Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Solving Problems by Pontification

The right wing in the US loves to claim that the Social Security program is bankrupt. It isn't, but that doesn't stop them. And their fix? Well, they want to "privatize" it. That's just another name for going back to the era when individuals "looked after" themselves. That may work for 50% of the population, but there is a large number that can't plan or are so poor they have no resources to save. So "privatizing" isn't a solution.

The next favourite solution is to jack up the age of retirement so that more people die before they collect a penny. That will work, but it has this sad side-effect. From a NY Times article by John LeLand:
At the Cooper Tire plant in Findlay, Ohio, Jack Hartley, who is 58, works a 12-hour shift assembling tires: pulling piles of rubber and lining over a drum, cutting the material with a hot knife, lifting the half-finished tire, which weighs 10 to 20 pounds, and throwing it onto a rack.

Mr. Hartley performs these steps nearly 30 times an hour, or 300 times in a shift. “The pain started about the time I was 50,” he said. “Dessert with lunch is ibuprofen. Your knees start going bad, your lower back, your elbows, your shoulders.”

He said he does not think he can last until age 66, when he will be eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits. At 62 or 65, he said, “that’s it.”

After years of debate about how to keep Social Security solvent, the White House has created an 18-member panel to consider changes, including raising the retirement age. Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio and the House minority leader, has called for raising the age as high as 70 in the next 20 years, and many Democrats have endorsed similar steps, against opposition from some liberal groups. The panel will report by Dec. 1, after the midterm elections.

Mr. Hartley says he feels like the forgotten man. Discussion has focused mostly on the older workers who hold relatively undemanding jobs at desks and computers that can be done at age 69 or beyond. But hard labor is not a thing of the past for older workers, who are on the whole less educated than younger ones.
The problem with politicians and academics is that they come up with "solutions" ignorant of the real world. These people don't have to do physically demanding work. So they have no idea how hard labour can wear you down. So they come up with "Marie Antoinette solutions". You know, poor Marie Antoinette didn't know what hunger meant. When she was told there was no bread for the workers in Paris she was puzzled. The table for her was always heaped with bread and cake. So her response was obvious: "Well, let them eat cake!" Sadly, those words enraged the workers and toppled a regime and remove the heads from king and queen.

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