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Life expectancy in years barely rises for men and women in Putnam county, Florida, between 1989 and 2009, while it rises significantly for men and women in St. Johns county during the same time.
Guess which of these is the richer county?
That life expectancy is increasing for rich people much more quickly than for poor people is well established. But since the doubters on that fact include much of the policy and punditry establishment, here are some more data points:
A study published last week in the journal Health Affairs said that in almost half of the nation’s counties, women younger than 75 are dying at rates higher than before. The counties where women’s life expectancy is declining typically are in the rural South and West, the report said.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring counties of St. Johns and Putnam, Florida, life expectancy in the wealthier St. Johns has risen substantially in the past 20 years—by four years for women and six years for men. In Putnam, where 38 percent of the children live in poverty, life expectancy for women has risen less than a year since 1989, while men have seen a one and a half year increase. Men and women in Putnam live about seven years and five years less, respectively, than men and women in St. Johns.

No matter what the retirement age is, poorer people have fewer years of retirement. And if you raise the retirement age, you're cutting benefits for poorer people by a greater percentage. Men in Putnam county have a life expectancy of 71, which means that with a retirement age of 67, they live just four years in retirement. Raise the retirement age to 70, and it'll be just over a year.

What that means, Global Policy Solutions' Maya Rockeymoore points out, is that "People who are shorter-lived tend to make less, which means that if you raise the retirement age, low-income populations would be subsidizing the lives of higher-income people." Which may actually be the point, as far as people like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are concerned.

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Comment Preferences

  •  LIke we subsidize everything else that they (12+ / 0-)

    have.

    We bailed them out; we get screwed.

    We are paying for them to oppress us.

    Evil rich people are winning; we are losing.

  •  Read this piece this morning. (5+ / 0-)

    Apostate warning: this data does argue for SS reform, but combining two aspects: means testing and eligibility age. The wealthy should receive retirement benefits later, the poor sooner.

    I've been hesitant to make this observation (I'm not flameproof), but the demographics argue for such changes if fairness is a goal.

    Republicans represent both sides: the insanely rich and vice versa.

    by Crashing Vor on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:43:07 AM PDT

    •  If Fairness is the Goal It Should Be a Progressive (6+ / 0-)

      program in benes and FICA payments both. The notion that keeping it level so it won't be attacked as welfare has ended. The right and the rich want to end it altogether even though they can draw it. There's no longer a justification for not making it thoroughly progressive.

      Of course there's a REASON for not doing it: we can't legislate.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:46:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Simpson /Bowles want means testing to (6+ / 0-)

        Turn social security into a welfare program to undermine support for it. If you turn into a welfare program it will lose public support and be cut.

         

        •  I've heard this argument many times, but for the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WheninRome

          life of me, I don't see the likelihood of this happening.

          People, generally speaking, aren't well informed on Social Security.  Their taxes are deducted, they get older, retire and receive Social Security.

          At some point - assuming means testing or eligibility dates are tied to income -- we're supposed to believe they suddenly become enlightened about all the various subtleties of the system and cry out "Welfare!"?

          I don't see it.  And that may be a fault of mine.  But everyone pays in and everyone receives benefits.  Just like today, we don't see seniors arguing with each other over the formula by which their exact amount is determined, I don't see how means testing for amounts paid or dates eligible would instantly cause a total loss of faith in the system.

          If anything, the vase majority of our population who are lower wage earners would see the system as more "fair" and be stronger supporters.  

          We could make the same argument in reverse:  Millionaires receive the most generous Social Security benefits, therefore, it is welfare for the rich and must be discontinued.

          Anyway, I just have been unable to see that that particular argument holds "reality water."  :-O   Again, it may just be me.....

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:11:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Seniors are informed (0+ / 0-)

            I recently applied for Social Security.  There was no means test.  You don't think I'd have noticed it if they'd asked me to document all sources of income and reduced the benefit accordingly?  I mean they have the calculators all over the place to estimate your benefit or you can request more accurate estimates at various retirement ages.  Your benefit is based on past wages earned not on your gross or taxable income or your wealth.  If you have to add all that into the calculation of your benefit, you betcha that will cause resentment.  

