Atrios links to Greg Anrig's take-down of a Time magazine article criticizing Obama's economic proposals. Anrig correctly points out that Justin Fox, the article's author, commits the common journalistic idiocy of assailing ideas for not being new while ignoring the fact that past experience has shown them to be effective. Anrig highlights this passage:
These add up to what you could call the stock Democratic response to tough times. They're not necessarily bad ideas, but they're not what you could call new or transformative either. Obama throws in a few populist panders -- he favors a windfall profits tax on oil companies (which could discourage investment in new energy resources), and says he would oppose raising the Social Security retirement age (which if phased in over a long enough period would be the fairest, most sensible way to ease some of the system's long-run funding challenges). Near the end of the speech, there was a hint of Obama's "yes, we can" vision: a plan to give $4,000 a year in tuition aid to college students who pledge themselves to community or national service after graduation.
Taking off on the Social Security retirement age, which Anrig points out is slated to be 67 by 2022, Atrios notes that:
As for the Social Security retirement age, 67 is old for people who don't work sitting at desks in nice air conditioned rooms. Sure plenty of people, even ones who work more taxing jobs over the course of their lives, are healthy and spry at 67. But plenty of people aren't.
To elaborate, the issue is not just how physically hard a person's job is -- though that is hugely important. But through a lifetime of work, how good has the person's medical care been? Poor care can subtract years from a working life, and as we know, in this country poor care tends to be associated with exactly those kinds of physically taxing jobs. Before Time reporters call it a "populist pander" to suggest that raising the Social Security cap is preferable to raising the retirement age, they need to be thinking what that means to people who work hard, brutalizing their bodies for decades with inadequate pay, inadequate benefits, and now an evaporating promise that they will one day be able to have a retirement that involves anything better than going straight into a nursing home.
It goes beyond that. My closest friend's father is about the same age as my father, but while my college professor father rarely mentions retirement, my friend's electrician father has been counting down the months until he can retire. And one key factor motivating his countdown is that he's a shift worker and is periodically required to work the graveyard shift. Working from midnight to 8 AM is one thing in your 20s or 30s. Think about doing that in your 60s. Think about doing that in your 60s when the tasks you'll be called on to do at 4:30 AM are potentially hazardous.
For the past few years, my friend's father has used most of his vacation time to get out of working graveyard. He can't plan ahead to take a trip, he can't choose when he needs a break. And that's the kind of thing reporters, and pundits, and too often politicians don't think about when they suggest that raising the retirement age would be "the fairest, most sensible" thing to do. Taking years more out of someone's life, making them work until their bodies are too worn out to have any kind of enjoyable retirement -- this is more fair than making millionaires pay Social Security on the third, fourth, and fifth hundred thousand dollars they make each year?