor

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About six months ago, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me that it had miscalculated the amount of my monthly Security check for the past six years. I had been overpaid, the feds said, and it would not send me any more monthly checks until it collected the entire amount the government said I owed.

Meanwhile, a Baton Rouge strip club received a Payroll Protection check for more than a million dollars. And the press reported that more than a thousand Louisiana prisoners received enhanced unemployment checks totaling $6.2 million.

I will survive the loss of a couple of Social Security checks, but not every elderly pensioner could take the hit. For me, this incident is just another sign that our government does not care about the elderly.

The U.S. Department of Education, for example, garnishes the Social Security checks of thousands of elderly student-loan defaulters, driving many of them below the poverty line. Congress could pass a bill to stop this cruel practice, but apparently, it is too busy to address this outrage.

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A great many Americans are entering old age with no savings, no pensions, and no assets. These people will die poor.

And it is going to get worse. Inflation is on the rise, and inflation–it is often observed–is one way the rich rob the poor, including poor people who are elderly.

Jerome Powell and Janet Yellen assure us that the recent uptick in inflation is transitory, but that’s bullshit. Our national debt is $29 trillion, and yet the government keeps printing money. The price for just about everything is going up–including food. Five bucks for a loaf of bread?

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In one of his plays, Tennessee Williams observed that you can be old or you can be poor, but you can’t be both. Unfortunately, that’s not true. America is about to see millions of impoverished old people as inflation heats up.

How much time did the financial fat cats spend talking about poverty at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium last August? I would guess not much. After all, there aren’t many poor people in Jackson Hole.

I have a suggestion for next year’s economic summit meeting. Instead of holding it in Jackson Hole, book it in Anadarko, Oklahoma–my hometown. Lot’s of poor people there.

But attendees should book their reservations early. The Budget Inn has only a limited number of rooms, and it would be unseemly for Paul Krugman, Janet Yellen, and Jerome Powell to bunk together.

Richard Fossey is a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and his doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is editor of Catholic Southwest, A Journal of History and Culture.