Government Spending

Get Off That Lifeguard Tower, Grandma!


The Alliance for Retired Americans, an advocacy group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, is running pro-GOP TV spots in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey are competing for the Senate seat held by Arlen Specter, and in five House districts with similarly close races. The ads, which warn that if Republicans take control of Congress they might raise the Social Security retirement age, probably were not intended to boost the GOP's chances. But they called my attention to a June 28 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interview in which House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in contrast with his comments when House Republicans released their curiously noncommittal Pledge to America last month, not only said he was going to level with the American people about entitlements but actually did.

"We're  all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected," Boehner said. "I think raising the retirement age— going out 20 years, so you're not affecting anyone close to retirement, and eventually getting the retirement age to 70—is a step that needs to be taken." He added that increases in Social Security benefits should be tied to the consumer price index (reflecting increases in the cost of living) rather than wage inflation and that benefits should be means tested. "We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we're broke," he said, "and that if you have substantial, non–Social Security income while you're retired, why are we paying you?…We just need to be honest with people."

Latching onto the comment about raising the retirement age, the ARA ads show comically old folks working as police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, and jackhammer operators. It's a surprisingly ageist approach for a group that's supposedly all about defending the dignity of senior citizens: They're so old! They shouldn't be doing those jobs, except maybe to entertain the rest of us with their decrepit ineptitude. In any case, here's what the narrator says:

What are seniors hoping for if Republicans take over Congress?

You're hoping things will change? 

Hope you're also planning to stay on the job.

Because at least one change means seniors will have to work.  And work.  And keep right on working.

Yes, that's right. The Republican leadership wants to raise your retirement age to 70. 

So tell [Name of Republican] this is no joke.  We can't wait for Social Security until our 70th birthday. 

Protect Social Security.  Vote [Name of Democrat] for Congress.

Boehner, of course, made it clear that his proposal (which should not be confused with what Republicans will actually do when they're in charge of Congress again) would exempt not only people who are about to retire but even relative youngsters like me (thanks, John!).  So the whole premise of the ad—that viewers approaching retirement should worry that they will have to continue working several years longer than they anticipated—is false. It may nevertheless scare some 60-somethings into voting. But for those of us who despair of hearing anything like fiscal seriousness from leading politicians of either party, the message is one of hope.

In a column about Social Security last month, I noted that life expectancy at 65 has risen by by about four years for men and five years for women since that retirement age was set in 1935. Furthermore, the share of Americans who reach retirement age is substantially larger than it used to be: In 1940, for example, only 54 percent of 21-year-old men could expect to reach 65, compared to 78 percent today. Yet the retirement age has been raised by only two years (for people born after 1959) since the program was established.

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  1. Nice snark, but I suspect people closer to becoming eligible for free money from the government would on average not view these as pro-GOP ads. Dunno if it would even be a wash in terms of driving voters to D politicians.

    1. free money from the government

      How is the money “free” if you were taxed your whole working life? At best it’s a long-delayed refund. At worst (from a fiscal standpoint) you collect more than you paid, if you’re lucky enough not to die first.

      1. You and I know it’s not free money, but enough voters think so to keep electing politicians who support and expand Social Security and Medicare.

      2. If you collect more than you paid, then it’s free money. We agree that if you receive a “refundable tax credit” that exceeds what you paid in taxes for the year, then that’s free money, right? It’s the same thing.

        And from an actuarial perspective, the average person is promised more benefits that they pay in taxes, even when their payments are assumed to accrue interest at 30 year bond levels.

        People have not paid for the benefits that they’re promised, and that fundamentally is why the program is in trouble. For a long time we could skate by based on demographics, but that’s why the “trust fund” is depleting and why benefits will have to be cut by 21% (suddenly in 2040, by the Democrats’ plan) or taxes sharply raised

        Of course, given demographic power, the preferred “solution” is to have the baby boomers actually get all their extra benefits compared to the taxes that they paid, and then balance it by jacking up taxes or slicing benefits for the now young.

        1. You make a cogent and well-reasoned argument against the “But, I paid in!” claim. No doubt that your logic will be countered with “But, I paid in!”.

          Getting rid of the false notion that SS is an investment vehicle, and that somewhere is an account with your name on it is the first step in slaying this beast.

          Social security is a tax and redistribution(from less the less affluent young to the more so old) program, and once we disavow ourselves of the idea that it is some sort of 401k thingy the better.

