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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What kind of society are we becoming? (4+ / 0-)

    ....forcing  80 year old elders to wear Wal Mart vests
    so that the wealthy can have a larger slice of the pie.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:08:43 AM PDT

    •  think of it as a cannibalistic society (4+ / 0-)

      where we eat our young and send our old out to sea on ice floes

    •  Works for the Waltons. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries

      And the Waltons have a lot of political influence.

      Get the picture.

      Romney - his fingernails have never been anything but manicured.

      by Pescadero Bill on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:53:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was laid-off three months before my (6+ / 0-)

      65th birthday.  I applied for SS, although I continued to look for work.  I knew getting another job at this point in time was not going to be easy.

      I have done mostly office work with a few physically challenging jobs over my lifetime.  Truth is, there are a lot of jobs I simply couldn't do anymore.  The idea that people in their 70's and 80's can compete with younger workers for worthwhile jobs is a lie.  If I weren't developing some physical problems, mentally, I feel I am less able to learn new things than I was years ago.  I used to have about a 95% retention rate, I could learn anything in one session.  Now, I find myself, rereading instructions on how to set the damn alarm clock, or the digital thermistat thingie.  

      Raising the retirement age is yet another Republican talking point, they know that most people are not going to be able to continue working into their 70's and 80's.  The truth is that obesity and unhealthy living are actually skewing the numbers downward.  I have read a few articles indicating that we may have already reached our best life expectancy numbers and that future humans can look forward to shorter, more brutal lives based on bad food, lack of medical care and drug problems.

      What we should be talking about is how to allow people in their 50's to start gearing down.  Extending Medicare and allowing earlier SS and access to 401K's would allow many of those in their 50's who are not going to get a good job ever again, to exit the job market and pursue other interests.

      We need fewer workers, the jobs are not coming back.  We need to produce fewer children and to find a way for people to share jobs or otherwise make a living by getting off of the job treadmill.    

  •  Retirement age (3+ / 0-)

    Let Republicans retire at 100, that would help.

  •  Pessimists are rarely disappointed (4+ / 0-)

    More to the point, an article I recently read pointed out that the vast majority of people in the US have less than something like $25K in savings for their retirement...and more and more people of "retirement age" are forced to keep working merely to survive.   Forget about those "golden years."

    The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

    by Persiflage on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:15:01 AM PDT

  •  on the average, 1/4 of workers will become (8+ / 0-)

    disabled before they reach SS retirement age.  This is a result of a broken healthcare system where conditions become diseases and chronic diseases become acute diseases.  The real burden on Medicare now is this group of SSDI and the only way to reduce their numbers is to provide adequate preventative care and education throughout the life cycle.

    Raising the retirement age will have no effect on Medicare except to increase the numbers on SSDI.  AGI's chief shows what a comfy sedentary lifestyle he has when he can envision 80 year old workers as the norm.  Manual laborers, farmers, miners and construction workers are middle aged by 30-35 and are old by 55-60.  To imply that there are many 80 year olds capable of working in these professions is ludicrous

    •  It is also true (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      entlord, importer, SuWho

      that while there are many jobs that are so hard the workers will likely be unable to continue them until retirement, there are also many jobs that have been set up in that way because "job creators" are permitted to treat labor as disposable, then walk away from those whose bodies they have broken, leaving the costs for society to pick up.

      •  this is a part of "downsizing" where on a (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        importer, SuWho

        loading dock that used to have 6 workers now have 3 or maybe 4.  In addition, along with that policy, fork lifts and other assistive equipment either is broken and not repaired or else sold off at public auction so the workers have to go back to loading the trucks by hand using handcarts and dollies

  •  This nails it exactly: (5+ / 0-)
    Manual laborers, farmers, miners and construction workers are middle aged by 30-35 and are old by 55-60.  To imply that there are many 80 year olds capable of working in these professions is ludicrous.
    Entlord is right.  My husband was a bricklayer for much of his life and it left its toll on his body. His subsequent jobs were easier but not sedentary.

