Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Social Security

It seems that changes to Social Security are coming, centered around raising the retirement age.

Progressives are very unhappy, but I actually can accept this. Franklin Roosevelt definitely did not design Social Security to give people a 30 year retirement. He meant it so that old people wouldn't die alone on the street, which was happening at shocking rates. I am glad that the system has worked so well that it has become a cherished institution. And I love that advances in health care have extended life for so long, at least if you are white and middle class. But I'm not sure that multi-decade retirements are something the government can pay for. Europe is facing the same problems. The recession has made all of this a lot worse, with rising deficits and an uncertain future.

But shouldn't people remain productive citizens for a little longer. The proposal may include a very slow rise in the retirement age to the age of 70. Given that people are living into the 80s or later with great commonality, this doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.

I think the greater problem is that it creates lower turnover in employment. Since we have exported our entire industrial base, we are already having a tremendous time finding work for people. I believe this will remain a problem and that long-term high unemployment is a real concern. I remain entirely unconvinced that an information economy can actually bring us anywhere near full employment. Longer working lives isn't going to help the employment situation, even as it dents the welfare state.