          Also, what about medicare? I would be interested to know the average amount paid in compared to the taken out.

          1. in other words: pyramid scheme

  2. Really only two choices here – the whole thing crashes and burns, or the public stops reacting like Winston being threatened with room 101. Figure out which is more likely.

    1. Figure out which is more likely.

      Crash’n’Burn? What do i win?

      1. Same as everyone else, a really, really hard wedgie.

  3. In 1940, for example, only 54 percent of 21-year-old men could expect to reach 65

    How much did the coming war play a part in that?

    1. It’s funny, you never hear World War III pitched as a solution to the entitlements crisis. We won’t have to worry about the funding gap if we’re all dead!

  4. If that’s the best those old farts can do at those jobs, they got no worries about having to keep working. Fired!

  5. What if people provide for their own retirements and retire when they no longer feel like working?

    1. Why do you hate old people!?!?

    2. People providing for themselves? That’s just CRAZY talk!

    3. Oh, like, say, SOMALIA???!!1!

      1. Republicans are going to dynamite your ROADS!!!!

        1. I know your kidding, but my guess is that the vast majority of road-building contractors are Republicans. Consulting engineers less so, but a majority still, I think.

          Add to that the employees of road-building contractors who unionized or not are more than likely lean Democrat, as do the employees of the state DsOT, and you have a strong bipartisan lobby in favor of continued road construction.

    4. Ice floes.

  6. Master Shake: Where do you two think you’re going?

    Frylock: Wherever the hell we want.

    Master Shake: Not without me!

    Meatwad: We’re going to see Little Brittle at the old folks home.

    Master Shake: Go without me!

  7. The AFL-CIO can’t afford the rights to “Yakety Sax?” Bailout!

  8. This post is not sufficiently byzantine. Please take a few moments for a re-write.

  9. Great. Yet another group affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

    Like we need more of that shit.

    1. It’s nice to know who is behind a political front group, isn’t it? If you livertarians had your way, this ad would have been funded secretly and you wouldn’t have been able to tell it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

      1. [Sic]

      2. Gosh, it sure would suck if people could publish political statements without revealing their identity, wouldn’t it, “Hobie Hanson”?

      3. You’re right, Hobie. I wouldn’t be able to discern my own opinion about the ad if I didn’t know who was behind it. I would have no choice but to unquestioningly accept its premises.

      4. It’s okay when WE hide behind shadowy political front groups!

  10. Seriously, EVERY commercial break on TV during the past few days has had at least two political ads. In one sequence during South Park (?!), there was an ad for Dan Onorato saying that Corbett would take away Social Security and Medicare and force seniors to work eight hours a day for a bowl of cat food. I wasn’t really surprised by this ad, because it was immediately preceded by a Corbett ad calling Onorato a liar for saying that. Probably not the order Corbett would have prefered.

    Of course, it’s not exactly a program with a heavy senior audience, either, but they take what they can get I guess.

    1. I had noticed this in Seattle as well, even while fast-forwarding through commercials on the TiVo. There are at least two, it seems, every break.

      Thank Jeebus for TiVo is all I can say.

      1. Are you getting Yes on 1098 ads on this very page? I assume they’re doing that by IP address. They’re certainly not identifying their target audience.

        1. I have AdBlocker installed, so no ads for me.

          They especially aren’t identifying their target audience since I don’t vote. Man, the Gates income tax thing had better not pass. And the liquor privatization had better pass.

          1. They especially aren’t identifying their target audience since I don’t vote. Man, the Gates income tax thing had better not pass. And the liquor privatization had better pass.


    2. You deserve to suffer for watching TV in the first place.

      1. I keep hearing this from people, and it’s just not true. The quality of TV shows is vastly improved over just what the offerings were 10 years ago. And when it comes to pay TV, almost any HBO show is better than most movies.

        1. Yeah, but you can’t actuall BE Titus Pulo.

          1. Well then why the HELL have I been practicing with this gladius for eight hours a day the last five years if we can’t even invent a decent time machine?

        2. The Wire, Deadwood: for the win.

          Battlestar Galactica, Caprica: better than most movies when watched commercial free.

          1. Fuck that, I want to revise my shit!

            Battlestar Galactica, Caprica: way better than most all the craptastic movies vomit imitating movies put out now.

