Random Rants, by Thomas Andrew Olson

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

NASA needs young replacements...but don't we all?

NASA, it appears, is having a personnel problem.

It seems that their graying workforce is not seeing enough turnaround, and promising young engineering grads are either going elsewhere, or are convinced to go into different fields entirely before even entering college. Thus there is fear that NASA could experience a shortage of home-grown rocket scientists, etc. in the not too distant future, as the graybeards retire. Only 25% of NASA's total workforce is under 40, and as the Shuttle program winds down by 2010, and the needs for new vehicles and missions increase around the same time, there is a huge disconnect in skill sets.

But I submit that NASA's problems are symptomatic of society's as a whole. By the 2008 to 2010 time period, the first, oldest baby boomers will begin to retire, assuming they start at 62. There has already been great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the MSM over this, but only from the point of the strain on public entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. I think a greater crisis looms in the whole of the American business economy.

Everyone knows the boomers are a huge bloc. But few grasp the true size of that bloc and how its loss will profoundly affect the economy going forward. Consider: For every two boomers that retire, only one GenX or Echo-boomer (nee "GenY") will be available to replace them in US-based businesses. This adds additional strain to the entitlement budget, via loss of tax revenue, that the pols never want to talk about. Perhaps they can't grasp it themselves.

I am part of the "middle of the hump" boomer group, those born in the mid-fifties, so if I follow in my father's and grandfather's footsteps, I won't be looking at winding down before 2024. But we need an answer to these issues before then.

Given the looming crisis between the strain on entitlements, and the loss of tax revenue from a huge workforce with an abundance of knowledge and skills, I fully expect several policy decisions to occur:

1. There will be increased minimum age limits for Social Security and means tests for Medicare. This will be a political nightmare, but given the choice between that and the utter bankruptcy of the system for all, it will reluctantly fly.
2. Large corporations will offer significant incentives to keep the graybeards around longer than they originally intended. This could involve direct financial rewards, or semi-retirement consulting opportunities, which would also involve mentoring. Watch these corporations lobby for tax breaks to do this, selling it as an alternative to complete outsourcing.
3. On the other hand, some forms of outsourcing will gain political cachet as a short term means to fill certain gaps in the workforce, so US firms can keep going.

So for those, like me, who hate the idea of retirement, you may have plenty of lucrative opportunities awaiting you after age 65. On the other hand, those who looked forward to retiring early may find that more of that retirement may, by necessity, be more self-funded, via limits on Soc. Sec. and Medicare, so make sure that IRA and 401-k are doing really well, as you'll be dipping into it sooner than you planned.


  • ....Retirement? What's that? I could be wrong, but as far as I know,
    we're the first civilization in history where people plan on going on vacation for the rest of their lives, after they reach a certain
    arbitrary age.

    ....As a novelist, assuming that I can't shuffle off the way all men
    would really like to, in the throes of the Supreme Moment, I've always
    rather fancied the way former gunfighter and _Denver Post_ sports
    writer Bat Masterson did it, collapsing over the keyboard following a massive coronary.

    ....Beats hell out of retiring and then dying slowly of cancer.

    By Blogger LNeil, at 10:58 AM  

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