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Another Reason To Lower, Not Increase, Social Security Retirement Age

by: Robert Cruickshank

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 09:00:00 AM PDT


California's unemployment crisis takes many forms. One of the most pernicious is that it disproportionately impacts young workers, 34% of whom are unemployed in California today (in this case, "young" is defined as ages 16 to 19). Many young workers, unable to go to college and needing to support themselves and their families, are having an extremely difficult time finding work. This not only cripples their financial position here in 2010, but has lasting negative impacts on their lifetime careers and earning potential.

One reason they're having a hard time finding jobs is that they're competing against workers who shouldn't be in the workforce at all. A San Francisco Chronicle article today showed that working seniors outnumber working teens. In the article, "seniors" are defined as people age 65 and older:

For the first time on record, senior citizens outnumber teens in the labor force as the Great Recession accentuates trends that make it harder for young people to find jobs and more likely for older workers to delay retirement....

Experts say that over the past decade older workers have tended to hang on to their paychecks longer, owing to sagging stock portfolios and falling home prices.

This shift toward an aging workforce has been disastrous for 16- to 19-year-olds, who face unemployment rates of 25 percent nationwide and 34 percent in California, similar to the Great Depression.

"It's killing kids," said Andrew Sum, director of the center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. "We're tossing our future into the trash bin."

This is an absurd situation. Ideally, people over age 65 can exit the workforce. Social Security and Medicare exist in part to ensure seniors have their needs taken care of so that they exit the workforce and open up jobs for younger employees who have a greater need for this work.

But because Social Security benefits haven't kept pace with the cost of living, because Medicare benefits haven't kept up either, and as other state programs designed to aid seniors are being cut, seniors are finding it necessary to continue working.

This problem would be compounded if Obama's Cat Food Commission gets its way, and the Social Security retirement age is raised above 65, keeping even more seniors in the workforce. One policy analyst argued for lowering the Social Security retirement age instead:

Heidi Shierholz with the liberal Economic Policy Institute...thinks a better way to improve job prospects for younger workers is to make Medicare and full Social Security benefits available at age 64 for the next two years to coax more older workers into retirement.

I'd say that needs to be a permanent shift. As Dave Johnson has pointed out, workers age 55-65 are getting hit hard by this recession as well, suffering from a pervasive age bias that can hit workers as young as 40. Lowering the retirement age would help some of the older members of this group find work, while opening more places for younger workers.

Ultimately, we need policies that benefit all workers regardless of age. That includes true universal health care, as well as government job creation programs. But the first rule is "do no harm" - and the Cat Food Commission's likely recommendation to increase the Social Security retirement age would do a world of harm to American workers, especially to the young, whose futures have been systematically robbed from them in order to sustain a failing system for older workers.

Robert Cruickshank :: Another Reason To Lower, Not Increase, Social Security Retirement Age
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Wow (0.00 / 0)
Anyone over age 65 needs to be out of the workforce.

That's some serious age discrimination.  Who the *&^&% are you to make that decision for someone?


My grandfather was retired at 60 (0.00 / 0)
TWA company policy in the early 1980s (or perhaps it was FAA rules) mandated airline pilots retire at age 60. He didn't want to, but those were the rules.

I'm open to having people over 65 continue to meaningfully participate in our society and economy. But in an era of long-term unemployment, it's not sensible to have workers over 65 continue to take jobs younger workers need. Better to ensure they have a good retirement with their financial, health, and housing needs met.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave


[ Parent ]
I clarified that section (0.00 / 0)
I'm not calling for age discrimination, but as a general policy, we should be finding ways to support those over 65 without them needing to be in the workforce. We should encourage seniors to retire and find other ways to be productive members of society and our economy.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Being on Soc Security doesn't mean out of work (0.00 / 0)
Being fed up with pay cuts and with being disrespected as a worker, I recently retired from working for Gov. Schwarzmuscle (thank goodness!) and started collecting CPers retirement. I had planned to work "a few more years", but the Gov. and the Legislature kept sending "get out while you can" signals.  

I also started collecting Social Security @ age 63.5. Together, the CPers and Social Security incomes are OK. It's nowhere near the levels cited by wingnuts who want to ruin state workers' retirements, but it allows me and my wife to pay our bills. BTW, I get a reduced amount from Social Security b/c my "full retirement age" is 66.

When you get Social Security prior to "full retirement age", you also get to make $14K a year on top of the payments from Social Security Admin. That's fine for part-time jobs or short-term contracts. I've been doing that, and it certainly helps make ends meet. My issue is that the $14K level was set years ago and isn't adjusted for inflation.

I'm fine with the notion that old farts like me should make room for young people in the workforce. As long as I can get a decent retirement income and be able to supplement it with part-time income, that's OK. I just wish that the part-time income piece would be raised to keep pace with inflation. I paid into both my retirement plans and am merely taking out what I earned. But if I need more money, like say for a new car or a vacation, I should be able to go out and earn more on top of Soc Security without penalty, and the level of "earn more" should be realistic vs. the current cost of living.  


