Whatever the reasons, however, in recent years some of us have watched in horror as obviously bad ideas somehow sweep elite opinion. Top of the list right now is the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age.
It’s a terrible idea on multiple grounds. First, the underlying notion — Americans are living longer, so retirement programs should start later — is true only of the upper half of the income distribution. Life expectancy for the other half has not risen much:
It is astonishing that the top half of the population has extended its life by 5 years over the last 30 years. That is dramatic. But I really empathize with those with the tough demanding physical jobs who aren't seeing their lifetimes extended, but are now subject to the demands of the elite that they work longer and delay getting any pension benefits until much later in life. It is grotesquely unfair.
I remember trying to explain to my mother, a retired teacher, that one reason why her teaching pension could be as rich as it was came from the fact that some teachers paid into the fund and either died before retirement or shortly after, so their dollars were making a much more comfortable retirement for her. She simply was not open to this argument. Her viewpoint was always "I paid for my retirement through my pension deductions". She never understood the impact of pension investment (good for her as the economy grew 1950-1990, bad for people retiring over the next couple of decades because of the economic bubbles and the stock market collapse 2000-2011+) and the effect of early death among the pension pool. She made it very clear to me the power of Upton Sinclair's famous quote:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!My mother wasn't greedy and she wasn't hard hearted. She simply wanted to believe that she had fully funded her own pension through her individual pension contributions. She didn't want to hear that she was inadvertently benefiting from the misfortune of others.