            And you know where that resentment is going to come from?  It's going to come from all those "affluent" seniors with only about $50K or $60K in income when they find out their benefit is going to reduced.

            •  decreasing benifits without cutting taxes (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              greenbell, YucatanMan

              Is a tax increase.

            •  I don't see why people at that level of income (0+ / 0-)

              would have their benefits be reduced.

              The means testing should focus only on the very highest earners - like those who escape the tax due to the cap.  At that level or double that level or wherever.

              But it should not apply to people who earn the average household income in the USA.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:47:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I have never heard any old and/or (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            YucatanMan

            conservative person grouse about SS.

            Ever.

          •  "Entitlements" (0+ / 0-)

            I beg to differ about means testing.   Once you start means testing the corporate media will be doing the work of the powers to be and calling Social Security the "welfare program".  

            How do you think something that everyone pays into got labeled an "entitlement"?  

            Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

            by howd on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:56:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They could say the same things today. There's (0+ / 0-)

              nothing tying them to accuracy or reality as it is.

              The "entitlement" usage simply proves that it true.  

              The exact details don't really matter (see "Obamacare").  The media says what it wants these days.

              In Roosevelt's time perhaps the media were tied to facts. And it isn't just FOX.  I had to hear some RW wacko ramble on and on today on the Diane Rehm show about how government spending cannot possibly help a recession.

              The media will say whatever they want, regardless of the details of any program.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:43:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Do you really think they will not quickly learn (0+ / 0-)

            once they hear stories of how their parents had to go around their house and add up the value of every little thing they own down to each and every plastic cup, knife, fork, and spoon once means testing is implemented?

            You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

            by Throw The Bums Out on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:19:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think that's a bit much. There are many (0+ / 0-)

              programs active today where your wealth and income has to be documented, but they are all aimed at the poor.  The paperwork isn't nearly as crazy as all that.

              And this would be somehow more onerous if the rich had to do the same thing?   Somehow, that's hard for me to see.

              "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

              by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:46:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Once you make it welfare (9+ / 0-)

        then people can no longer claim that they have "earned" their Social Security benefits.  It's then just welfare -- charity -- for old people.  And, people will start to complain that this group or that group doesn't deserve it, or didn't work hard enough, or whatever, and "reform" it.  (Remember welfare reform?)

        This country has a very strong work ethic,  a very strong belief that people are entitled to what they work for, and a very strong belief that people should not expect something that they didn't work for.  FDR built on that when he designed SS.  He made a system where people could claim that they "earned" their benefits, because he knew that then, the opposition could not kill it.  People would be up in arms about the government taking away something that they had "earned" and "paid for" all those years.  If you take that away, and make it welfare for old people, you completely undercut the system and make it far, far easier for the opposition to kill it.  

        •   well said, coffeetalk (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye
        •  Yes, Means Testing = Welfare (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye

          Very nicely said indeed!

          As I mentioned above, once you start means testing the powers to be will have their corporate media begin undermining SS by starting to equate it with welfare.  

          If we really had a 4th Estate and not a corporate media, the public would universally know that one of the main reasons SS will be underfunded is that it is only capturing, i.e. taxing, approximately 83% of the wages whereas it was designed to capture at least 90%.  Raise or eliminate the cap and the SS funding issue is greatly mitigated.

          Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

          by howd on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 01:05:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree about raising the cap back to (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            greenbell, Noddy, howd, denise b, VClib

            90% of wages.  

            I disagree about eliminating the cap.  That would result in paying millionaires retirement benefits of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  The small amount of extra money you would reap is not worth the political problem that would cause.  

            When we in New Orleans went through Katrina, those of us who didn't know before learned that federal flood insurance was capped at $250,00.  Wealthy people who wanted more coverage had to buy (more expensive) private flood insurance over and above the $250,000.  SS should be like that -- you are allowed to "insure" up to a certain amount in wages.

