There are times when one seeks a single word to define a situation in a special way. That word for today is “angst.” This a word of German origin that according to “The American Heritage Dictionary” means a feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression. You may think of it as a somewhat ill-defined feeling of foreboding. Why do I choose to employ the word angst today?
There has been a flurry of stories lately, both in the print media and on television, relating to ominous happenings associated with some of the bedrock elements of our working life. A long held belief is that those who get up each morning, head out into the world and put in an honest day’s work will receive an honest day’s pay for that work and some basic fringe benefits or sufficient earnings to acquire such benefits.
Recent news accounts have focused on three areas. First, property and casualty insurance issues have been front and center in the news. The horror of Hurricane Katrina has exposed the flaws in the approach by insurance companies or the errors in the ideas of policyholders. The courts are still sorting through these issues. Secondly, the pot is once again reaching the boiling point with regard to the availability, access to and affordability of healthcare and health insurance. No doubt the entry into the presidential race of numerous candidates seeking to make healthcare a part of a winning strategy has helped to elevate this issue back on to the public stage. And finally, there are the growing concerns over the viability of that old employment staple — the pension or retirement plan. Employers are basically saying that workers are on their own when it comes to retirement.
Battle lines are being drawn and it is becoming easier to see who is on which side. Regarding property insurance, not only are the courts laboring to sort things out, but the Congress is preparing to open a wide-ranging examination of the current status of this branch of the insurance industry.
Then there is the issue of pensions. Recent stories of overcommitted pension plans and the further erosion of actuarial soundness as the glut of Baby Boomers reaches retirement age have caused many to at least locate the panic button as their retirement plans reach the point of no return.v
As often happens when a situation becomes painful enough, individual citizens realize that there are others who share their predicament. Policy debates ensue. Organizations form, political action committees are funded, and citizens united behind a common cause act politically in behalf of their own interests. Perhaps “angst” is indeed a powerful motivator.