    If I had my way, people in manual jobs and sales clerk jobs, in which they stand on their feet all day, would be able to retire at 60.  Overfed, aging, Caucasian males who sit on their assets all day in comfy office chairs could take their retirement at age 85.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:38:48 AM PDT

  •  The retirement age is already 67 for me. (3+ / 0-)

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:02:21 AM PDT

    •  Full benefit age (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      importer, SuWho

      I think you mean the age at which you'd get a "full benefit" from Social Security.  Your benefit would be available but reduced from age 62 to 67, and increased if you waited to draw it at age 70.  Whether or not you are at full benefit age doesn't mean a lot about being able to afford retirement; there are many other factors to consider.

  •  How Does Raising the Retirement Age (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MarEng, historys mysteries, importer

    affect the ability of younger workers to find employment in a job scarce environment?  If anything we should be lowering the retirement age under circumstances as they are currently to open up positions for others.

    Advisors for President-Elect Barack Obama feared the new administration would face a coup if it prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a new report out this morning.

    by Kurt Sperry on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:29:11 AM PDT

    •  Very important, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You raise a very important point, but the younger workers who displace older workers into retirement would have to pay higher SS & Medicare taxes to these retirees who'd otherwise keep working.  This is a very complicated matter.  

      •  It is only complicated because we choose to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kurt Sperry, SuWho, SoCaliana

        make it so.  SS is capped at 106?K a year.  Raising the cap alone would be helpful.  We leap from the 50K a year average worker to those who's jobs pay is in the stratosphere.  There is no inbetween.  Most of those making over a 100K are able to maneuver much of their compensation into vehicles other than straight payroll.  If the whole package was taxed - problem solved.

        Same goes for all the hedge fund guys and investment bankers who are able to take their "income" as carried interest and capital gains.  Medicare certainly could be applied to their income tax returns.  Remember a self-employed businessman pays both employee/employer taxes on himself - 15.3% of his income, along with state and federal income taxes.  

        Medicare is taxed at 2.3%? for employee and employer.  If we could eliminate the cost of private health care paid by the employer/employee, paying a larger % for Medicare would be a boon to both.  How many workers and unemployed would gladly pay a small percentage to be covered under Medicare.

        If "wages" are going to continue to stagnate and we are going to have fewer actual workers, there is no reason why other avenues of revenue couldn't be harnessed for SS/Med.  I firmly believe that a tax on junk food and soft drinks is in our future and rightly so.  If a 2000 calorie hamburger costs a nickel more, then so be it.  All of those health-related corporations that are profitting so handsomely from our unhealthy nation pay little or no taxes and enjoy fabulous profits on drugs sold to Medicare.  For every consumer they refuse to insure, they could pay the cost of Medicare picking up the slack.  These are just a few thoughts, not totally thought through, but certainly worthy of discussion.

        There is an epidemic of autism in this country.  Like Agent Orange, no one wants to come up with what is causing the problems, because they know full-well that much of it is environmental pollution from the big corporations.  Many of these children are going to need life-long support that their parents won't be able to provide.   I suspect that other with chronic illness from the same sources are what is driving the Republican attempts to dump all social safety nets and let people die.    

    •  While some older workers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      importer, SuWho, billmosby

      have job security, and their not retiring would result in jobs not becoming available, the fact is that many who do not have any job security are fired, replaced by younger workers, even if they are doing a good job. And when it comes to seeking employment, it is almost impossible for a person 65-80 to find a real job.

      So I would suspect it would not effect employment of younger people as much as the numbers might suggest.

  •  Many factors to consider (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, historys mysteries

    There are so many factors to consider on both sides of the line:
    --The retirement age of 65 started in Germany in 1916 and in the U.S. in 1935 (earlier in some states).  People certainly are generally living longer and can still be highly productive after 65.
    --The number of younger workers who must support the retired is at a lower proportion of the population than in earlier years.
    --Many workers over 65 want to stay active, stay engaged, keep the brain working, and enjoy work.

