As reported on Bloomberg, Robert Benmosche says that the debt crisis is causing governments worldwide to realize that the retirement age may have to be raised to as much as 80 years old. “That will make pensions, medical services more affordable.”
Well, it will certainly do that. Having gone that far, however, we have to wonder why he did not suggest just eliminating the retirement age completely. Just as it is better not to tip at all than to give the waitress three or four pennies, so too would a complete elimination of the retirement age at least avoid insulting our intelligence.
Now, Benmosche, as the CEO of AIG, makes an easy target, what with the financial crisis caused by companies like his, and the bailout from which he benefited. The real question is, why do we need to fear suggestions like that? To put it differently, why are there so many people who would be willing to go along with his suggestion? All the arguments against raising the retirement age have been advanced many times over. For example, we all know that just because people are living longer, it does not mean they are capable of working longer. And yet, to a certain segment of the population, such arguments are to no avail. They want to cut the entitlements, and there are just enough of them to make it happen. Who are these people?
They are the optimists. They do not care about Social Security, because they will be able to save enough for their own retirement. Or, if not, they will simply work until they die. After all, getting old is just a matter of having gray hair and wrinkles. And they do not need health insurance, because they never get sick. And they do not need Medicaid, because they will never be poor.
As a pessimist, I have always worried about all the bad things that might happen to me: a hard, old age; illness; disability; unemployment; and poverty. As such, I have always supported the entitlements. But the optimist sees them as unnecessary. He does not worry about the bad things that may happen to him. He imagines the good things, and hates to have his fantasies spoiled by government interference. He stands in line to buy lottery tickets, while fuming over the thought that he might win millions of dollars, and then have to pay taxes on it, taxes used to support all those losers who want to sponge off the government’s largesse.
This is why arguments in these matters seem to be so ineffective. It is not a question of knowledge, but of character.