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I try to avoid the piefighting most of the time, I really do.  But earlier today there was a diary written whose title was such that I had to just open it and see what was there.  I won't link to it here because it's flame bait, and that is not the purpose of what I want to focus on (if you just can't stand not knowing, you can look up my comments and follow the trail of breadcrumbs there.)  I want to focus on my reply to a comment and do a bit of expanding on it.

It all started with someone expressing displeasure that President Obama purportedly offered to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 in an attempt to sweeten the pot for Republicans to get on board with raising revenue, i.e. taxes on the richest citizens and closing loopholes for corporations.  Someone commented that this was bad policy, to which I replied it wasn't just bad policy but was a bad idea period.  This was followed by someone asking me, "Why?"

Why, indeed.

Follow me over the fancy squiggle where you'll find my reply and I attempt to flesh it out a bit.

So here's my reply as to "Why?"

1.  If you've ever tried to get a job over the age of, say, 45 then you know that companies don't want to hire older workers.  They're more expensive for a variety of reasons, including salary and healthcare.

2. Many people work at physically demanding jobs, and to ask them to put off retiring for two more years is just cruel.

3. Considering the shortage of jobs available, wouldn't it be wiser to fill those jobs with a young and hungry bunch of college graduates (who are cheaper to employ, by the way) than a bunch of old and tired workers?  Employers think so.

4. I'm not sure when the notion of working until you're dead became the ideal in this country, but it's bullshit.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn't translate to working like a dog in some thankless job that you hate until you drop dead in your old age just because a bunch of suits in Washington are too cowardly to close loopholes and raise taxes on the rich.

Instead of having payroll tax holidays that strip Social Security of needed income, we should be adjusting those taxes upwards on tax brackets that can handle the load.  Instead of trying to kill Medicare and Medicaid, we should be stripping out Medicare Part D and forcing real healthcare reform that, yes, includes single payer and the bargaining power that comes with it against Big Pharma.  Health insurance is nothing but a racket, a Ponsi scheme, legalized robbery.  It shouldn't even need to exist, at least not in its current form.

I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop there.  I think that's enough right there.  

I have a sister who is 64, she is disabled by Rheumatoid arthritis and can no longer go into the office at the company she works for.  She's fairly high up in the chain of command, her bosses love her work, more than that they really can't do without her right now because there are so very few people who can do what she does, and they want to keep her working from home.  But HR doesn't want to let her work from home, they think it sets a bad example or some such bullshit.  What HR really wants to do is force her to become a contractor so they won't have to pay her the same wages or pay for her health insurance.  Add that to the fact that they just moved the offices from where they are now in the suburbs of Chicago to the downtown area, which would be impossible for her to navigate, and you can see what kind of pickle she's in.  Who, exactly, do you think would hire her for a new position for a mere three years when she can't physically get to the job she has now?  And why on earth should she have to?

People who think it's not a problem to change that retirement age from 65 to 67 are people who are not near retirement age.  They are people who have not thought through the problems involved with being old and trying to hold on to a job or find a new one.  Perhaps they should ponder the real-world implications or something like that and then get back to those of us who are facing this issue like a runaway train in a tunnel.

That's quite a lengthy reply on my part and I could leave it at that, but that would be too easy.  I'll do some highlighting here and see if I can expand a bit on these points.

1.  If you've ever tried to get a job over the age of, say, 45 then you know that companies don't want to hire older workers.  They're more expensive for a variety of reasons, including salary and healthcare.

I have a neighbor who is in his mid 40's who worked as a mechanic in the local Volkswagen dealership for almost 25 years, his entire working life.  When the economy tanked in 2008 he was laid off.  He looked for work for a year without finding anyone who would hire him, despite the fact that he was a senior mechanic with very good skills and a good recommendation.  No one wanted to pay him the money that someone with his resume deserved.  No one wanted to hire someone who was entering that time of life when health problems begin to crop up because of the insurance risk.  No one would touch him.  One day when he was getting a haircut in preparation of a job interview, the woman cutting his hair suggested he try dying it to hide the gray and make him look more youthful and fit.  He told me this story with tears in his eyes as I was handing him money for doing yard work that I could have done myself but gave to him so that he'd have at least some money coming in, however minor.

This is a story I've heard over and over, with varying degrees of desperation and frustration.  The older you are, the less likely someone will hire you.  You just cost too damn much.  People don't want to pay for your experience and competence, they'd rather hire a raw kid who has no experience to fall back on than pay you what you're worth.  They don't want to have to contribute to insurance for you because you're going to be getting some pretty serious illnesses, injuries or age-related problems and they can't afford it any more than you can.  Kids are cheaper.  You're on your own.

