Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

The retirement age is too high

It’s dangerous conventional wisdom the idea that with an older population, people must work longer and retire with less. This idea is being used to rationalize cuts in old-age benefits in numerous advanced countries.

Raising the retirement age cuts benefits for those who can’t wait to retire, and who often won’t live long. “We” are not living longer. Wealthier elderly are; the non-wealthy not so much.

Second, many workers retire because they can’t find jobs. They’re unemployed — or expect to become so. Extending the retirement age for them just means a longer job search, a futile waste of time and effort.

Third, we don’t need the workers. Productivity gains and cheap imports mean that we can and do enjoy far more farm and factory goods than our forebears, with much less effort. Only a small fraction of today’s workers make things.

In the United States, the financial crisis has left the country with 11 million fewer jobs than Americans need now. No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon.

The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help to do so. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke.

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