            1. I wouldn’t know. The channel I watch most is TCM — I don’t think I’ve been in a movie theater in 15 years.

              1. I saw the new X-Files movie in the theater and have since sworn off going out to see movies.

                Also, you can get bed bugs from movie theaters. And AIDS.

            2. I dunno about Caprica. I’m still watching it, but beginning to wonder why.

              It’s becoming the Dragonball Z of SciFi Syfy.

              1. Never mind. Caprica is cancelled.

          2. Even regular TV has good shows like Community, Fringe, etc.

            Yes, there is still a ton of garbage on, but there is wheat amongst the chaff.

            1. Fringe? Seriously? Recycled X-Files plots, only with less plausibility.

              1. Recycled X-Files plots, only with less plausibility.

                Sure, but I still enjoy it. Sue me. I’m not the only one; so does NutraSweet. I’ve actually been sort of enjoying The Event as well; or more precisely, it hasn’t caused me to cancel my Season Pass yet.

                1. I’m not the only one; so does NutraSweet.

                  There’s a ringing fucking endorsement.

                  1. There’s a ringing fucking endorsement.

                    I just emailed him your comment. Prepare to have slash porn written about you, preferably involving midgets and scrotal piercings. And Nancy Pelosi.

                    1. Epi, I live in Pittsburgh there is nothing that you sick fucks could think up that would be worse than my daily fucking existence.

                    2. Epi, I live in Pittsburgh

                      I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. That’s worse than Cleveland, isn’t it.

                    3. Imagine a town of socially conservative, fiscally liberal people who think that Bon Jovi is awesome and Ben Rothelisberger is a great American/human being.

                      And Tulpa, Tulpa lives here too.

                2. Sure, but I still enjoy it. Sue me.

                  Sue you? Nah. I’ll just be eagerly waiting for the admission about your real feelings about Glee and Ugly Betty.

                  1. It’s a pretty big stretch to compare somewhat enjoyable sci-fi to High School GQ Musical 23. Unless, of course, that’s the way you feel about them and you’re just projecting. Anything you want to tell us, BP?

                    1. It’s a pretty big stretch to call Fringe somewhat enjoyable sci-fi. Speaking of abominations, we can go back to musical theater. I could barely get through the South Park episode of High School Musical. I would chew my arm off at the wrist before watching Glee.

                      I will admit that I could probably watch Ugly Betty, considering that it has Rebecca Romaijn (sp?) and America Ferrara. It still cracks me up that instead of getting an actress who isn’t attractive, they get a good looking actress and “ugly” her up.

                3. I tried a couple of eps of The Event.

                  Zzzzzzzzzzzz….Cookie cutter programming.

            2. Dexter, I forgot Dexter.

              1. Is the new season as bad as the last two or has it gotten better? I might watch it if they got better writers.

                1. That was in regards to Dexter. I hadn’t noticed we were at the limits of indentation already.

                  1. Don’t know. I get them on netflix, and am a couple of seasons back.

                    1. I’m anxiously awaiting The Walking Dead, I didn’t read the graphic novels, but zombie apocalypse on a weekly TV series is just something that should be fucking great (don’t disappoint me AMC!)

                    2. I heard about this, and was considering watching, but I am already following 6 shows (netflix included). I am afraid of getting sucked into watching another. Unless they put it on before or after breaking bad.

                      I watch TOO DAMN MANY SHOWS!

                    3. YES!! The Walking Dead has got me jacked, I love zombies and this series looks like it’s got it all.

          3. All of these series are available on DVD with no commercial interruptions to watch at my leisure. There is still no good reason to watch TV.

            1. Hugh is correct. I dropped cable and stuck with my netflix. I can still watch Boardwalk Empire, Venture Brothers, Metalacalypse, and, soon enough, The Walking Dead. I have no use for network television except for the above.

    3. It happens everywhere. It’s a kind of Fairness Doctrine, without the compulsion. And the networks certainly are not complaining about the financial windfall.

      1. Not me. Or least not as many as that.

        In Texas this year, everything is pretty much non-competitive, although that’s not stopping the ever-pathetic Bill White from trying as hard as he can to get within 10 points of Rick Perry.

        1. I voted against Rick Perry solely because that dude needs to move on. the age is over when you can be governor for life. 10 years is enough really.

  11. The lifeguard Grandma is looking pretty fit in that screencap. I’d hit that.

    1. Thank you for going there. I considered it, but it made me sort of ill, so well done.

        1. Unrepentantly.

          1. Lotta years of Kegle exercises you’re passing up with that bigotry. . .

            1. “Kegel” exercises.

