I'm hardly a baby, having been born in 1918. I was a teenager during the Great Depression, cast my first vote the year that Hitler started World War II, and spent several subsequent years in the Pacific following the "Day of Infamy" at Pearl Harbor.
I started to pay into the Social Security fund the year that the program started, and continued to pay ever since, excepting for the five years spent in the army. Now that I have retired, I find that because of the year of my birth, rather than the contributions I have made, reduces my benefit by more than $115 each month.
I am a Notch Baby. Those born two years earlier, and those born eight years after me, get full benefits. The Notch years came into being in 1977 when congress was afraid the Social Security system would run out of money. Today, when we are in a surplus situation and searching for ways to improve Social Security, I think it is about time that this particular age discrimination was ended.
If Congress were to propose that people born in 1960 to 1970 would receive less Social Security benefits there would be a great outcry and charges of discrimination and a return to "equal treatment according to law". Al Gore and George W. should make this end to age discrimination one of their prime goals.
Although the number of Notch babies is diminishing each year, there are enough of us still alive to go to the polls and support this goal. People on Social Security have always turned out on election day in great numbers as evidenced by the interest of all politicians in talking about Social Security as a first priority for surplus funds.
Eleven Million Notch Babies is the current estimate of those who are effected by this birth discrimination. Retirees who are between 74 and 83 years old are Notch babies, and deserve an end to this discrimination.
Most of the notch babies are also veterans of WWII and survived Pearl Harbor and the beaches of Normandy. We got the benefit of the GI Bill for education, and some bought their first house with help from a Veterans Administration mortgage.
We were special enough to get preferences in civil service tests and were assurred that the jobs we left when we went to war would be there for us when we were discharged. Our pay while in service started at $21 per month, but from that amount we had deducted our laundry bill, and an amount for term life insurance. We didn't get rich from our service in the armed forces.
After discharge, while looking for a job other than the one we had left, we relied on the "52-20" club, which gave us $20 a week for 52 weeks as a "Readjustment Allowance". We married after we found a decent job, and some of us lived in Veterans Housing Projects, in army surplus Quonset huts, until we could save enough to perhaps afford a new home in Levittown or somewhere else in the suburbs.
If we worked in a city, we kept our eyes open for stores that were selling Nylons and got in line hoping to make a purchase of one or two pairs before the supply ran out. The time of giving your wife or girlfriend flowers had ended when the precious stockings became more desirable.
Three years after the war ended, we purchased a new 8" television television set and watched test patterns until regular programming started.
We went to bed after the TV went back to the test pattern before midnight.
As phone lines became available, we talked to other lucky friends who were able to get a four-person party line. We watched the Texaco Star Theatre and Milton Berle as well as the Rise of the Goldbergs and Amos and Andy.
When our children were born, we bought a second hand car, or put our names on a list for a new one. As the kids grew up we joined the PTA and bought Girl, or Boy Scout uniforms for them. We went to church each Sunday as a family.We gradually lost touch with our war-time buddies as we concentrated on earning enough money to pay property taxes and buy a bigger house.
We paid our dues to society. We breathed a sigh of relief when we got notice that the maximum individual deduction for Social Security had been reached and there was still time to save for the end-of-the-year property taxes. We were mostly one-income families except for those married to school teachers, or "Career Women".
We were not fully aware of our second-class citizenship until years after we retired, and still don't fully understand why we were so chosen.
Is there a rational explanation for this disparity, or should it just be swept under the rug? Even the Japanese Americans who were wrongfully interned during WWII have gotten some redress.
Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently proposed to congress that some relief be given to those of us who were short-changed. He was joined by Rep. Mark Neumann of Wisconsin who says that we were cheated and should have an adjustment in monthly benefits, or a cash award for compensation.
Surely there are some residents of Hernando County who are Notch Babies, and would like to see this matter brought to the fore. I wonder whether anyone beside me is concerned? If nothing is done, the Notch Babies will go down in the history books as a cause buried in political maneuvering.
The problem will go away in time as we die off, but wouldn't it be better to take action now rather than let our children wonder why their parents were singled out just because they were born in the wrong year?
I wonder what other people think?
Notch Babies Redux
response to Adon Taft article
Return to Words from the Scribe
Carl R. Thien is a former NY newspaper editor now residing in Spring Hill FL. He is a regular columnist for Hernando Today. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org