2. Many people work at physically demanding jobs, and to ask them to put off retiring for two more years is just cruel.

It's nice to think that raising the age in which Medicare or Social Security would kick in wouldn't be a big deal.  After all, people supposedly live longer these days.  What's a couple more years gonna hurt, eh?

Unfortunately, most people don't work at an easy desk job.  The majority of people who work in this country do so at a job that requires physical strength and agility.  If you're a miner, a farmer, a nurse, a clerk or stocker at a grocery store, a dock worker, a fisherman, a truck or bus driver or any of the hundreds and hundreds of other jobs that make this country run, those two more years might as well be a lifetime.  An injury that wouldn't have cost you a day of work in your 20's could be a career ender in your 60's.  It could require weeks off from work, physical therapy, medication.  It will more than likely cost you your job to someone young and strong.  And once that job is gone, there won't be another one.  No one will touch you.

3. Considering the shortage of jobs available, wouldn't it be wiser to fill those jobs with a young and hungry bunch of college graduates (who are cheaper to employ, by the way) than a bunch of old and tired workers?  Employers think so.

For the reasons stated above and more this is, sadly, true.  Referring to my sister and her job situation again here, this is at the bottom of what the organization's move from a prosperous suburb to downtown Chicago is all about.  This organization is a non-profit that works with hospitals to make patient care more effective and humane.  Yet the entire purpose of their move downtown is to slough away the older workers (the ones making higher salaries and costing them in higher insurance premiums) in favor of a more youthful, and cheaper, workforce.  My sister would be in a much more untenable position were it not for her particular skills and personal genius which cannot be replaced.  They've tried, and they can't find anyone who can do what she does.  They are at a critical juncture in a project that must go forward with speed and competence and they need her.

Now you would think that the big bosses, the ones who do the hiring and firing and make the decisions about who is qualified and who isn't, would be the ones in charge of whether to keep on someone who is so valuable that they cannot be replaced.  But you'd be wrong.  No, it is Human Resources, the bane to the existence of so many, that gets to make that call.  A month's-long battle has been waged between my sister's bosses and HR over whether she can work from home while still being retained by the company.  And it would appear that HR will win in the end.  After numerous doctors have written letters stating that she cannot drive and physically navigate in an office environment, HR has decided that she can work as always until October, after which time she'll become a contractor, thus relieving them of the burden of paying for her insurance or paying her the salary that she's worth.  It's possible that if the project she works on is not complete at that time (and it's highly unlikely that it will be) they can extend her current situation for a while longer.  But it will take the concerted efforts of her bosses, the doctors and God knows who else to override HR on this matter.

Now, my sister wants to retire, we're in the process of making preparations for that.  But it's a race now to see if she can hold on until those preparations are ready or whether we'll both be screwed by the whims of HR because they don't want to set a precedent of having people work from home.  Which brings us somewhat naturally to item 4.

4. I'm not sure when the notion of working until you're dead became the ideal in this country, but it's bullshit.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn't translate to working like a dog in some thankless job that you hate until you drop dead in your old age just because a bunch of suits in Washington are too cowardly to close loopholes and raise taxes on the rich.

This country prides itself on the good ol' American work ethic.  But somewhere along the way it's become a perverted thing, a reason for the rich and powerful to work the little guy until he drops dead into the grave.  And it's stupid, especially when you consider that we now have the old and infirm competing for jobs with the young and healthy.  The young should have those jobs, they should be able to work and find their path to make their way in this world.  The old folks, those tough old birds who've worked all their lives hoping there would come a day when they could retire and enjoy their lives, should have the opportunity to rest on their laurels.  I'm not talking about living high on the hog and partying like it's 1965, I'm talking about enjoying what little time they have left because they've earned it.

My 86 year old dad was a farmer from the time he was a little boy until he retired at 80.  For all that hard work, he gets a little over $650 dollars a month in Social Security and marginally decent healthcare between Medicare and his supplemental insurance, which costs him about $4500 a year.  That doesn't leave a whole lot left over for cat food, if you know what I mean.

"But why did he work until he was 80, and why can't everyone do that?", you say.  Well, not everyone is blessed with the good genetics of strength and health with which my dad is blessed, as evidenced above by his oldest daughter.  But beyond that, he loved to farm.  He loved his life's work, it was more than a job, it was a way of life.  That can't be said for a coal miner or a shelf stocker or someone who slaughters cows and chickens for 12 hours a day to keep the world in hamburgers and McNuggets.  And why should they have to work at something like that until they drop dead?  When do they get to pursue life, liberty and happiness?  Or is it just a fantasy, something you're told to keep you grinding away at that shitty job well past the time when a body should do so?  When did filling the coffers of the Koch brothers become the be all and end all of our existence?

I don't know if this fully answers the "Why."  But I know it's a good place to start.

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