              Yes, I’ve dated a few women with children, why do you ask?

  12. Pandering to old people always seems to produce the best political ads around here. I’m in Arkansas, and it’s almost a nightly occurrence that a Blanch Lincoln ad comes on accusing her opponent John Boozman of trying to cut social security and Medicare followed immediately by a Boozman ad accusing Lincoln of doing the same. Always makes me laugh a little on the inside.

  13. I’m so relieved the Left doesn’t use fear to motivate voters.

    1. Yeah, that’d be sooo George Bush.

  14. As a RETIRED geezer able to have the time to keep track of these things, look at Japan. The Number One reason most investors are down on it is because it is overloaded with geezers.
    Don’t go with the crowd on Japan. Geezers will rise again!

    1. And look at how many people didn’t declare their relatives dead in order to keep collecting benefits.

      1. its called “living challenged”
        why do you hate zombies?

  15. Moe: I don’t want to sound prejudiced, but old people are terrible at everything.

  16. I guess the part of this that makes me laugh is how simple the solution to all of this is:

    People need to have more children.

    If we weren’t facing either a static, or a contracting population as they have in Europe, a wealthy growing population could support the geezers without much of a problem.

    1. I guess the part of this that makes me laugh is how simple the solution to all of this is:

      Require every government employee to be at least 70 years old.

    2. One of the most basic revelations when you study economics and accounting, and most fascinating for me personally, is how everything eventually comes down to that.

      Stock market growth is a ultimately function of corporate earnings

      Corporate earnings growth is ultimately a function of GDP

      GDP growth is ultimately a function of population growth

      Population growth is a ultimately function of birthrate

      And its very interesting how many systems, no matter how disparate, are captive to this rule. Just like social security needs constant growth in the number of workers contributing to the system, companies need constant growth in the number of people who can buy their products.

      1. It’s good to know that by not having kids I am contributing to the downfall of the whole damn mess.

      2. “GDP growth is ultimately a function of population growth”

        GDP per capita in the USA quintupled over the past century.

      3. Wait? WTF did you just say about GDP growth?

      4. West Texas,

        And that is my greater point regarding all of this.

        It is a popular opinion amongst the Left that somehow a smaller population is good idea, when all facts point to the contrary regarding developed nations. To an extent poor non-democratic states have pollution and problems feeding their populations relative to size, but this is really an issue of non-representative/socialized governments being inefficient and ineffective in properly caring for their populations.

        Larger populations in developed countries lead to progressively greater wealth and developmental levels for everyone involved as it allows for specialization on a scale that cannot occur in smaller more constrained populations.

        Additionally, I cannot think of a single example historically of a shrinking or static population occuring succeeding over time.

        Between the calls for population caps and the tendency of Leftist/socialist governments to murder their own populations it comes across as downright creepy that these folks keep pushing the idea that a smaller more constrained population is agood idea.

    3. Eventually (whether at 10 billion or 10 trillion) people on this planet need to stop having more and more children. It would be good if we adjusted to the possibility of a static population first.

      The long-term fix for a pyramid scheme is never “find more people to sign up for the bottom of the pyramid”.

    4. You’re thinking of socialism. Capitalism doesn’t require more people to thrive. Less people can provide more for each other through efficiency gains, full employment, interest, and less mooching. Government requires a pyramid scheme to give more than it’s legitimate role, but that’s not a necessity, it’s a function of stupidity.

  17. What, no ads about how Obamacare will solve the old folks problem?

    1. Rhymes with “meth channel”.

  18. You don’t have a right to retire.

    Deal with it, Granny and gramps.

  19. Shit, I gave up on retiring years ago. I look forward to spending my golden years as a Walmart greeter, smiling as I trip all the fat, wealthy, pensioned g’ment employees. I’ll go out in the parking lot and key their Mercedes’ during my breaks.

  20. Rhymes with “meth channel”.

    That is a TV market niche waiting to be filled.

    1. Next we investigate ALLTHEBUGSCRAWLING!



  21. This ad is bullshit from the first frame. It’s trying to show us Union members actually working…

  22. Hey, you know what? I could call my Ma while I’m up here.

    Hey Ma, get off the dang roof!

  23. There is no way I’d like to work until 70! And all my hard-earned money goes to the government, while I’m still leaving in hell.

    We help Americans move to Asia for jobs and prosperity. Learn more at

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