Social Security, the Stock Market, and Unemployment
by Tom Stewart
October 5, 2002
Social Security and Abortion
Scripture declares the blessedness of having children, i.e., "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalm 127:5), especially when the population of a nation trusts God, i.e., "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD" (144:15). In particular, the Saints have the greatest confidence that old age will not stop the Almighty from continuing to take care of them. "And even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs [old age] will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you" (Isaiah 46:4). In contrast, Americans will soon see little of economic blessedness for workers, their families, and retirees, since the population of American workers (contributors) and retirees (beneficiaries) is fast becoming so out of balance that the safety net of Social Security will break under a load of insolvency. Some do not even accept the government's current statement of Social Security's solvency. It has been projected by organizations interested in Social Security reform that in the year 2017, the federal government will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes, and between 2017 and 2075 Social Security's unfunded liability will be a deficit of $24.2 trillion, which is 12 times the size of the 2002 federal budget (from the National Center for Policy Analysis-- http://www.mysocialsecurity.org/quickfacts/). "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the Righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). In the United States, the Social Security Administration projects that the population will increase from 272,874,000 in 1995 to 381,272,000 in 2080. During that time, the retirement age will begin to rise from age 65 (1995) to age 66 (2005) and finally to age 67 (2022). Though cancer is projected to overtake heart disease as the number one cause of death by 2005, and diabetes and respiratory disease have seen a substantial increase in persons 65 years and older during 1982 through 1994, the death rate is decreasing. Life expectancy is expected to increase for males from 72.2 years (1994) to 83.4 years (2080) and for females from 79.0 years (1994) to 88.8 years (2080). Added to this, the fertility rate for American women has decreased from 3.1 children per woman in 1924 to 2.2 children (1940), but increased since 1940 (especially following WW2 for the Baby Boom) to a peak of 3.7 in 1957. Again, the fertility rate dropped to a low of 1.74 children per woman in 1976. It climbed back to 2.07 in 1990, but the actuaries at the Social Security Administration concluded: "Therefore, it is plausible that the total fertility rate could be as low as 1.6 children per woman over a long period of time. Thus, we have selected 1.6 as the pessimistic, high cost assumption" (from "Social Security Area Population Projections: 1997: Actuarial Study No. 112" ---New Window). Question: If children, who mature into taxpayers of the Social Security tax, are so important to the older retiring generations, why are they being aborted? It would seem that the abortionist (for purely self interested reasons) would then have to agree with the anti-abortionist that aborting babies is suicidal to the future of their Social Security program. "13 Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. 14 I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15 My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret... 16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect [i.e., embryo, fetus, not yet fully formed]; and in Thy Book all my members [limbs] were written, which in continuance [or, period of time] were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them [not yet fully formed]" (Psalm 139:13-16). [See our article, "What the Bible Says About Abortion" ---New Window, for more about this important subject.]
The Stock Market and Retirement
The stock market is viewed by most people as an indicator of the economic health and prosperity of a nation, as well as a gauge of the success of the New Global Economy, i.e., the One World Economy; but, the truth is, the true wealth of nations is God Himself, i.e., "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom He hath chosen for His Own inheritance" (Psalm 33:12). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). A gathering place for the buying and selling of goods, merchandise, and commodities is a market; and, a stock market, in particular, is the place for both buyer and seller to make a fair exchange-- the seller to attempt to raise capital to do business, and the buyer to attempt to increase profits by joint ownership in the success of the company. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). Abuse of the stock market, e.g., insider trading, only illustrates how the evil of greed dominates so much of human action. "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor" (Proverbs 28:8). Though the stock market may be a legitimate tool for raising money for a company by broadening its base of ownership through the selling of stock in that company, as well as the potential of future income for the stockholders, greed and speculation by both sellers and buyers too often turns the stock market into a tool for unbridled covetousness. "13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the LORD will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil" (James 4:13-16).