            •  Agree On Raising, Not Lifting, the Cap (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib

              I agree that raising the cap and not lifting the cap entirely is the way to go.  

              In addition, I think the fairest thing to do is to increase the SS cap to capture 90% and then, just so those making over the new cap don't feel like they aren't contributing their fair share, increase the income tax rates on incomes over the cap.  

              Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

              by howd on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:53:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  But Wait--There's More: Boosts Unemployment Too! n (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:44:03 AM PDT

  •  I'm not following this conclusion (0+ / 0-)
    What that means, Global Policy Solutions' Maya Rockeymoore points out, is that "People who are shorter-lived tend to make less, which means that if you raise the retirement age, low-income populations would be subsidizing the lives of higher-income people." Which may actually be the point, as far as people like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are concerned.
    They may be getting less but how are they 'subsidizing' it?
    •  Because they die sooner, they collect fewer of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Icicle68, howd

      their paid-in taxes, therefore the money is available to the system to pay out "rich people benefits."

      So, the money paid by the poor, who die early, is still there to pay the rich, who live the longest.  It is a transfer of wealth, again, from the poor to the rich.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:12:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps, unless the rich paid in more to begin (0+ / 0-)

        with due to the fact that they're rich

        •  Pay in More = Get Higher Benefit (0+ / 0-)

          From the Social Security website:

          Social Security benefits replace a percentage of your earnings when you retire, become disabled or die. Your benefit payment is based on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years when you did not work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you worked steadily.
          The fact that the more you pay in the more you get is what prevents SS from being labeled as a welfare program that will be easy for demonization.

          Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

          by howd on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 01:19:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I've had it with regressive taxing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    YucatanMan, 3goldens, WheninRome, howd

    Everything, from the dependence on sales tax, to caps on SS contributions, to all sort of deductions for rich people to postponement of retiring age.

    It is all part of the trend of the last 30 years.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:55:50 AM PDT

  •  It's not a "subsidy." (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remove Kebab, denise b, VClib

    I understand your point, but it's not a "subsidy."

    Social Security is insurance -- wage insurance.  You insure against the possibility that you will outlive your ability to work for a living.   If you die before you can retire, you never collect on your insurance.  If you have an insurable event (you live long enough to retire), then, like any other insurance, your retirement benefits are based on what you "insure" (the amount of income you pay taxes on).  That's exactly how FDR designed it, so it would be seen as "you get what you pay for."  FDR specifically recognized it should not be welfare ("the dole," as he called it) because that would make it easy to kill.

    What you are saying is that the likelihood of the event insured against -- living past retirement age --  increases with wealth.  And I have no doubt that is true.  And the insurance essentially takes that into account.  When I insure against something, and I have a greater likelihood that it will happen than the next person, I pay a higher premium per (per dollar of benefits I get back) than that next person.  The Social Security system does that because the ratio of the amount of wages you insure to the amount of retirement benefits  you get is progressive.  You get less "return" on each dollar as you get higher in income.  That essentially operates like any other insurance.  The higher the likelihood that you will draw down on the benefits, the more expensive (per dollar of benefits) your premium. In other words, those at upper incomes are paying more for each dollar of benefits they get than those at lower incomes.  

    Now, whether that progressive ratio is more or less than it should be based on actuarial statistics, I have no ideal.  I seriously doubt that's what was being considered when the system was designed.  But that's the effect -- like any other insurance, the premiums are more expensive if you are a higher "risk."  

    •  The longest lived benefit the most. (0+ / 0-)

      Increasing the retirement age - because life expectancies are divergent - has the effect of transferring money from those who live the least amount of time to those who live the longest.

      If life expectancy were randomly distributed among income levels, I would agree completely with your statement.

      The more life expectancy diverges between high and low income, the more the lower income contributions are allocated to the wealthy.

      This in particular:  

      those at upper incomes are paying more for each dollar of benefits they get than those at lower incomes.
      is true in a static system: life expectancies are the same or are staying static in relationship to one another.  

