Social Security

How High Can/Should/Will Retirement Age[*] Go?

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[*] For the purposes of Social Security; retirement ages in the private sector should be decided by the individual affected or the company paying same.

Last week, French folks took to the streets when the government threatened to raise the age at which vous could collect public retirement benefits…from 60 years to possibly 61 or even 62! Zut!

The NY Times pulled together a bunch of analysts to answer the question how high can retirement go? Among the respondents is Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist (and economic refugee from the land of Citroen) Veronique de Rugy. Part of her contribution:

Their [Americans 65 years and older] average net worth has increased almost 80 percent over the past 20 years; they form a larger share of the high-income group and a smaller share in lower-income group than their predecessors; they are far better educated, and they live longer and healthier lives….

Social Security's long-term unfunded liabilities have increased drastically and now total over $15 trillion.

The best option [to reform Social Security] is to cut benefits. One way to do that is to raise the age of eligibility to at least 70 and then progressively increase it to track with life expectancy….

Whole thing here.

De Rugy would prefer to kill Social Security outright and/or means-test benefits so that it acts as the safety net program it was intended to be.

The Times forum features a range of voices and can be read here.

There is something truly perverse about any system that takes from the young and relatively poor and gives to the old and relatively rich, which is what Social Security and Medicare do. Indeed, the system is not just economically inefficient but morally bankrupt. It reverses centuries of tradition in which children inherit from their parents. Adding to the insult is that Social Security benefits do not pass on to the next generation, meaning that all that payroll tax money is belong to us (with us being the government). I'm no fan of mandatory savings accounts in the place of payroll taxes but even something like that, which would give all workers something like a 401(k) account that could be passed on, would be far preferable to the current system.

Bonus video: Why de Rugy left France.

NEXT: Reason.tv's Nanny of the Month, May 2010

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  1. Orginally old age pensions were tied to the average age of life expectancy which in Bismark’s time was 65. If you survived longer than expected you received help. I think we should go back to that model. You’re responsible for anthing up to that point and you can retire anytime you can afford to retire. This is an improvement of the current system which politcally is not going away anytime soon.

    1. One way to do that is to raise the age of eligibility to at least 70 and then progressively increase it

      No way. We’ll insist on making the conservatives increase it, and take the political hit for throwing grandma out into the street in the snow to eat cat food.

      Or at least that’s how we’ll characterize it in the hit pieces.

  2. There is something truly perverse about any system that takes from the young and relatively poor and gives to the old and relatively rich, which is what Social Security and Medicare do.

    I worked my ass off for years and paid into those systems. You whippersnappers owe me!

    1. You’re right, curmudgeon. Social Security is a “compact between generations”. We believed that bullshit, and those damned whippersnappers better believe it too.

      Seriously, that’s how the SS Administration describes Social Security: “a compact between generations”.

      http://www.ssa.gov/mystatement/sample1.htm

      Funny, I don’t remember signing any compact.

    2. You don’t have to worry, curmudgeon. The progressive Democrats have a plan to save our retirements from ingrateful whippersnappers: seizure and socialization of individual 401(k) and IRA accounts.

      See http://www.usnews.com/money/bl…..lans.html.

      Of course, that would include your 401(k), but that’s a small price to pay for the security of knowing that your retirement income was protected by the United States Governement, right?

      BTW, Lenin did something similar with his the New Economic Policy in 1920s Russia. He forced NEP-men to buy government bonds. Then he denounced them as the capitalist running-dogs that they were, and refused to redeem the bonds.

  3. I say we add on 1 month per year of birth until we reach current life expectancy at birth. If that expands faster than a year every 12 years, then we never stop expanding the age.

    Or, we could just privatize Social Security.

    1. Right now, retirement age caps at 67 for those born 1960 or later. So we start from there:

      1960:67 and 0 months
      1972:68
      1984:69
      1996:70
      2008:71

      Hmmm…2008 life expectancy at birth in the US was 78.14. Doesnt catch fast enough. Last time they increased, they did 2 months per year, lets try that instead:

      1960:67
      1966:68
      1969:68 and 6 months (my birth year)
      1972:69
      1978:70
      1984:71
      1990:72
      1996:73
      2002:74
      2008:75

      It would still be expanding past there, as still not caught up, but works for me. People born today would have to wait until 75 and 4* months.

      *Actually do to a SS fence post problem, people born today count as being born in May, so would only have to wait until 75 and 3 months. Im not kidding. They are that fucked up.

