More to the point, as domestic policy analyst Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute observes, "Perhaps the best evidence that future Americans can work longer is that past Americans did: Despite poorer health, shorter lives and more strenuous jobs, in 1950 the typical individual did not claim Social Security until age 68.5. In 1950, more than 20 percent of Americans worked in physically demanding jobs; today only about 8 percent do. While today's technology-driven service economy places demands on older workers, it is hard to imagine that things were easier when Americans typically worked on farms or in factories."
This week, after rejecting the austerity measures of his own blue-ribbon fiscal responsibility panel last fall and attacking serious GOP attempts to address the impending bankruptcy of both Social Security and Medicare, President Obama will unveil his entitlement reform package. Yep, Barry-come-lately and his teleprompter are ambling down the grim-rose path. The main feature of the president's "bold" plan? Higher taxes on the nation's top wealth producers and earners. Translation: Same old, same old class-warfare cowardice.
For their part, both Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, wary of incurring the wrath of senior voters, have tiptoed, pirouetted and backtracked on updating the retirement age. They've promised to put "everything on the table" now -- as long as everyone agrees later to kick the can down the road. Again.
As many entitlement reformers have noted, the very first American to benefit from Social Security, Ida May Fuller, collected nearly $23,000 in government pension benefits after paying in less than $25. At the rate we're going now, my kids and the Obamas' kids will never see a dime of what they are forced to put in. They'll already be waist-deep in the red as they enter their prime earning years. A truly modern government pension plan would follow the private sector by moving from a defined benefits plan to a defined contributions system -- and by injecting free-market competition to improve returns.
Instead, we are dooming a generation of reverse Ida May Fullers who have no choice on where best to "invest" their automatically confiscated payroll taxes. The dawdlers and demagogues in Washington aren't "winning the future." They're robbing it.
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