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Major hat-tip to Digby, who pointed this out.

James K. Galbraith has posted a tiny little op-ed over at Foreign Policy which strikes me as the brightest original idea to give the employment situation a shot in the arm that I've read since the recession began.  The last sentence reads, "A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke."  And I believe it's accurate.

The title is "Actually, The Retirement Age Is Too High."

More below the fold...

Here's an even shorter version of the op-ed that I think covers the major points (emphasis mine):


[Proposed Social Security] cuts have a perversely powerful logic: "We" are living longer. There are fewer workers to support each elderly person. Therefore "we" should work longer.

But in the first place, "we" are not living longer. Wealthier elderly are; the non-wealthy not so much. Raising the retirement age cuts benefits for those who can't wait to retire and who often won't live long. Meanwhile, richer people with soft jobs work on: For them, it's an easy call.

Second, many workers retire because they can't find jobs. They're unemployed -- or expect to become so. Extending the retirement age for them just means a longer job search, a futile waste of time and effort.

Third, we don't need the workers. ... Our problem is finding worthwhile work for people to do, not finding workers to produce the goods we consume.

In the United States, the financial crisis has left the country with 11 million fewer jobs than Americans need now. No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon. So common sense suggests we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?

The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.

A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke.

Brilliant, no?  Such a simple idea, and yet I've never heard it suggested even once.  Galbraith's description even leaves out some other noteworthy effects that providing early full benefits could produce: a 62-year-old who's ready to retire from his or her job is not necessarily intending to just sit back and relax, either -- we could have a whole bunch of newly-available entrepreneurs who suddenly have the chance to pursue some long-neglected dreams, grandparents who are suddenly available to take the grandkids for a day here or there, making working life for the parents easier, and so on.  Everybody wins in this situation.

At any rate, I just thought the DKos community ought to give this one a look.  I already called my congressfolks to point them at this article, and if you agree with me that it's the brightest new idea to come around in a long time regarding the employment crisis, I recommend you do the same.

update:As many have pointed out in the comments, for this idea to really work it would have to include Medicare as well.

obligatory wowee-zowee-i'm-on-the-rec-list update: Thanks for the recs.  Apparently this is an idea that's had some play in the past, as commenters have pointed out -- though I think I pay enough attention to politics that if it had gotten enough play I probably would have heard about it.  So, it appears that referring to it as "JK Galbraith's idea" in the title may or may not be entirely accurate.  I'll leave the title as is, though.  As a side note: Why the heck is this in Foreign Policy magazine?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Originally posted to dmauer on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 08:20 AM PST.

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