For most of their lives, working people have trusted that upon retirement they would be able to receive a livable pension or social security. Why? Because the government promised it! But many today now find that when retirement age comes around, they can no longer afford to stop working.
If you have been paying into a retirement fund, do you expect to get back your due? What change in lifestyle would happen to you if there were no retirement fund available? What social security could a government pay out if it is bankrupt?
Is government-funded retirement certain?
U.S. President George W. Bush sounded an ominous warning in a speech in South Carolina recently. Reuters reported on April 18, 2005, that President Bush painted a "dire picture of Social Security's future if nothing is done," saying the problems would start in three years when the first baby boomers retire.
He added, "By 2034 the annual shortfall will be more than $300 billion and by the year 2041 the entire system will be bankrupt." He urged younger workers to consider private retirement accounts. That's too late for older workers. Bush also cited a proposal to further raise the retirement age, perhaps even to age 70.
Canada's pension funds also are in jeopardy. Mercer Human Resource Consulting said of Canadian health and corporate pension plans, "The financial health of Canadian pension plans ended the first quarter of 2005 as weak as at any point in the last few years" (Canwest News Service).
They further explained that at the end of last year about 70 percent of pension funds wouldn't have had enough money to fully cover their pension promises if they were wound up, and that was no improvement over the year before. Think of that, 70 percent wouldn't have had the money to fulfill their pension promises!
So, it's fair to ask, what are the realistic chances of your receiving your paid-for pension fund in your lifetime? The source above offered some comfort by saying that pension plan members should still receive the retirement benefits they've been promised, as long as their employer doesn't go bankrupt.
Go bankrupt? Many companies have been doing just that and turning their pension obligations over to the government to fulfill. But what is the chance of the government going bankrupt? The answer is actually very high.
Investigative journalist Michael Harris wrote, "People with money are always worried about it. So when two of the richest Americans in the world start selling their U.S. dollars, it should get at least as much attention as the Super Bowl. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates don't like what they see on the economic horizon. How could they? The world's 'richest' country, their country, is awash in unprecedented debt" (Ottawa Sun, Feb. 4, 2005).
He explains that if we add up all the debt in the United States, the number is four times that of the gross domestic product. To run a deficit like that, governments must borrow from others to service the indebtedness. Who do they tap? Certainly not the citizens who have little savings. So they look to foreign governments. In order for Americans to continue to live beyond their means (maintain their lifestyle), their biggest creditors are now foreign governments.
This sounds like a biblical warning bell to us from something God said to His people about withdrawing His blessings from them. Deuteronomy 28:44 Deuteronomy 28:44He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him: he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
American King James Version×describes a curse to come when the foreigner "will let you have his wealth at interest, and will have no need of yours: he will be the head and you the tail" (Bible in Better English).
Michael Harris explains that the giant economies of Asia, including China, Japan and India, now hold $2.2 trillion of America's debt in the form of U.S. dollars. He poses the question of what would happen if America's creditors decide to reduce their lending. He answers by saying, "Our credit-driven consumer merry-go-round would lurch to a halt and the illusion of prosperity would disappear."
Up until now, people have believed that no creditor would ever call in Uncle Sam's IOU. But last year when China's reserves grew massively, the Chinese kept only 25 percent of their reserves in U.S. dollars. What would happen if there was a major retreat from U.S. dollars to other currencies like the euro?
If the U.S. dollar collapsed as the accepted international currency, the lifestyle we have been accustomed to for the past several decades would be drastically altered.
Would you and your family, neighbors or friends be able to adjust? What would "belt-tightening" mean for us all? Are we rapidly approaching a prophesied time when, for North America in particular, we must now borrow to maintain "the good life"?
Applying Deuteronomy to the modern Israelite nation of the United States indicates a dramatic shift from being able to bankroll much of the world to becoming a nation bankrolled at the pleasure of other nations. If an international creditor ever pulled the plug on America's national borrowing, what sort of downsizing would happen? Are you ready to tighten your belt? How much downsizing of your lifestyle is around the corner?
North America in a shifting world
We are on the verge of major power shifts and economic changes. In recent decades, Canada, for example, has enjoyed some influence in the world. But is this era over? Canada is now faced with the critical challenge of repositioning herself in a much different world.
With tighter U.S. border restrictions, Canada finds its productive role becoming increasingly dependent, almost as a satellite of the United States. Canada has not maintained its military, and its ability to respond to global challenges has diminished. And the United States has changed; it no longer needs Canadian airspace for defense and its priorities have shifted to the war against terrorism. Canada will be affected by the emerging new global powers of China, India and Europe.
The next several decades will see stunning shifts in world power and activity. The U.S. National Intelligence Council, in a recent report called "Mapping the Global Future," warns that "at no time since the formation of the Western alliance system in 1949 have the shape and nature of international arrangements been in such a state of flux." The chart below, "Percentage Share of World GDP," is how it forecasts the change.
The likely emergence of China and India and others as new major global players will transform the geopolitical landscape. The report explains that we could see change "with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries. In the same way that commentators refer to the 1900s as the American century, the 21st century may be seen as a time when Asia, led by China and India, comes into its own."
The report further adds that globalization in the 21st century is more likely to have an Asian face than an American one, as China and India boost their investments and build their own multinationals and expand their economic reach.
What will this mean for North America?
For one thing, there certainly will be a redrawing of the world geopolitical map. The report continues, "How we mentally map the world in 2020 will change radically. The 'arriviste' powers—China, India and perhaps others such as Brazil and Indonesia—have the potential to render obsolete the old categories of East and West, North and South, aligned and non-aligned, developed and developing. Traditional geographic groupings will increasingly lose salience in international relations."
Energy needs will affect our lifestyle
Note the projected figures in the sidebar "Number of Cars Owned" from the U.S. National Intelligence Council. While Russia, Japan and Germany are projected to have modest gains, note the huge changes expected for China and India. Consider what this will do through competition for fuel supplies. It is inevitable that North American fuel prices will dramatically increase. Michael Harris, quoted earlier, explained, "Asia's huge and aggressively expanding economies are now competing with the U.S. for energy resources."
Will two-, three- and four-car North American families be able to afford to run even one of them in the future? World forecasters cannot accurately say what the future will bring, nor predict the inevitable surprises that will occur. But we do know, from revealed Bible prophecy, that the years ahead will bring great challenges in maintaining the so far pleasantly enjoyed North American lifestyle.
Will you be able to make the adjustments when they come? For further study, be sure to request our free booklet Are We Living in the Time of the End? It will help prepare you for the times ahead. And to understand the Bible prophecies about America, Britain, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking areas and what they mean for today, be sure to request The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. WNP
Percentage Share of World GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity)
(Source: Goldman Sachs estimates)
Number of Cars Owned (thousands)
(Source: Goldman Sachs BRICs Model projections)