      1. Also, if we did this now, anyone affected by the change is under age 50 and has plenty of time to adjust their plans.

        1. Burrshit. I’m 32 and my prans for worrd domination (evir raugh) have me correcting SS at 67. You think I have time to adjust such compricated prans? Do you know how fuckin’ busy I am?!

        2. This is actually a good start, and not far away from the age at which I think I would be able to retire anyway. I think something that needs to be factored in is some variable based on demographics. If there are only two workers paying into the system for every one taking out, the system is broken, no matter what the actual ages are.

          1. Any change is unfair to men given that women live longer. Where’s the equality, ladies? Why should men pay the same as you, only to have you get more? I can’t believe the feminists aren’t screaming about how sexist and patriarchal it is having the men pay for the ladies.

            1. I think the solution is a mandatory life-limit. Once you reach the government approved age, you’re asked to walk down a dark tunnel and someone shoots you in the back of the head.

              1. Once your crystal turns red your mine runner.

              2. I prefer the Soylent Green method.

              3. R. Crumb predicted this in his Mr. Natural Comix back in the 60’s. In his version, at a random time after the appointed age, a clown appears, announces “Time’s Up”, and throws a cyanide pie in your face.

      2. “Hmmm…2008 life expectancy at birth in the US was 78.14. Doesnt catch fast enough.”

        Don’t worry, Obamacare will fix that glitch.

    2. What exactly does privatize social security mean? Its still mandatory, but the government just gives it to a couple of preferred businesses to manage? Public-private monopolies are not free market solutions.

      1. See below. My first preference would be its none of the damn governments business whether I save for retirement or not.

        More realistically, it means something like a mandatory 401K with 5% of your income going to it. (Instead of 6.2% going to SS, the other 1.2% would probably still go non-retirement portions of SS)

        1. See below. My first preference would be its none of the damn governments business whether I save for retirement or not.

          The problem with that is that it would require us to let old people who didn’t save rot in the street (social darwinism) or force them to beg for charity. We as a modern society find that morally repugnant…even though forcing others to care for irresponsible people isn’t so hot either.

          1. Yeah, cuz charities are non-existent in libertopia.

          2. I don’t find it all too repugnant. They can go back to work if they like. If they choose not too fuck em.

          3. What does old people dying have to do with Darwinism of any kind? They have presumably already done all of their reproducing.

  4. Serious question to posters here;

    Who actually factors social security into their retirement fund? I sure as hell dont. It will be bankrupt by that time, if I make it that far.

    1. I dont. I assume Im not getting it.

    2. Nor do I. I figured that Ponzi scheme out around 1983.

      If only I could have stopped paying into the con back then.

    3. Same here.

    4. I toss the periodic notifications from the Social Security Admininstration unread, as I do with all unsolicited Ponzi scheme mailers.

    5. i don’t

      i started working a “regular” job later in life, so the amount i will get at 67 is trivial

    6. Ditto, er, me too.

      Another serious question: Who actually factors stocks/mutual funds into their retirement fund? I do at this point, but I’m starting to reconsider.

      1. I certainly factor it in when looking at my parents retirement, or for other couples over 50+.

        I tell them to make sure they pay off their mortgage. If they do that, + SS they should be able to get by.

        Then 401k etc is for having money to do stuff.

    7. I only factor it into the money I will leave my kids insofar as I consider it property that was stolen from them and transferred to me. I’ll either cut each kid a monthly check or I’ll put it into an account that they’ll get when I croak.

  5. So far as I can tell from my clients, when the U.S. goes from 65 to 67, it means that lots of people will actually retire at 84 instead of 79. And after 84, we have some of our old people trying to live on just $600 a month in Social Security. Maybe after they get over their mocking of Europe, some in our U.S. press would like to look into that.

    Cue barfman.

    1. Well, if they were smart their house would have been paid off years ago meaning they could have banked that extra scratch for dozens of years, they should share a car by now since they only drive to “the market” every day which is one block from their house. They eat less than they used to…oh what did you say? Their property taxes cost them $530 per month because of the 22 reassessments since they bought it? Well, whose fault is that, asshole?

      1. They should have a significantly smaller food budget due to not only eating less, but also by being forced to eat generic cat food.

        When libertarians take over in 2012, their first order of business will be to pass the Cat Food Act, ensuring that the aged will not go hungry with generous pet food subsidies.

        Everyone knows we are in the pockets of Big Purina.

      2. As a Connecticut resident I must ask: where, oh where, is this low-tax utopia where property taxes on a small house are a mere $530 a month?

