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Raising Social Security's Retirement Age

July 2, 2010

The Washington Post has once again confused fiscal opportunism for bravery and sensibility (Sense and Social Security, July 1, 2010). Raising Social Security's retirement age - another way of inflicting a benefit cut on people who have paid into Social Security their entire working lives -- places undue financial and employment burdens on workers, especially near-retirees. Cutting Social Security benefits while defending tax cuts we can't afford, bailouts we can't pay for and wars with no end is neither brave nor sensible.

Social Security belongs to the American workers who've funded it, not Washington politicians who've spent decades spending it. Americans of all ages want fiscal responsibility returned to Congress; however, taking money from Social Security while telling American workers they need to stay on the job longer is not fiscal responsibility.

The Post editorial ignores the fundamental fact that the rich are living longer, the poor are not, and whites vastly outlive other racial groups. A white female born today can expect to live to 80.6 years while an African American male can expect to live to be 69.7. 1In recent decades, the richest Americans gained five more years of life expectancy, compared with only one year for those at the bottom. 2While working until 70 might be a "modest social cost" for the six-figure salaried, largely white writers, think-tankers, and politicians in Washington it's a much bigger cost for millions of middle and lower income Americans who will not live as long as those making these key retirement age decisions for them.

I hear from seniors every day who've lost their jobs in this economy and can't find another one.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics 3 confirms workers between ages 55 and 64 are unemployed much longer than their younger competition in the workforce as they fight for jobs in short supply.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw a 33% increase in the number of age discrimination complaints in the past two years as seniors feel the pressure of aging in the workforce. For older workers in the elite classes of jobs, it's easy enough to say-- Americans should just work longer-- but what about everyone else? Will our nation make the investment necessary to prepare for an older workforce? Would the Washington Post consider that investment brave and sensible governing? Given this current budget environment that seems highly unlikely.

1 Maggie Maher, Century Foundation Should We Lift the Retirement Age and Make Social Security and Medicare More "Progressive"?

2 SSA (as reported in CJR)

3 MSNBC Age Bias Complaints surge


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