      However, as life expectancies diverge, and the system/benefits remain as they were, the effect is that the poor subsidize the wealthy.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:17:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All insurance is like that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denise b, VClib

        You are assigned a risk category based on some actuarial tables -- I live in New Orleans, so my flood insurance is higher than someone who lives in Shreveport Louisiana.  

        To an extent, that's what insurance is about.   You evaluate the risk, then you charge premiums accordingly.  If you have an insurable event, you "win" in  the sense that you pay out. If you don't have an insurable event, you subsidize everyone else.  Those at higher incomes have a higher "risk" of an insurable event, so their premiums -- what they pay per dollar of retirement benefit they get -- is higher than those at lower incomes.

        If everyone at every income level got 50 cents in retirement benefits for every dollar of wages they insured, you might have a point.  But they don't.  The ration of wages insured to retirement benefits is progressive.  By way of example, (I'm using made up numbers to make a point) say those at lower incomes get a 50 cent return for every dollar of wages they insure (like they insure $40,000 of wages and get $20,000 a year in SS retirement benefits) and those at upper incomes get 30 cents for every dollar they insure (like those who insure $100,000 get $30,000 in Social Security benefits).  Those with higher income -- and higher risk -- pay higher premiums -- more to get each dollar of benefits -- they get  less coverage per dollar of premium.   That is how insurance works.

         If I live in a flood zone (House A), I might pay $1500 a year to insure a $250,000 house because I have higher risk.  If I don't live in a flood zone (House B), I might pay $300 a year to insure a $250,000 house.  In a flood zone, that $300 in premiums would get me maybe $100,000 in flood insurance coverage, if that.  If House A is flooded, we don't say Homeowner B "subsidized" House A.  That's the nature of insurance.  I pay against a risk; if I get flooded, I "won" the bet in the sense that I get an insurance payout.  The more the likelihood that I'll collect on my insurance, the higher the premium I pay to get the insurance.  

        •  I have no dispute "how insurance works." (0+ / 0-)

          What I am talking about is the widening gap in life expectancy.

          That systematically moves the contributions of the poor toward the rich.

          In your example, the rich get 30 cents of every dollar in monthly PAYOUT, but the payout lasts LONGER - more years.  Total received adds up.

          And the poor get 50 cents in monthly benefits, but the benefits continue for a shorter time.  

          What is the Total paid to poor versus the Total paid to rich?

          Over time, as the life expectancy gap grows, the ratio skews towards the rich.  

          This isn't about one point in time. Or about the monthly amount paid versus pre-retirement income.  

          It is about the movement of the total benefit realization due to changing conditions over a period of time.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 01:58:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  you are correct it, is insurance not welfare (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      People should not be penalized for saving and investing by getting less from an insurance policy.

      Progressive taxation is something else entirely.

    •  Unlike insurance, though, (0+ / 0-)

      you cannot designate a beneficiary for your SS benefits. Except in very limited cases, when you die, it ends.

      Those cases are: a spouse can collect on a deceased spouse's SS, and minor children can collect on a deceased parent's SS.

      That's it.  

      Otherwise, SS benefits end at death, and the money returns to the pool to be paid out to those who live long enough to collect.

      In that regard, dying before collecting means those who die early are subsidizing those who live longer than average after retiring, since you can't deplete your SS benefits even if you also can't will them away. If you retire at 65 and live to be 115, you keep receiving SS, even though you end up collecting SS as long or longer than you paid into it.

      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

      by Noddy on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:15:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  raising the retirement age would be cruel. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens, howd, denise b

    It would require no sacrifice from people with pleasant jobs who make much more than they would have gotten from social security. All the sacrifice would be by the poor and middle class with physically demanding jobs.

  •  Most of the increase in life expectancy... (0+ / 0-)

    ...even now comes from reduction of premature death earlier in life. It has less to do with people living past 90 (statistically growing but in aggregate still very rare) than people making it to 65.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:58:12 PM PDT

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