Agreed (0.00 / 0)
I'm still 17 Years away from "Retirement" As I'm now 50 and I'm totally Disabled, My retirement age would be 67, I get $845 a month and $674 comes from the main Federal Budget(some like to say otherwise, that It comes from the Trust Fund, That's a myth propagated by phony baloneys) and $171(State Supplemental Payment or SSP) comes from the state of California where the Governor and fellow Republicans(millionaires all I'd think) want to take away $15 a month from My check and I'm barely making It now, Which may not be much cause of My employment history, Right now since I'm Disabled I exist on SSI(Supplemental Security Income to those Who don't know), It has limits on Savings of $2000 for Singles and $3000 for Couples which hasn't been raised in ages, There is a bill in the House entitled the SSI Savers act of 2010 or H.R.4937 that would raise these limits to $5000 and $7500 among other things, It's in the Ways and Means Committee right now and has been for Months, It probably has some who object to this bill no matter how It's worded.

SSI Savers Act of 2010 (HR 4937) - alt.social-security-disability

H.R.4937 - SSI Savers Act of 2010 - Open Congress

Google Search for the "SSI Savers Act of 2010 (HR 4937)"


[ Parent ]
Any clue or hint as to how you'd pay for it? (0.00 / 0)
And as another has posted, you can work and receive Social Security

Maybe with (0.00 / 0)
something the Brits call a Value Added Tax, Paid for on all purchases nationwide, The rate? Either 0.5% or 1%.

Of course some would object...


[ Parent ]
I thought that was the solution (0.00 / 0)
For the existing budget crisis, not a new one of our own creating....

[ Parent ]
Horrible idea (0.00 / 0)
It may seem like a fine idea right now to try to get people aged 55 to 65 out of the workforce, because the baby boomers are that age and there are a LOT of them. But in a relatively short number of years, all but the most hardy of them will be retired and there will be a labor shortage. And it won't be pretty.

Greece is presently dealing with problems that stem partly from the national practice of retiring at 53. Do we want to change our country's habit as well and suffer the potential negative consequences of that in the future?

When the "traditional" retirement age of 65 was established, decades ago, people were living shorter, less healthy lives. Today's Americans aged 65 and 70 are still playing golf (and running for Governor). Some are still supporting children in college. Many enjoy working and do not want to stop.

The current recession was not caused by people working longer. We need to fix the root causes, not band-aid it in ways about which we may eventually be sorry.


I didn't say 55-65 should be out of the labor force (0.00 / 0)
But we do have a serious jobs crisis with 34% unemployment among young adults.

Obviously we need a system where those above 65 have their needs taken care of, where those 55-65 can find employment that pays their bills, and where those younger than that can get good jobs that pay a good wage and set them on a good life path, able to build a family, etc.

The current system is a failure. For many young unemployed people, it's hard to justify those over 65 who still work because they like working, especially if they do not need to work.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave


[ Parent ]
"having their needs taken care of" (0.00 / 0)
Oh, yes, put them in a large hall somewhere with beds and TVs where they can be "taken care of." Sounds lovely. I hope to talk to you about this in about 30 years and see how you feel about it then.

As someone else said, how do we pay for all this? By further burdening the young with taxes?

Maybe this could be accomplished financially if it had been considered 30 years ago. But many people in the 55 to 65 age range still don't have enough money to retire. And I'm serious when I say some still have kids in college.

So in addition to "having their needs taken care of" are you also going to pay for their kids' college educations? And their kids' weddings? And help their kids make down payments on homes of their own?


[ Parent ]
That's certainly not what it means (0.00 / 0)
Definitely not talking about pushing anyone who turns 65 into a home.

However, I am very much talking about ensuring that those in the 55-65 age range, and above, have the retirement they need. I absolutely do mean paying for college educations - that ought to be free of charge, as was intended in the 1960 Master Plan.

As to downpayments on homes, my entire point is that younger families should be able to find good jobs with good wages that can enable them to do that on their own. Now I'm with authors like Richard Florida who are skeptical of homeownership, but a young family should have that choice, without needing to fall back on parents to help with a down payment.

Overall, I'm saying we need to do a better job providing for seniors, and do a better job providing basic economic stability for younger workers.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave


[ Parent ]
Not everyone is lucky enough (0.00 / 0)
To have Parents or Siblings that are still alive, Except for My Sister in law who's about 55 and Her three grown kids, All of My family is deceased, Dad died in '93, Mom in '98, Sis in '99 and My Brother in 2005, I'm the Youngest and the last of My family and Yes I'm 50 years old now, If I were lighter in weight I could even pass for someone that's maybe 35 to 40 years old, Heck even at 61 My Brother could pass for someone Younger than He really was, Grandpa lived until He was 82 and outlasted two wives, My Great Grandpa that I never Met, Lived until He was 87 years old. In any case I have no one to help with a down payment or to move in with If I needed to do that. As there's no room at the inn for Me. I'm stuck out in the High Desert in a mobilehome that even though It's paid for and I have clear title, I so far haven't been able to sell It for even $9,999.00 as I've had no one even look at It, much less make an offer. But then on September 17th, It'll have been listed for 1 year.

[ Parent ]
And by "labor shortage" (0.00 / 0)
one means, "higher wages" and perhaps "less insanity about immigration"?

And really, Greece as the economic bogey du jour?  The problems with Greece are so many and multivalent, that it's almost impossible to compare Greece with the US in any way except "Wow, they're really really different!"


[ Parent ]
Generational Warfare (0.00 / 0)
Rob, I usually like what you post, but this is a decent idea presented in a very bad fashion!

There is a problem with youth unemployment.  There is also a problem with unemployment among the 55-65 age group, the 45-55 age group, the 35-45 age group, etc...

The problem is a lack of jobs for all ages in this economy.



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