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With all of the talk about raising the retirement age, as Digby pointed out, here's some unconventional wisdom on the topic from James Galbraith.
The most dangerous conventional wisdom in the world today is the idea that with an older population, people must work longer and retire with less. [...]
Such cuts have a perversely powerful logic: "We" are living longer. There are fewer workers to support each elderly person. Therefore "we" should work longer.
But in the first place, "we" are not living longer. Wealthier elderly are; the non-wealthy not so much. Raising the retirement age cuts benefits for those who can't wait to retire and who often won't live long. Meanwhile, richer people with soft jobs work on: For them, it's an easy call.
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. [...]
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. So common sense suggests we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?
The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.
Our own Logan Murphy wrote about this back in August of 2009 when Thom Hartmann suggested something similar. Thom Hartmann: Lower The Retirement Age From 65 To 55:
As always, Thom Hartmann makes a lot of sense:
One of the most powerful forms of stimulus we could apply to our economy right now would be to lower the current Social Security retirement age from the current 65-67 to 55, and increase the benefits back to where they were in inflation-adjusted 1960s dollars by raising them between 10 to 20 percent (so people could actually live, albeit modestly, on Social Security).
The right-wing reaction to this, of course, will be to say that with fewer people working and more people drawing benefits, it would bankrupt Social Security and destroy the economy. But history shows the exact reverse.
Instead, it would eliminate the problem of unemployment in the United States. All those Boomers retiring would make room in the labor market for all the recent high-school and college graduates who are now finding it so hard to find a job.
Hartmann goes on in the article to discuss in detail about how lowering the retirement age would open up thousands of jobs nationwide, and how wages for working class Americans have been devastated since the days of Ronald Reagan and our old pal Alan Greenspan started gutting unions and trying to lower our standard of living.
Thom debated the issue with John Lott in the video above.