My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


A Sane Voice On Social Security

I think John Tierney may be the only person in the MSM willing to look at Social Security with a view to "what is" rather than "how will this play?". Once again, today Tierney has penned an impolitic but very smart piece on one aspect of Social Security reform.

In the Social Security debate, the notion of raising the retirement age is the elephant in the room, as Robin Toner and David Rosenbaum reported in The Times on Sunday. Both liberal and conservative economists favor the change, but politicians are terrified to even mention it to voters.

While he doesn't back up that assertion about economists, it certainly passes the "smell test." But even more importantly, he backs up the idea with a reasonable argument:

Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to. . .

With the help of groups like AARP, the elderly have learned to fight for the right to retire earlier and get bigger benefits than the previous generation - all financed by making succeeding generations pay higher taxes than they ever did themselves.

The result is a system that burdens the young and creates perverse incentives for people to retire when they're still middle-aged. Once you've worked 35 years, more work often yields only a tiny increase in your benefits (sometimes none at all), but you still have to keep paying the onerous Social Security tax, which has more than doubled over the last half century.

Anybody trying to keep an eye on this debate should read Tierney every time he writes.

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