    On the other hand:
    --The poor aren't living longer.
    --The older people can't do heavy physical labor.  I'm 66, and the arthritis in my hands limits my daily work.  Many have things much worse.
    --The state of retirement savings, including paid-off homes, is dismal.
    --Reduced Social Security at age 62 is a literal lifesaver for many laid off from jobs who know they'll never get a new job because they're over 50 or 55 or whatever.

    I do not have an answer to this problem.  Whatever the answer will be, all factors must be considered.

  •  There are things I would love to do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, importer

    and get paid for pretty much forever. The problem is that once people reach 45 or so (or 35 if articles that have been appearing recently seem to be saying) they are not really able to continue in the field of IT since they are seen as being somewhat out of date and definitely too expensive.

    What's the use of expending so much time, effort, and money keeping us alive longer and longer while at the same time putting us on the shelf at younger and younger ages?

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:55:24 AM PDT

    •  My son is in IT and is approaching 50. the last (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      4-5 years he hasn't been able to get a long-lasting position.  He told me a few weeks ago his current job he had been in for over a years might take him to retirement, he was hoping anyway.  At our Memorial Weekend get together, he had been laid off and had already found another job, but it paid less money - again.

      So it is a downward spiral, IT especially, because so many wiz kids are coming up the line and they are actually willing to take "unpaid internships" hoping to get full-time employment, something unheard of when I was in the job market.  

      •  But that industry keeps beating (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the drums for more and more visas because of the dire shortage of "qualified" workers in the field. In this case what qualifies one is being willing to work for starvation wages. Or if they're not at that level yet, it won't be a very long wait until they are.

        I'm 62 and learned enough on my own to have published an iPhone 3-D game app and now am the webmaster for a bicycle club website and getting compliments on how well it works and how good it looks. All unpaid, although the app did make a few bucks if you don't count certain items of overhead.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 10:33:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, my son worked for some time with (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          a big, well-known company that provided support for some big companies.  He would always be the lead on a job that eventually would be fleshed-out with Indian IT people.  His problem was they were trained in a very narrow range, so he would have to fill in all the blanks that they couldn't do or spoon-feed the project to them.

          Over time, the Indian workers  complained about their anglo supervisors, like my son and eventually were able to supplant more and more of the American workers with other Indian workers with more experience, squeezing out American-born IT workers all together.  It didn't help that the owner of the company was of Indian descent.    


          •  Do you know what kind of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            complaints they had?

            Coincidentally, Fareed Zakaria is having a special on CNN tonight called "Making Immigration Work". I think, in this specialty we are discussing anyway, it seems to be working just fine, eh.

            I don't have a problem with immigration per se, but since the population of this country has doubled in my lifetime and things have gotten noticeably more crowded in the western areas of the country where I have lived for the past 30 years or so, I'd kind of like to see the population stabilize at some point before it gets ridiculously overcrowded. There's a lot of empty space out here, true, but water is already getting short even so for one thing.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:56:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't remember offhand except the H1B's (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              felt they were being abused if anyone suggested they do anything beyond their narrow perview.  I know they got rid of my son's immediate supervisor and then him on a later job. They used to go onsight to jobs and everyone would be put up in local suites with cooking, etc.  I know at first my son hung out with the H1B's, but over time it wore thin.  I remember him mentioning how obsessed with buying things they were and it kind of surprised him.  I guess he thought they all sent money home to the family, instead they were all pretty well off and spent their money on the latest jeans, whatever.  He was supporting a family, working out of town most weeks and just found them really juvenile and shallow.

              I was raised in Seattle, Crossroads area in Bellevue was always a little upscale area I liked to go to.  I left for some years and on return went to shop there.  I was one of the few English speaking people in the stores that day, signs were in several languages.  I thought I had been transported to some other time and place.

              Then I realized that Microsoft was just up the road from there in Redmond, Bill Gates is still screaming he just can't get enough H1B's, but the whole area has been transformed.  

