Raising the Retirement Age to Cover Social Security Shortfalls?Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

Raising the Retirement Age to Cover Social Security Shortfalls?
 


28 June 2005 at 1:44:07 PM
salon

Ellen Goodman "The New Leisure Class"

One of the best-kept secrets is that we have already raised the age of full retirement to 65 1/2. It's increasing gradually until 2027, when it will be 67. Raising the retirement age further is nothing but an attempt, in economist Alicia Munnell's phrase ''to find a socially acceptable way of cutting benefits." Before this gets out of hand, we have to ask whether this is the best reform. We also have to ask why it's becoming more socially acceptable to target older Americans than richer Americans.

Want to talk about age and class? Try two other proposals for Social Security reform. The first is to raise the ceiling on earnings over $90,000. The second and most elegant idea comes from nonagenarian and former Social Security Commissioner Robert Ball: Designate the estate tax to shore up Social Security.

Under current law, the tax will only apply to estates worth more than $3.5 million by 2009. But two months ago, the House voted to permanently repeal the entire estate tax and the Senate is fiddling with compromise efforts.

A tax repeal on the richest 2 percent of Americans would cost $745 billion in the first 10 years. Using that money to support Social Security instead of an oligarchy would make up a third of the shortfall.

All in all, it's likely that healthy Americans will be working longer. It's a matter of disappearing pensions and dicey 401(k)s, as well as longer lives. Many of us expect to and/or want to work. We are already hearing buzzwords such as ''phased retirement," and economists are hopeful that employers make work more attractive to older workers as they run short of younger ones.

But the worst thing we can do is raise the retirement age -- what's next, Medicare? private pensions? -- before we figure out how to deal with able and willing elders. This is the time to remain conscientious objectors in the leisure class warfare.


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