Some desire to turn Social Security into a type of 401(k) account, where a portion of a worker's Social Security payroll tax is deposited for private investment in stocks, bonds and other assets, and is the private property of the account owner; but, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) third quarter 2002 has seen its worst performance since the 1987 crash and its worst September since the Great Depression, even as sales slowed for Wal-Mart (the world's largest retailer). "How should we then live?" (Ezekiel 33:10). Traditionally, the purchase price of a share of stock was returned to the investor in the form of stock dividends in a 7 to 15 year period; however, the emphasis upon 'growth before profits' has seen the emergence of e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com (books, music, video, etc.), whose CEO Jeff Bezos posted its first quarterly profit of its seven year history on January 22nd 2002. For the Christian, "in the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge" (Proverbs 14:26). Amazon.com has a high debt structure ($2.2 billion in notes and bonds), and its stated intention of not paying dividends, i.e., "We intend to retain all future earnings to finance future growth and, therefore, do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future" (from Amazon.com's FAQ: "Does Amazon.com distribute dividends or have a Direct Stock Purchase Plan?"), has motivated some to profit from Amazon.com by selling the stock short. (In short selling, an investor is gambling that the stock will decline in value, i.e., borrowing the stock, selling it at today's prices, then buying it back in the future when prices are expected to be lower. If the stock unexpectedly increases in value, the short seller assumes the loss.) [See our article, "What the Bible Says About Gambling"---New Window.] "8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9). Though the shakeout continues, several other Internet giants have also carved out a niche for their particular services, e.g., Yahoo.com (directory), eBay.com (auction), MapQuest.com (maps), Google.com (search engine), Expedia.com and Travelocity.com (travel), etc. "Since the height of the dot-com frenzy in January 2000, at least 862 dot-com companies have failed, according to Webmergers.com data" (excerpted from InternetNews.com, a July 8th 2002 article, "Is the Dot-Com Bust Coming to an End?"). "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just" (Proverbs 13:22). Remember: As a Christian, your goal is not to to be rich, but you are to "be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5). "7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1Timothy 6:7-10). [See our article, "The Essence of Evil" ---New Window, to see how "evil is the willful negation or refusal of God," as when money is wickedly chosen to supplant God. Also, John Wesley's sermon, "The Use of Money" ---New Window, outlines the concept that the Christian ought to gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can, when it comes to money. Further, the lecture, "Being in Debt" ---New Window (1839), by Charles G. Finney ---New Window, illuminates the passage, "Owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8).]
Unemployment and the "Right Not to Work"
Living right and not retirement was the issue that Jesus addressed about 2,000 years ago, and it is still the issue today. "31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:31-34). Today, retirement annuities, which rely on the overall health of the stock market, have made possible a leisurely picture of retirement (at least, for those who have more than Social Security and no debt), e.g., time to travel, play golf, eat a late breakfast, go shopping during the hours that most people are working, in short, doing whatever they like, whenever they like, if the nation's prosperous circumstances continue, and they have the health to accomplish it and the money to afford it. But, is that the purpose for which you live? "16 And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
Just because unemployment is not directly an issue for retirees, it does not mean that unemployment does not affect them, since the unhealthiness of companies affects the stock market, which affects their retirement annuities, e.g., employees of bankrupt Enron lost their 401 (k) investments. "Let no man seek his own [self-seeking, selfishness], but every man another's wealth [consult the wellbeing and edification of others, as well]" (1Corinthians 10:24). Unemployment is the condition of being without a job or paycheck, which is a sizeable problem for those who live from paycheck to paycheck; but, in this increasingly have and have-not world, most are opting to retire from working as soon as it is possible. In 1994, an adult male was expected to live 72.2 years, which was only 7.2 years after the Social Security retirement age of 65 years old. Usefulness to God and not just to ourself or society is the goal of a productive Christian life. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Our short life is only a vapour, but it is all that we have to prepare for Eternity. "11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1Corinthians 3:11-15). Question: Can we, in good conscience, prepare ourselves for the "golden years" of retirement as if we finally can do something for ourselves, ingratiating ourselves with the "right not to work," when the truth is that the Finish Line is Heaven and not retirement? "23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith" (Philippians 1:23-25).
May God bless us with a useful life for Christ. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:25).
[See our article, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window, to see how God's promises have made provision for a useful Christian life.]
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