        Just before the economy took a nosedive in 2007, I was writing for an alt-weekly and did a story about a local man living in the modest 1950s Cape Cod house he’d inherited from his parents; after that town did its revaluation for tax purposes, the man’s property tax bill rose to $16,000 per year.

        That was not a typo — he had to pay sixteen thousand dollars a year.

        This, incidentally, is why I refuse to even consider buying real estate so long as I live in the godforsaken Nutmeg State.

        1. I live in CA, pay about $200 a month in property taxes (course they screw us on the rest of them).

        2. Damn, I thought I was being hyperbolic.

        3. All depends on where you live. My property taxes in Greenwich, CT were $3500/year in a “starter” home. Plenty of other rich people to milk.

          My property taxes in NH are double that. Of course, without an income or sales tax, I’ve nothing to gripe about.

        4. I pay less than half of that in New Hampshire where property taxes are the only broad based individual taxes. Connecticut just sucks.

        5. Well, damn. I guess I’ll quit bitching about my $6000/yr property tax bill.

          1. BTW, Bronwyn, liked your article in Wikipedia.

            … Hobbit

          2. Yeah, I think you should 😉

            (sez the poor bastard paying $12k/year property taxes on a 2300 square foot home in Middlesex County NJ)

  6. I’m no fan of mandatory savings accounts in the place of payroll taxes but even something like that, which would give all workers something like a 401(k) account that could be passed on, would be far preferable to the current system.

    Like school vouchers, it isnt philosophically pure, but is something I can accept. If we had a chilean style system with effectively a mandatory 401K with a safety net for those whose account didnt reach large enough, it would move SS to a problem not worth worrying about anymore. Not perfect, but no longer on the list of things to attack.

    1. I agree but if you recall how Bush was crucified by dems and the MSM for just trying to allow people to voluntarily put a small percentage of what they pay into SS into 401K type accounts instead, that proposal seems like that’s a pipe dream. A democrat president might be able to get it passed the media but it’s unlikely that they would go that route.

  7. Adding to the insult is that Social Security benefits do not pass on to the next generation, meaning that all that payroll tax money is belong to us (with us being the government).

    The serf’s chattels always escheat to the lord upon the death of the serf. This is the ancient custom of the manor.

  8. I won’t accept it. The government doesn’t need more excuses to plunder my personal savings and attach strings to it. Things that people do voluntarily shouldn’t be made mandatory.

    1. I assume you are responding to one of my posts – its already fucking mandatory. That is the point. Movement toward making what is now a tax and transfer payment MY PROPERTY, with, admittedly, strings attached, is still an improvement.

      The ability for heirs to inherit it is alone enough reason to make the change.

      1. Not to mention, the government takes 40% of whatever you leave to your kids anyway…

        1. Depends how much you have. At low enough levels they take 0%.

          1. let’s just say that if you’ve been successful enough to leave anything significant to your kids, the gov. takes a large portion of it.

            1. Not if you die this year.

              The #/% was 45% of everything over $3.5M in 2009 and goes to 55% of everything over $1.0M in 2011.

              The senate passed a non-binding resolution last year to try to set it permanently at 35%/$5M.

              There are plenty of numbers below 3.5M,infinity,1M, or 5M that are significant.

              1. 55% of everything over 1M? Holy shit! I assume that includes the entire estimated value of your “estate” and not just whatever’s in your bank accounts?

                1. 55% of everything over 1M? Holy shit! I assume that includes the entire estimated value of your “estate” and not just whatever’s in your bank accounts?

                  Yep, although there are deductions. Most importantly, anything left a US citizen spouse. 2011, if nothing changes, returns us to pre-Bush tax cut levels.

                  This is the big problem with the estate tax. If you have a business/farm that is a significant proportion of your wealth and no spouse to leave it to, its quite possible to not have enough cash to pay the tax – hence the stories of people having to sell businesses/farms that they wanted to leave to their kids.

                  Its why the $5M/35% limits will probably pass. While the 2010 elimination would have been great permanently, it wasnt politically feasible. But the 1M limit isnt in the other direction. At $5M, you eliminate a lot of estates from middle class people who saved well (like my parents, who would get hit by the $1M limit – or, depending on how you look at it, me and my sister would take the hit).

                  1. I’m curious why more people don’t create trusts. My parents have trusts set up where the kids and others they want to pass wealth to are included in different trusts where we’re all owners. Of course they’re the majority owners but it’s easy and quick to change that if they get sick. I think there are some issues if they were to die suddenly.

