Wednesday, June 14, 2006

USNWR: Alternate realities

Last week the Time cover story was Haditha. Same for Newsweek. But US News and World Report (you know, the one with "world" in the title) had a series of themed cover stories advising its readers about "seven reasons not to retire". When I was in high school I had a government teacher who regarded USNWR as being far more sober than the big two newsmagazines, but that was some time ago. The seven reasons?
1.Retirement? Fuhgeddaboudit. Working longer could be better for you--and your wallet
2.It literally pays to work, and money can buy peace of mind
3.The economy may face a shortage of qualified workers
4.A flexible schedule and no stress
5.Working can boost your health, keeping you active and sharp
6.Staying fresh in mind and body
7.Your marriage may benefit from a little less togetherness
8.One couple's division of labor
9.Without those pesky E-mails, you'd feel a little less connected
10.The clientele is warm and fuzzy
11.You can use this time of your life for a whole new beginning
12.The three-course breakfast
13.Work may add new meaning to your later life
14.A passion for solving problems

When I looked at these I thought of Patrick McGoohan's village on The Prisoner and how psychotically upbeat the announcements on the intercom were. At first, I wanted to rant about how US News was spinning the destruction of the welfare state's safety net as something completely unlike what it is and will be, a schizoid denial of the massive cognitive dissonance imploding in their middlebrow readers' skulls at the thought of the coming post-New Deal age of scorched-earth capitalism in which you work 40 plus years to get a chance to be a Walmart greeter and get a senior's discount at Denny's. But maybe that's too obvious. After all, one of the reasons older people will need to keep working in the future is to pay for the wars we aren't paying for now. So, maybe the USNWR cover is not so much a denial of Haditha and the war as a sort of blissed-out corollary.

Still, I thought I'd try my hand at an alternate series of headlines:

1. Who needs to raise taxes to shore up social security? It's just a liberal plot!
2.Medicare? What's that? Get back to work, your break's over!
3. We need you to keep working because we never properly funded higher education. (Besides, you voted against all those pesky regulations protecting your pension fund, remember?)
4. That ten trillion dollar debt isn't going to pay itself!
5. Socialized medicine? What are you, a commie?
6. Of course we aren't demoting you. We're just changing your job description. Think of it as a fresh beginning.
7. Best of all, I know how to count because I went to private school!