Monday, September 13, 2010

Forgotten men and women

As per usual, the New York Times fails to point out that Social Security is not on the verge of insolvency, nor do they mention any alternatives to raising the retirement age to help long term financing for the program. Nevertheless, the story raises an important point overlooked by the elites who have been commissioned to "fix" Social Security: not everyone as it as easy as they do.

In all, the researchers found that 45 percent of older workers, or 8.5 million, held such difficult jobs. For janitors, nurses’ aides, plumbers, cashiers, waiters, cooks, carpenters, maintenance workers and others, raising the retirement age may mean squeezing more out of a declining body.

Mr. Hartley had planned to retire at 58, but he and his wife had high medical expenses, and the company froze one year of its pension plan, reducing benefits. He is, he said, “stuck here.”

Workers like Mr. Hartley present a conundrum for a Social Security overhaul, said Eugene Steuerle, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who favors raising the retirement age. People are living longer, and providing “old age” benefits to them when they are relatively young and healthy, he said, makes less available to them when they are older and frailer.

“We’re close to the point when one-third of adults will be on Social Security and will be retired for a third or more of their adult lives,” Mr. Steuerle said. “It’s true that some people in late middle age have issues of physically demanding jobs, but saying we’re going to give everyone more years of retirement is not an efficient way of dealing with that issue.”

Any changes in Social Security’s retirement age will not affect workers currently in their late 50s and their 60s, who are eligible for full benefits at age 66. But their experiences now are a harbinger of things to come, said Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research in New York, who opposes raising the Social Security retirement age because she says it will have a disproportionate impact on lower-income workers and minorities, who tend to have lower life expectancies and so fewer years of collecting benefits. At the same time, blue-collar workers often spend more years paying into Social Security because they start full-time work younger, she said.

“People who need to retire early — and they need to — are folks that start working in their late teens, whereas people who are promoting raising the retirement age are people who were in graduate school or professional school and got into jobs that would logically take them into their late 60s and 70s,” she said.

A study by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found that for workers ages 55 to 60, the share who said their jobs required “lots of physical effort” all or almost all of the time declined between 1992 and 2002, to 18 percent from 20 percent, but the percentages who said they had to lift heavy loads, stoop, kneel or crouch increased.

But for our elites, these people are no more than coddled infants, sucking at the public teat.

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