                    Anyone here know much about trusts – pros cons?

                    1. I don’t think trusts can completly get away from the problems of the estate tax.

                      But there are other things you can do as well. For example, you and your wife can each give like $12k a year (24k for both) to an indvidual without using the estate deduction.

                      So, if you start that when the kid is born, you can do a pretty singficant amount.

                      The only catch is once you do that, the money “is” the kids. Of course a good beating will usually keep them from using it (that and threats to cut them off from the rest).

                    2. My parents wanted to help me purchase my first house. We started a trust with me a minor owner. Then I refinanced myself and wrote them out of the trust. It went through all of the proper channels and was on my tax returns. Hope nothing funny shows up in the mail.

  9. How High Can/Should/Will Retirement Age[*] Go?

    [*] For the purposes of Social Security

    Age 200 sounds about right.

    Make participation voluntary — let people who think it is a Ponzi scheme bail out now, and “lose” whatever “benefits” were promised.

    1. I’m in

    2. I would have been more then willing to do that 15 years ago when I was in my early 30’s. I would be willing to take reduced benefits if I could opt out now, but would not want to forfeit all. Not that I’m really counting on getting anything anyways. Since I’m one of those suckers who does what their supposed to do (pay my taxes, prudent with my investments, pay my bills, don’t take out loans I can’t pay back, etc) I’m sure I’ll get screwed as per usual anyways.

      1. Forfeit, schmorfeit. Everything you paid in was a tax for current federal spending.

        If ending this bloated monstrosity means I don’t get a government check in 17 years or so — and my kids aren’t forced to pay into this Ponzi scheme — I’m all in.

        1. I’ve said this same thing for years. To think of the personal wealth that extra 12.5% could have generated over the years. But that’s only because I’m a heartless bastard who wants to see old people dumpster diving for their meals.

          True story: My FIL died some years ago, after being a NIH employee for many years. When it came time to collect his SS, my MIL was told that she could have either his pension, or his SS, but not both.

          I was fucking floored when I heard that. Evidently, this is SOP for the little people.

        2. Call it whatever the hell you want. I want as much of it back as I can get. Quite frankly it wouldn’t put a freakin’ dent in what I pay in Federal income tax so it would really just be a small reduction in taxes I pay, and I’ll take as much of that reduction as I can get. Also, it doesn’t necessarily follow that your kids (or mine) have to keep paying into it. We could have govt spending decreases in other areas instead which is what should happen.

  10. Face it people.

    Not ALL old people (and not even the vast majority of them) are RICH; as this article would lead one to believe.

    You can simply STOP paying benefits to the RICH ones. Why not.

    However, poor old people will still come to us (THE TAX PAYER) for healthcare, food, housing, etc.

    Unless we just start letting old people die on the street, we (THE TAX PAYER) will still have to make GOOD on those old people that are not RICH.

    The very CRUEL thing about raising the RETIREMENT AGE is that now-a-days, a 50+ employee does not RETIRE…He/she is RETIRED. That is, they get laid off, and can’t find another job.

    Either way, this slob will come to us (THE TAX PAYER) for help at some point.

    1. Unless we just start letting old people die on the street, we (THE TAX PAYER) will still have to make GOOD on those old people that are not RICH.

      You know there is a 3rd option.

    2. I see lots and lots of people with new or newish cars, with 3 or 4 kids living in nice homes. And then I read that something like 80% of people don’t have enough saved for retirement.

      Here’s an idea: There is no god-given right to have 4 kids. Have 1 and save for retirement. If you find you can afford a second or a third, good for you. But having 4 kids while not saving for retirement is both dumb and morally corrupt, not to mention an environmental disaster.

      If environmentalists were really serious about our impact on the world, they would join forces with us to get rid of SS and Medicare, which only promote having more children. After all, if you don’t have to fund retirement, why save all that income?

      1. The 4 kids can help the guy who sired them.

      2. Actually, don’t SS and Medicare discourage having kids? Without them, you’re dependent on the income of your children, so more children means more security for you in your later years. With them, everyone’s kids get to pay for you.

        1. Assuming your kids aren’t worthless layabouts and that they don’t hate you, that works to some extent.

    3. Then make SS a safety net program for the truly needy, not a half-assed pension program.

  11. Alice makes a good point, but forgets the Libertarian Deus Ex Machina:

    “Private charity will take care of those who need help”

    1. Some, certainly.

      But once you take away the incentive not to save and have kids instead, I think you’d find there wouldn’t be as many.

