Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

Baby Boomers, Fairness and Our Nation’s Economy

I enjoy going to Pittsburgh the day after Christmas. And I’ve been doing that to visit my Mom and Dad and my three brothers and their families for better than 35 years now.

It’s fun to be in the City of Champions where pro football is still played this time of year — and where the games actually mean something. I’ve opined before that  one of the virtues — perhaps the only one — of professional sports is that it tends to unite people on a mission: celebrating success and rallying around common goals. When was the last time residents of a city sat glued to a TV to watch the performance of City Council members or the local school board? LOL

I hope I live long enough for the long-suffering residents of Northeast Ohio to experience a championship season — and in the case of football — the exhilarating effect it can have on a city and region during the holiday season. Saying that, in my case the actuarial tables are starting to tip in the wrong direction. Mike Holgrem: Come on down! Just sayin’.

It’s also fun for me to visit with my nieces and nephews, having watched them grow and mature year-by-year from babies to wonderful teenagers and young adults.  And I hope for them — and for my son and daughter and millions of others at the same age and place in life — that they have the opportunity to build a good life in a country that until now offered each generation the prospect of doing better than the ones that came before it.

Those days may be over — and that’s something we should be concerned about.

That brings us to the issue of fairness — and what is going to be a huge and significant policy debate in this country in the next few years. And it is going to happen — like it or not. We can’t support measures to create and maintain high-quality jobs, education that will allow our young people to succeed in today’s global economy, an outrageously expensive presence as the world’s policeman and so on while paying all of the bills that are coming due as the Baby Boomers — and yeah, I’m one of them — move into the golden years.

Here’s from Robert J. Samuelson, writing in the WaPo, “On Medicare and Social Security, be unfair to the boomers“:

I received my Medicare card the other day, recognizing my 65th birthday and making me part of one of America’s biggest problems. By this, I mean the burden that the massive baby-boom generation will impose on its children and the nation’s future. There has been much brave talk recently, from Republicans and Democrats alike, about reducing budget deficits and controlling government spending. The trouble is that hardly anyone admits that accomplishing these goals must include making significant cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits for baby boomers.

If we don’t, we will be condemned to some combination of inferior policies. We can raise taxes sharply over the next 15 or 20 years, roughly 50 percent from recent levels, to cover expanding old-age subsidies and existing government programs. Or we can accept permanently huge budget deficits. Even if that doesn’t trigger a financial crisis, it would probably stunt economic growth and living standards. So would dramatically higher taxes. There’s a final choice: deep cuts in other programs, from defense to roads to higher education.

Yet, neither political party seems interested in reducing benefits for baby boomers. Doing so, it’s argued, would be “unfair” to people who had planned retirements based on existing programs. Well, yes, it would be unfair. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a worse time for cuts. Unemployment is horrendous; eroding home values and retirement accounts have depleted the elderly’s wealth. Only 19 percent of present retirees are “very confident” of having enough money to live “comfortably,” down from 41 percent in 2007, reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

But not making cuts would also be unfair to younger generations and the nation’s future. We have a fairness dilemma: Having avoided these problems for decades, we must now be unfair to someone. To admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving baby boomers alone. Baby boomers – I’m on the leading edge – and their promised benefits are the problem. If they’re off-limits, the problem is being evaded. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent two-fifths of federal spending, double defense’s share.

Ah, gulp.

It is a matter of fairness — and political will.

Clearly something is going to have to be done — and I’m OK personally with that as long as it is thoughtful, part of an overall plan, and, yes, fair. I’m not much int0 redistributing wealth these days just for the sake of political expediency or correctness.

And the coming policy and legislative fights on these and other issues involving the future of our nation’s economy and our way of life are going to be difficult, without easy solutions.

But it’s important that we get something done. And let’s hope it doesn’t take as long as it may take the Cleveland Browns to experience the joy of a championship season.




Olde Frothingslosh: The Best Beer Ever?

OK. I know there are big issues to deal with these days: the economy, unemployment, MLB’s designated hitter rule and so on. But I believe there is a controversy brewing on The Huffington Post. It appears that there is a contest to identify the “Most Ridiculous Beer Name of All Time.” Some candidates: Buttface Amber Ale, Old Leghumper and Arrogant Bastard.

Whoa. How about Olde Frothingslosh? WTF.

Olde Frothingslosh, as everyone like me who came of age in Pittsburgh a half-century ago knows, was renowned as “the pale stale ale with the foam on the bottom.”

And its unique taste stemmed from the fact that Olde Frothingslosh was “brewed from hippy-hops on the banks of the Upper Crudney in Lower Slobbovia.”

Hey, it doesn’t get any better than that. Just sayin’.

Invented as a joke by Pittsburgh radio station KDKA DJ Rege Cordic in 1954, Olde Frothingslosh actually made it into saloons the following year and into the hearts (and stomachs) of beer lovers for many years thereafter.

So c’mon Huffington Post. Let’s get Olde Frothingslosh on the top of that list.

After all, it was brewed fondly in the City of Champions.

Pittsburgh: Welcoming the World

I hit the elliptical trainer hard this morning at 5:30 a.m. Around and around and around. Kind of repetitive, actually. Just like the early morning TV news shows, local and cable networks. Same stories. Just different venues. Wouldn’t it be easier and less stressful on viewers just to consolidate to one channel?

