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Monday, January 14, 2013

Myth: Social Security is in Trouble

Financially, this blog title is a myth.  Politically it is not.  An absolutely excellent article on AlterNet by Lynn Stuart Parramore is the basis for this post and I will quote it heavily.  I had led you to believe I would do a Fiscal Bluff Part II follow up post but I think it has become apparent the world did not come to an end.  So I'm saving that for later.  Social Security has been part of the Fiscal Bluff debate for inexplicable reasons.  Parramore lists those reasons in her article titled, "The Giant Lie Trotted Out by Fiscal Conservatives Trying to Shred Social Security".
Here I list each supposed "problem" with Social Security and the corresponding truth:
  1. OMG seniors are living so much longer than we expected!  They're going to bankrupt the system!  THE TRUTH:  Social Security's original policymakers quite accurately predicted increasing longevity.
  2. OMG we need to raise the "normal" (or "full") retirement age as a result!  THE TRUTH:  In fact, retiree life expectancy gains since 1935 have been modest.  Early figures were based on expectancy at birth, not at age 65.  Life expectancy at 65 has only increased by 5 years since 1940, from 14.7 years to 19.6 years.  Besides, the Full Retirement age has already been increased from 65 to 67 for certain age groups.  Unnecessarily.  By the Greenspan Commission back in 1983.  Remember?  Greenspan, the architect of our fiscal disaster.
  3. OMG we're going to be supporting a sea of broke old people!  THE TRUTH:  Longevity gains have gone to the affluent.  Among the poorer and less educated, women have lost 5 years, men 3 years.  Out of 34 industrialized countries we rank 27th in life expectancy.  So as Parramore points out, raising the retirement age again would be a "direct assault" on the less fortunate.  Furthermore, life expectancy gains are expected to slow in the future.
 Social Security and Medicare need to be completely off the table in the budget cut discussion.  Sure, there are efficiencies to be found.  But our out-of-control military spending, outrageous corporate welfare, lax design and enforcement of tax law are much larger and more urgent areas true fiscal conservatives would be targeting.  If they truly were fiscal conservatives rather than plutocrats living under the delusion that it saves money to ignore our fellow citizens.

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