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During an interview with the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, [Indiana Governor Mitch] Daniels claimed that raising the retirement age makes sense because people will eventually live to be 100 years old by “replacing body parts like we do tires”:
Clearly, means testing. Clearly, retirement age, over time. What you’re saying to these younger people is –- who, by the way, I think, barring disasters, are going to live to possibly old ages, as we have always thought of it.... They will live to be more than 100, because, again, barring accidents or something, or war, well over. They should. They’ll be replacing body parts like we do tires. If you ask a young person who’s paying any attention to this, “How old do you expect to be, and how long would you like to be a vital working person?” they’re not going to find this offensive. Thirty years from now, you might work at 68, 70, 72....
Aside from the obvious folly of raising the retirement age now in anticipation of human body-part replacement technology that may or may not exist at some undetermined point in the future, Daniels is basing his policy preference on the same faulty understanding of American life expectancy espoused by loads of would-be Social Security reformers.
While average life expectancy has indeed been rising, it is largely as a result of increases among upper income earners working in white-collar jobs. Middle- and low-income workers have not seen the same increases and would be disproportionately affected if the retirement age were raised.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that Daniels (like Kent Conrad and any number of other lawmakers blithely talking about raising the retirement age) doesn't know any people who would be particularly effected by a raise in the retirement age. Which is a plausible excuse for not understanding the ramifications on the workforce of raising the retirement age. It's not an excuse for coming up with as crazy-assed idea as human body-part replacement becoming the norm for current generations of Americans.
Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 05:02 PM PST.