      If you know you have to save for retirment and there is no net, all those people with new cars and 4 kids will have older cars and 1 or 2 kids instead because they will be saving.

      Of course, some idiot will still have 4 kids, but we can deal with that situation when we get to it.

    2. Individuals are perfectly free to be compassionate towards others. If I give money to those with less money, that’s a personally decision. The government forcibly taking my money and directly giving it to someone that I’ve never met is redistribution of wealth, which is unconstitutional.

      1. How is “redistribution of wealth” unconstitutional?

        Section 8. Clause 1:

        The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.

        16th Amendment:

        The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

        1. We’ve over this before Tony, and the conclusion is always that you’re a thief.
          Whatever wealth that I accumulate is earned through my sweat, blood, and tears and because of the concept of private property, you, nor any government, has right to it.

          It has yet to be proven that establishing financial sink holes that spiral out of control such as Medicare and SS provide for “the general Welfare.” They may provide some benefit for a few, but they fuck over the next few generations.

          The 16th Amendment gives the government the power to levy taxes. That’s not my argument. When I concede to pay taxes, I expect a service to rendered in return. Giving tax money to someone else doesn’t do that.

          1. All taxing and spending is “redistribution of wealth.” It’s not payment for service. Which you should be glad for–most likely you receive far more in benefits than you pay in taxes (including the significant external benefits that come with living in a functioning civilization).

            1. Yes, thank you for showing me the light, Tony. I should be grateful that I’m allowed to live with my fellow man and bask in the glory of the society that produces such gods as Sean Penn, Miley Cyrus, Ted Kennedy, Cosmo, guidos, Octomom, and reality shows about midgets.

              I don’t know what I’d do without them.

              That’s exactly what taxes are. When I give my money to the government, I expect that money to produce something concrete and tangible that I derive a benefit from. Ex: national defense, roads, etc.

              Redistribution of wealth is when Person A has a greater amount of wealth than Person B, the government then decides to make Person B more affluent, but only to the detriment of Person A.

              You, and many other liberals, assume that as citizens, we live in society, and we all benefit from one another, that if one person is wealthier than another, then that person “lucked out.” Therefore, the wealth of a nation belongs to every citizen of that nation, and everyone should have a fair share.

              Economics is not a team sport. Individuals create wealth.

              1. Sean Penn, Miley Cyrus, Ted Kennedy, Cosmo, guidos, Octomom, and reality shows about midgets.

                Um, with the exception of Ted Kennedy, these are all the products of raw capitalism.

                Anyway, my point is that all taxation is a redistribution of wealth. Poor people enjoy national defense and roads even though they may have paid little to fund them. Hence, your original assertion that redistribution is unconstitutional is wrong.

                Most liberals won’t openly admit it, but I will: I believe there should be a maximum amount of wealth any one person should be allowed to possess. Nobody worked a million times harder than anyone else, and there is no rational or moral justification for letting a tiny few have all of the resources for themselves, when in all likelihood luck played an overwhelming role in their acquiring it.

                1. “Nobody worked a million times harder than anyone else”

                  Actually capitalism doesn’t reward hard work, it rewards value. When you create or do something of value, others pay you for it. If I make a song, and 1 million people are all willing to give me $1 to listen to that song, then I get 1m. They have freely chosen to give me that $1 in exchange for the right to listen to my song. I created somethign they valued. We are both better off.

                  Whether I worked hard, or hardly worked to create that song doesn’t really matter. I still provided the value that others wanted.

                2. “Nobody worked a million times harder than anyone else,”

                  But some people produce things worth millions of times more than other people.

                3. whoa, you really just said that?
                  awesome, you are one rad, dude
                  can it be possible?

                  I must be overwhelmingly lucky to take offense to that. Or stupid.

                4. I believe there should be a maximum amount of wealth any one person should be allowed to possess.

                  That’s a pretty damning admission. Suppose someone earns more wealth than your wished for maximum. Absent a government, how would you take it from her?

                  Asking the government to take it for you is basically the same thing.

                5. Anyway, my point is that all taxation is a redistribution of wealth.

                  You are correct about that. It is one reason that the Constitution is not a libertarian document.

              2. Economics is not a team sport. Individuals create wealth.

                That’s why Walmart never makes any money and general stores pull in billions.

                1. Well, I was commenting on our “civilization” in general. Probably a little off topic.

                  Yes, poor people enjoy the benefits of roads and national defense. However, when the government takes money from the top 25% of income earners and gives it to the bottom 25%, then the top 25% see absolutely no benefit, no service, no nothing. That’s why it’s stealing.