  •  This could only mean MEDICARE FOR EVERYONE! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Seriously, without full-coverage, single-payer healthcare, we would absolutely see a huge rise in deaths in the 65+ demo.  

    Bodies wear out. Many people (myself included) have never had even the offer of a pension, or any other employer-connected retirement option.  I work a physically demanding job that requires I be on my feet.  The demands of my job combine with the accumulated damage of age to give me excruciating pain that seems to move from shoulders to neck to hands to knees (depending on what hurts worst at any given moment).

    I am 60.  I'm in good health and good physical condition, but my body is wearing out.  The chances that I will be able to triple my workload (what I would need in order to pay for my own minimal healthcare) before I turn 67 are slim.  The chances of keeping going at my current workload without healthcare of any kind for the next 7 years is daunting, and may be impossible;  doing so for the next 20 years would almost certainly cost me the normal use of both arms, from hands to shoulders, leaving me unable not merely to work, but to do for myself and my family.

    If they made Medicare available for 60+ today, it could well extend my working life until I hit 80...but it couldn't make me happy about having to do so.


    by chmood on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 10:30:28 AM PDT

  •  Makes jobs market far worse for the young. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    When you force 68 year olds, 72 year olds, or (God forbid) 75 year olds keep climbing ladders carrying shingles or working as security guards, they're not the only ones to suffer.

    No, it's also younger workers suffering. Because when employers know that 72 year old shuffling along over in aisle 7 needs the job to pay for his heart medicine and diabetes pills, they can keep cutting his pay and pitting him against equally desperate new college grads with $50,000 in school loans to pay off.

    Sort of like Nero et al watching slave gladiators kill each other for their entertainment.

    •  There was a time when more people on the job (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      meant a better economy for all. Now, somehow, it's gotten to be a zero sum game?

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:58:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely, when unemployment is so high. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Zero sum game is not quite accurate, but when the unemployment rate is this high, it's quite accurate to point out that every job held down by a 70 year old is another job that won't be available to this year's college grads. Or the graduate from last year living in his parents' basement because he couldn't get a job.

        The three most powerful things we could do to improve the U.S. economy for middle class folks (as opposed to millionaires):

        1) An immediate increase in the minimum wage of at least $1.50 an hour, and indexing it against inflation from now on. This will push up wages at all levels, and prevent further erosion of the purchasing power of entrly level work.

        2) Move the social security retirement age down to 62, not up to 67 or even higher. This encourages folks to retire if they want to at a reasonable age, opening jobs for younger workers and reducing the true unemployment rate, which in turn will reduce the current brutal downward pressure on wages.

        3) Lift the cap on earnings subject to Soc Security taxation. This would solve SS's long term funding issue while making the tax less regressive.

        •  More and more I have been (0+ / 0-)

          thinking that if we oldsters really are that much in the way, we should just take one for the team and check out. So far I haven't been a burden to anyone, and I can't see living with myself if I do become one.

          Moderation in most things.

          by billmosby on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 02:02:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Another of my sons works at a big box store. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The biggest one.  The corporation has quit stocking the stores full.  They let stuff run down so that when the next order comes in, it can just be put up.  No facing, no time spent making things look good or plentiful. No backstock.

        Now they are grinding down hours, of course, wages are as low as they can get them and still get help, but few hourly employees get more than 20-30 hours a week.  He says they have a new generation of pencil pushers in the front office and they have devised new systems for when the help should be on the floor.  Not when the loads come in in the morning when they would have time to stock before the customers get there, but trying to stock, answer questions, find products while customers are busy shopping.  It might work for cashiers who are assisting customers in real time, but for those in the departments trying to cut meat, etc while the customers are standing waiting for it is a recipe for disaster.  

        All in an effort to squeeze a few more bucks out for the rich owners while making life just a little more miserable for the working poor who work for them and then have to rely on food stamps, public housing and emergency room care.  

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