Grumpy old guy or concerned citizen?

One of the tell-tale signs of getting older is the propensity to get a little grumpy as the world changes around us.

That realization was part of a conversation a week or two ago with a fellow businessman. News of the Drummond Report on provincial spending in Ontario, word that the federal Conservatives are looking to change eligibility rules for old age security payments and the general problems around the globe with finances begged the question: Are we, meaning two older fellows like ourselves, grumpy old guys or rightfully worried about what the future holds?

Of course the question has its roots in the outlook of preceding generations. We can recall quite clearly the times when a senior might lament that he had no clue how the next generation will thrive. The price of homes, the price of cars and fuel, education costs, increasing government debt and so on, were all offered as proof positive the sky was falling.

In the nick of time, wages would climb just enough to keep the ball rolling. Something new would come up making the economy seem to spin a little better. Prices of homes continued to climb, affording a sense of comfort in owning more of a home than, say, the bank or trust company. Some might argue that those increases in equity merely masked the simple fact Canadians were not saving nearly as much as they should have and conversely not earning nearly what they needed to meet their true needs.

We cannot pretend to understand economics enough to explain what is taking place today.

What we can’t shake is this nagging feeling that the sustainability of much that has been taken for granted is in peril. Again, is that a function of age, or simply growing cynical with the rate of change that is being foisted upon the population?

The recent closure of Electro-Motive Canada in London lends credibility to that forecast as a prime example of how quickly well-paying jobs can be replaced and the absence of replacement jobs of equal calibre. As a function of economics, the lowest costs possible for production yields greater returns for the manufacturer, but what of the towns and people that lose work on that basis? Communities obviously benefit from a well paid labour force, as that money is circulated back into stores and businesses along the way.

Adding to that obvious problem of shrinking opportunity is the debt and commitments made by governments at all levels. One of the telling points coming out of the Drummond Report and other analyses is that Dalton McGuinty’s government failed to recognize the higher valued dollar quickly enough, spent more than it had coming in and now must make cuts to sustain core responsibilities. The federal government is in a similar pickle, needing to bring revenue in line with expenses.

The coming months will tell a larger tale. If governments are to get their affairs in order, entitlement spending will be under greater scrutiny.

As for being grumpy, that, too, will pass. It has to. Citizens have every right to be concerned, and active in what lies ahead.