                  You could say that it makes society more stable. But that’s not necessarily true, and you’d have a hell of a time proving it.

                  The top 25% of income earners are in the top 25% because they know how to produce things that are valuable to other people. The bottom 25% are there because they don’t. The bottom rungs of society are just drains – they don’t produce or contribute anything.

                  And yes, individuals create wealth because every idea is produced by an individual. Wal-Mart wouldn’t be the same company if it replaces all it’s employees with the first 100,000 people in the phone book.

                  Your example is also just looking at the selling of goods. Counter-example: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc.

                  Large corporations are successful because they gather talent and skills, which are possessed by individuals.

                  1. Save it JEP. Tony doesn’t understand the two most important things in the world. Freedom and the law of supply and demand.

              3. i should’ve just stopped at reality TV in general, the show about midgets is at the top my mind because it’s the latest piece of crap produced by TLC – nothing against midgets

        2. The General Welfare clause is not a grant of power, it is a limitation on the power to tax; taxes can only be collected to provide for the common defense and general welfare.

          Transfer programs by definition do not contribute to the general welfare. They are a zero sum game – any gain in the “welfare” of a recipient is offset by a loss in the “welfare” of contributor. A general welfare program is one that is, at a minimum, Pareto-optimal.

          1. This is only true if you torture the definition of “welfare” as you have, to mean nothing more than dollars and cents.

            It is not equally burdensome to take $10 from someone with $1,000 as it is to take $10 from someone with $100.

            And it’s not zero-sum: do you really think there is an equal amount of suffering in the world now as there was before social security?

            It’s truly a perverse claim that the burden of dying starving in the streets because you are too old to provide for yourself is equivalent to the burden of paying more in taxes to cover the social safety net.

            1. “It’s truly a perverse claim that the burden of dying starving in the streets because you are too old to provide for yourself is equivalent to the burden of paying more in taxes to cover the social safety net.”

              Even if we accept this argument, that still means that SS should just be an extension of the Welfare program to prevent poverty in the elderly. NOT a program for everyone.

            2. The only one torturing definitions around here is you, Tony.

              Torturting the definition of words in the Constitution.

              Let’s go to the expert, shall we?

              “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
              — James Madison

              That would be the same James Madision that is known as the FATHER OF THE CONSTITUTION.

              As opposed to Tony who is merely known as a blithering idiot.

            3. It is well known that older people have trouble providing for themselves. It’s your responsibility to realize this and plan accordingly, instead of being a burden to others.

            4. How many Americans died starving in the streets before Social Security. How many since the advent of Social Security?

            5. General Welfare is not aggregate welfare. It has nothing to do with the total amount of suffering in the world or anything like that. General welfare refers to things that everyone benefits from.

        3. i see that this authorizes congress to levy taxes in order to pay for the the things outlines in article 1 section 8. I don’t see anything in there where it authorizes congress to spend money on retirement pensions, healthcare, programs and so on.

        4. Redistribution of wealth doesn’t provide for the “general” welfare, it provides for the welfare of a minority (poor people), at the expense of another minority (rich people). Roads, armies, sewers, and other public goods serve the general welfare. Handouts serve the specific welfare of those receive them.

        5. “General Welfare” means things that benefit the welfare of everyone. Redistributionist policies are not for the general welfare, but the individual welfare of some. It is not a difficult distinction to grasp.

    3. Government will take care of those who need help. Take care of ’em good and hard.

  12. One problem when looking at per capita income is that, as when simply comparing salaries, it doesn’t take into account “benefits”. For example, if one was to adjust the French per capita figure to include national health care, retirement age, and paid vacations, does that figure become more comparable to a like figure in the US?

    Of course, there’s a lack of choice underlying the whole socialist model. But income comparisons should include benefits as well.

  13. It always seemed perverse to me that I am required to pay into SS my whole working life, but SS plans that I die after 2 years of collecting benefits.

  14. Means testing is coming, make no mistake.

    So is raising the retirement age.

    So is raising SocSec taxes.

    All attempts to save SocSec will impoverish productive people. Transfer programs are a cancer on society, but they will be with us forever (unless, of course, there is a truly catastrophic economic collapse).

    1. If it comes to mean-testing, then fine.
      But the test should be on what one earned in one’s lifetime, not what one has today. That way, the unmarried school teacher who lived in a one bedroom rental and saved up $500,000 doesn’t end up being financially hurt to provide for the swinging bachelor with a big salary who partied in Vegas and blew all his money on women, sports cars, and drugs.