But then I wouldn’t have seen the story over and over again about Pittsburgh and the pro forma protests that accompany the G-20 Summit. And as those who stop by this blog regularly know, Pittsburgh is my hometown.  My parents and brothers and their families still live there, and I still have a strong attachment to the city even though I departed for Northeast Ohio more than 40 years.

DSCN0295So let me try to be helpful. For the anarchists who are in the Steel City today, if you have the time, go to Primanti Bros. for lunch. Order the Pitts-burger Cheese Steak and a couple tall glasses full of Iron City. It will change your view of capitalism. Well, maybe not. But at least I tried.

Here are the points.

I understand why cities want to host these events. They attract international attention and news media coverage. For Pittsburgh that represents a great opportunity to tell its story. And from what I can see, it is a very positive story — one of rebirth and redevelopment following the decades-long decline in manufacturing jobs. Good model here for Cleveland and Detroit and so on.

But with the G-20 Summit comes some risks — and some problems.

First, the news coverage of the protests tends to overshadow both what is happening at the meeting of world leaders as well as the story of Pittsburgh’s second (or is it third?) renaissance.

Second, the city basically shuts down — with stores and businesses closed and so on. I’m sure there is an economic benefit to all this from the standpoint of hotels, restaurants and so on. But I also expect there are some businesses and individuals who take an economic bath by being on the sidelines while others welcome the world.

And then we get to the protests. I’m all for peaceful protest. And I’m still a believer in capitalism and free enterprise — despite the fact that the Captains of Industry and the Wizards of Wall Street have done all they could to destroy capitalism and free enterprise — with some help from government officials on both sides of the aisle. (Gee, if I knew how to operate a video camera I could have helped Michael Moore with Capitalism: A Love Story. ) But the message that the protesters have — legitimate or not — gets lost among the tear gas and the hurling of garbage cans.

Pittsburgh Welcomes the World. Good.

And some in the ‘Burg have clearly benefited. Amazingly enough, the Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to play a home game yesterday afternoon — and with only about 3,000 or so attending, officials closed the upper decks and let everyone move down into the seats normally occupied by the capitalists. (Oh, what’s wrong me with?)

Of course, baseball fans in Pittsburgh are passive. That comes from decades of losing seasons, despair, hopelessness and so on.

Fortunately, as I mentioned when I wrote about the G-20 Summit in this space a month or so ago, the Steelers are playing out of town this weekend.

Otherwise, regardless of what you see on TV today — if the protests disrupted the Steelers game or fans, things would have gotten ugly.

Economic Summits and the City of Champions

DSCN0301Well, I managed to run 10 miles over the weekend: five on the concrete around the neighborhood Saturday and another five Sunday around and around and around the high school track close to where I live in Copley. The track provides a much more forgiving surface for my injured foot and leg — but the entire run takes on the quality of being in a holding pattern and circling an airport waiting to land. Woot.

On Saturday we took off for Pittsburgh to visit my family — along with my daughter Jessica and her friend Gyorgyi, both visiting from Budapest. (See Budajest.) As the students in the introductory writing classes at Kent State and elsewhere opine: a good time was had by all. Sheesh.

I enjoy Pittsburgh. And there were actually people walking around the downtown streets on a Saturday afternoon, heading to a concert, the Andy Warhol Museum and so on. Or just sitting around — like us — drinking beer and eating what is possibly the world’s best sandwich at Primanti Bros.DSCN0295

And plenty of people — 3,000 or more — from around the world are going to get this view of Pittsburgh in late September when the City of Champions hosts the G-20 economic summit.

This gathering of pooh-bahs from around the globe provides a good showcase for Pittsburgh, a city that has really transformed itself several times since I left the Steel City in the mid-1960s. Gone are the steel mills and other (gross simplification and generalization here) manufacturing jobs. In their place are jobs that support a thriving middle class and a vibrant city. That should give some hope to cities like Cleveland, Detroit and so on that are struggling with the same issues of attracting and retaining employers that actually provide jobs that provide middle-class wages and lifestyles.

And it is also the kind of event that all of the tourism groups and economic development organizations in other cities would kill for. To wit: the CEO of VisitPittsburgh, Robert McGrath, says in the Pittsburgh Business Times:

Robert McGrath, CEO of VisitPittsburgh, put the estimated value of a convention that brings 3,000 to 4,000 attendees to town at approximately $8 million. But he expects the value of the G-20 will be higher than that, given the high-level dignitaries attending. Including advance teams and other visitors, McGrath expects the event will generate between 14,000 and 15,000 room nights over multiple days.

While he acknowledged it wasn’t an event for which VisitPittsburgh could campaign, McGrath said the city did win out over other cities in contention.

“It kind of fell from the sky but at the same time we had to earn it,” he said. “We had to convince them that we could deliver.”

The G-20 meetings also tend to attract protestors and demonstrations. No problem with that IMO as long as the protests are peaceful and no damage is done to property or to individuals. Otherwise — something tells me this gathering won’t end well in the ‘Burg.

But the protestors — to the extent there are any — did catch a break. The Steelers play in Chicago Sept. 20 and in Cincinnati Sept. 27.

Any disruptions or delays for fans heading to Heinz Field for a Steelers game in late September — well, that would be ugly.

The folks in Pittsburgh know only too well that a good defense often trumps a solid offense. And the Steel Curtain certainly helped the ‘Burgh become the City of Champions.

Let’s hope the Pittsburgh police don’t have to take the field with similar results in late September.