In stark contrast to the hype from Capitol Hill, the President’s Fiscal Commission, conservative think tanks and Wall Street economists, a risky proposal that would force older Americans to work longer, has been rejected by Main Street America. A new poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation shows that 78% of Americans strongly oppose raising Social Security’s normal retirement age to 70.  What is wrong with working longer—aren’t we living longer? Not all of us. Studies have shown workers with higher incomes who reach age 65 enjoy most of the increase in life expectancy.  This is not surprising considering they are less likely to have physically demanding jobs and more likely to have high-quality health insurance coverage.  In recent decades, the richest Americans gained nearly five more years of life expectancy, compared with only one year for those at the bottom of the income ladder.  So when someone says, “we are all living longer”, I’d suggest it’s clearly not that simple.      The truth is the rich are living longer, the poor much less so, 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.  In 1940, men who survived to age 65 had a remaining life expectancy of 12.7 years. For a 65-year-old man today, that projection has increased by just 5 years.  This is not the longevity boom some in Washington would like us to believe as they try to sell Americans on raising Social Security’s retirement age. While many older workers may be healthy enough to work, jobs for them may simply not exist.  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 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? That seems highly unlikely in these troubled economic times.  In addition to physical hardships, raising the retirement age even higher creates financial strains by forcing another form of a benefit cut. The normal retirement age is already rising to age 67.  Raising it yet again will mean most workers who are forced to retire early at age 62 will see a cut in benefits of about 45%.  The average annual benefit today is less than $14,000 – cutting it almost in half will result in millions of today’s workers living out their retirement years in poverty; breaking the promise that has kept generations secure for 75 years. This post also ran in the Tennessean; Sunday, July 18, 2010