      1. That is absolutely zero chance that means testing would ever be calculated that way.

        1. No, but it would be awesome if it were.

    2. They should ditch the concept of “retirement” altogether and just work on a concept of disability; with the understanding that age is a driving factor in increasing physical and mental disability. If you’re able to work to provide for yourself, then you should work to provide for yourself (unless you’ve saved and invested, in which case you already worked to provide for yourself).

  15. If you know you have to save for retirment and there is no net,

    party like it’s 1999!

  16. “…which is what Social Security and Medicare do. Indeed, the system is not just economically inefficient but morally bankrupt.”

    Moral bankruptcy?!

    It’s about time somebody around here made that point, but I think you’re missin’ the most obvious implication…

    The worst thing about Medicare, specifically, isn’t that it gives wealthy people in their 60s lots of money at the expense of the young and less well to do. It’s the moral hazard it creates, and the living conditions it imposes on people in their ’80s and up.

    People used to think they were responsible for their grandparents the way they think they’re responsible for their kids. And the combination of Social Security and Medicare has done away with that…

    The way we abandon elderly people in their ’80s and up in this country is horrific–we warehouse them in nursing homes like so much furniture. …and I think Medicare and Social Security are to blame!

    People think it’s the government’s responsibility to pay for old people–and that’s morally bankrupt. It’s created a society where neglect for some of our most defenseless people is commonplace.

    Other countries that don’t have Medicare and Social Security like we do? Families don’t abandon their elderly like that. But we do.

    1. Or maybe having an economy that concentrates wealth at the top leaves most people unable to afford elderly care. The moral hazard argument is pretty feeble considering how long personal wealth for most people in this country has been totally stagnant or dropping.

      1. No Tony.

        Medicare + Social Security is all you need to get moved into a nursing home. …and wealthy people are just as guilty of it as anyone else.

        When government takes responsibility for something like that, generation by generation, people come to think that’s the government’s responsibility. Why wouldn’t they?

        It’s one of the rumors I heard when I lived in Mexico over the last year… “I heard that Americans keep all their old people in nursing homes.” There was a recent “This American Life” episode about those kinds of stereotypes foreigners don’t believe about Americans–but turn out to be true!

        It’s a result of social security and Medicare–and it’s disgusting.

      2. Tony,

        That’s stupid.

        Are you seriously proposing that the average American has less disposable income now than they did in 1929?

        People are “unable to afford elderly care” because they refuse to live in multigenerational homes. That’s pretty much it.

        “Elder care” was never an issue in any society until people decided that they should be able to live without seeing any of their elderly relatives, and wanted those relatives locked away in holding facilities.

        1. People live far different lives than they did just 100 years ago.

          Adult children move all over the country for work or marriage or whatever else, college.
          The elderly live so much longer than they used to.
          People retire to different states.
          Medical advancements keep people alive far longer than has ever been true before.
          Social Security and pensions have caused people to retire rather than just die while they were still employed.
          Women work full time jobs now so they are not home to care for their aging parents like they once were.

          Nursing homes are a market response to all of the above and probably a few more things I didn’t think of off the top of my head.

          1. Delightful.

            Not really relevant to my point, though.

            I have no problem with the existence of nursing homes.

            My problem is the notion that one’s elderly relatives are such an intolerable burden that to be free of them my fellow citizens should be entitled to rob me blind [and on a regressive basis, to boot].

            Tony is whining that people don’t have the disposable income to support elder care. It really doesn’t take that much disposable income to put Granny into Junior’s room now that Junior has gone to college. But that is not seen as a tolerable or permissible option.

            1. On what planet is that option not tolerated?

              What about the people who literally cannot support their elderly relatives? Their ranks have only been increasing. Same old libertarian bullshit, I presume? “Find a charity.”

              1. You really want to examine why their ranks are increasing despite the majority of families having two incomes now? Your arguments for your side might fall apart really fast now. You wanna go?

        2. “People are “unable to afford elderly care” because they refuse to live in multigenerational homes. That’s pretty much it.”

          The hard decisions in life are hard to make. …and as we make the immoral choice easier for people to make, it becomes easier for people to make the immoral choice.

          I don’t see why that’s controversial.

          The fact is that when people didn’t have the option of sticking grandma in a nursing home and sticking the government with the bill, they were less inclined to do so. Now that it’s less expensive to stick anybody over 65 in a nursing home–just because they’re over 65–more people find themselves stuck there.

