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RMA Presents: “America: Underwater and Sinking: Time to Surface with Lessons Learned”

Balancing the budget by 2033 will require major cuts across the board, or extreme cuts if social and defense programs are preserved.

By Arnold Gordon

At the March 8 meeting of the Retired Men’s Association, Hollister Sturges introduced the speaker, RMA member Jim Lockhart, who has had a long, distinguished career in the government and private sectors. Jim graduated from Yale University (BA) and Harvard Business School (MBA). From 1989 to 2003, he was executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. From 2002 to 2006 he was the principal deputy commissioner/COO at Social Security and from 2006 to 2009, he was the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, regulator of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks, and its predecessor agency. He was also a member of the TARP Oversight Board along with the Fed, SEC chairs, and secretaries of Treasury and HUD, which addressed the financial crisis of 2008-2009. His private sector experience includes serving on four public company boards including Virgin Money in the UK. He co-founded a risk management firm and served in senior positions at a reinsurance company, an insurance broker, an investment bank and a major oil company. From 2009 to 2018 he was vice chair of WL Ross & Co., leading their financial services investments. He is currently chair of the Bruce Museum board and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center where he co-chaired a Commission on Retirement Security with former Senator Conrad (D-North Dakota).

Jim based his presentation on his recently published book, “America: Underwater and Sinking, Time to Surface with Lessons Learned,” an analysis of the financial challenges facing our nation. A former submarine officer, he told an important story about managing government agencies that, in submarine-talk, are in his opinion deep underwater. He then provided solutions on how to help them, and the overall government, surface. He pointed out that there are 152 government insurance programs, among them loan guarantees, Fannie and Freddie mortgage programs, federal employees and veterans’ benefits, property damage and financial loss, non-federal employee benefits, and the various social service programs (Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid). One of his major concerns related to the appointments of agency heads, which too often are political appointments of people without the necessary competency or managerial experience.

He maintained that balancing the federal budget and the solvency of some of these programs in the medium to long term is questionable without major spending cuts. Our current overall debt, for example, is 30.1 trillion dollars! Projections show that Social Security in 75 years will need 20.4 trillion dollars more (in net present value) than is predicted to be available, based on current rules and expected demographic changes. Similarly, the shortfall for Medicare Parts A and D will be 74 trillion dollars. Even 10 years from now, the Social Security Trust Fund will need from its current outlay of 1.3 trillion dollars a huge increase to 24 trillion dollars. Although there is strong opposition by AARP and other organizations to “privatizing” Social Security, he favors it and pointed out that it has worked successfully in other countries, such as Sweden and Denmark. He noted that “privatizing” is actually a misnomer; the proposal is to establish investment accounts that would be voluntary, for limited amounts, and only available to those below retirement age.

A lively Q&A followed the talk.

To see the full presentation, go to https://greenwichrma.org, cursor to “Speakers” and click on “Speaker Videos.”

The RMA’s upcoming presentation, “Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: The Inside Story,” by Robert Doubek is scheduled for 11 AM on Wednesday, March 22. Since its dedication in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become an American cultural icon symbolizing the war in Vietnam. The black granite wall of names is one of the most familiar images associated with the war; today the memorial remains one of the nation’s most visited monuments. While the memorial has enjoyed broad acceptance by the American public, its origins were both humble and contentious.

Robert Doubek will discuss the creation of the memorial as told in his memoir, Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – The Inside Story. It was a grassroots effort launched by veterans with no funds and sparked an emotional debate about aesthetics and the interpretation of heroism, patriotism and history that nearly doomed the project. Doubek’s account tells the complete story of the memorial’s creation amid Washington politics, a nationwide design competition, and the heated controversy over the winning design and its creator.

Doubek grew up in an American family with Czech roots. They were bakers and confectioners for three generations, including his. In 1962, he enrolled at the University of Illinois, studying political science, German, and Russian. Soon after graduating from the university, Robert was commissioned in the Air Force. He served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, focusing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, among other projects. After his service, he earned a law degree at Georgetown University.

In 1979 Doubek co-founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and served as its executive director and project director until completing the memorial in mid-1983.

Presently, as an employee of the U.S. State Department, Robert travels worldwide to purchase land for construction of new U.S. embassy and consulate compounds. He lives in Washington, D.C.

To stream the presentation by Mr. Doubek at 11 AM on Wednesday, March 22, click on https://bit.ly/30IBj21. This presentation will also be available on local public access TV channels, Verizon FIOS channel 24 and Optimum (Cablevision) channel 79.

Note: The views expressed in these presentations are those of the speakers. They are not intended to represent the views of the RMA or its members.

RMA speaker presentations are presented as a community service at no cost to in-person or Zoom attendees, regardless of gender. The RMA urges all eligible individuals to consider becoming a member of our great organization, and thereby enjoy all the available fellowship, volunteer, and community service opportunities which the RMA offers to its members. For further information, go to https://greenwichrma.org/, or contact our membership chairman (mailto:members@greenwichrma.org).

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