          It’s the Welfare Queen system writ large. The financial burden associated with having more children than you can afford to take care of prevents people from having more children than they can take care of. And as that disincentive is removed…there’s less disincentive!

          Why wouldn’t that be the case!?

          The fact is that freeing people from the economic impact of tough choices doesn’t make the moral choice any easier–in fact, it provides an incentive to make the choice based on economic factors alone.

          …and I thought that’s what Progressives were trying to avoid.

      3. considering how long personal wealth for most people in this country has been totally stagnant or dropping

        While personal spending and credit has gone through the roof. Cry me a river for those who use their personal wealth to buy so many luxuries and refuse to pay off their debts and save for tough times.

      4. That’s fucking stupid Tony. Before the state would pay for a shitty nursing home for grandma, poor assed people would find a room in the house for grandma to stay in until she died. It is not lack of income but people who think that they have a right not to be inconvenienced by their parents in their old age.

      5. Or maybe having an economy that concentrates wealth at the top leaves most people unable to afford elderly care.

        Or maybe living in a society burdened with the most expensive government in the history of the human race, one that takes half your income and makes everything you buy cost twice as much (by taxing the producers), leaves us with only a quarter of the wealth individuals in a free society would have.

  17. Actually, although I disagree with the existence of Social Security in general, if it has to exist it should be rigorously means-tested for both income and assets.

    I can understand the desire to provide retirement security. I don’t understand the desire to tax poor people to send millionaires monthly checks. Whether those millionaires “paid in all those years” or not.

    I really don’t understand why a more significant effort isn’t made to establish means testing. Are the shameless thieving elderly really that big a voting block? If we proposed means testing for elderly people with 6 figure incomes and 7 figures in assets, would that really be so toxic electorally?

    1. Are the shameless thieving elderly really that big a voting block?

      See AARP.

      1. But if you introduce the means testing at high enough levels, you shouldn’t really end up confronting all of AARP.

        Is your average elderly person ready to go nuts defending Warren Buffet’s SS check?

  18. “It reverses centuries of tradition in which children inherit from their parents.”

    Nick, you’ve been watching too many episodes of Masterpiece Theater. In centuries past, you had kids so that they would take care of you in your old age, if by some chance you actually lived past 40, which most people didn’t.

    But, yeah, the retirement age should be around 70, and, yeah, old folks get too many benefits, most of them, at least. Just stay off my damn lawn and we’ll call it square.

    1. “In centuries past, you had kids so that they would take care of you in your old age, if by some chance you actually lived past 40, which most people didn’t.”

      I question that.

      Where are you getting that number?

      To what extent did infant mortality and women dying in labor affect that number?

      My guess is that if you lived to be 10 years old, your odds of living past 65 were probably pretty good.

  19. We should have the following:

    Socialized RETIREMENT/DISABLED !!!

    That is,

    1> All workers pay a tax (FICA) for those who are retired. That includes public/private sector people. Public TAX dollars should NOT GO to fund PUBLIC WORKERS Pensions (as in the $100,000+ crowd that seems to be poping up all over america).

    2> The benefit should include a LIVING WAGE NO HIGHER than 80% of the FEDERAL MEDIAN INCOME. If you want more when you get older than save it yourself. Everyone else will need to move to a cheap place to live.

  20. Yet another example of the great retirement plan that Social Security is! Congress can raise the retirement age whenever it wants. The payroll tax rate can be raised at will. Benefits can be cut, or increased, or indexed for inflation, or not, whenever Congress decides. What you spend decades “paying into” can be taken away from your heirs at the drop of a hat, or whenever you keel over.

    Now remind me, why did I sign up for this mess? Oh right, I didn’t — I was forced to participate, or try to work entirely outside the system.

  21. End it, don’t mend it. Just let anyone who wants to opt out do so tomorrow, in exchange for giving up all future benefits. The current leeches retirees and those close to 62 would stay in, but anyone younger with any sense would stop immediately. At least they have all those special government bonds in the trust fund to cover the shortfall….

  22. “There is something truly perverse about any system that takes from the young and relatively poor and gives to the old and relatively rich, which is what Social Security and Medicare do”.
    ARE YOU REALLY THAT STUPID that you don’t understand that Social Security and Medicare are part of an insurance system into which you pay until the day of your retirement. Whether this is 65 or 72 does not matter. If you are disabled before that age, your insurance kicks in early.

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