We've written about this over and over again here at C&L and what a bad idea it is to be calling for the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to be raised -- how it just inflicts pain on the poor at a time of record income disparity. Not to mention the fact that there are other ways to address our debt and deficits other than attacking our social safety nets! It was nice to see Ezra Klein once again give some grief to the wealthy CEOs and pundits out there who have downplayed just how damaging these policies are for anyone who actually works for a living and is not sitting in some cushy, over-paid job. They don't care when or if they retire because they love their jobs.
Meanwhile, working people are in so much pain from the hard work they do, they take a big hit on their benefits to retire early.
For anyone that missed the segment, you can check that out here: Ezra Klein: Raising Social Security Retirement Age Concentrates Pain on the Poor.
Klein discussed the recent news that CEOs and The Business Roundtable are pushing to have the retirement ages raised to 70, but don't want the income cap raised on Social Security, because heaven forbid we do anything to harm those uber-wealthy "job creators." As Klein notes, while they didn't mind pushing for those with much lower incomes to take a big hit on their retirement benefits, the wealthiest among us aren't willing to share in that sacrifice themselves. They're drawing the line when it comes to raising their own Social Security taxes as Reuters reported:
But the group rejected shoring up Social Security by making incomes above the maximum annual threshold - which in 2012 was $110,100 - subject to payroll taxes, saying that would hurt the economy.
"You would have to raise the base upon which the taxes are applied very substantially to drive a sufficient level of revenue to address the long-term solvency of the program," Loveman said.
"That would be far more damaging to economic growth than what we're asking people to consider," he added. "If you raise the tax rate on people who earn over the current threshold, you'll have an immediate deleterious effect on employment and economic activity."
I was very happy to hear the way Klein followed up on this:
KLEIN: So if you're a CEO who makes maybe $1 million, you're only taxed for Social Security on first tenth, tenth of your income. If you're making $60,000 a year, a normal worker, every one of your $60,000 is taxed for Social Security. And this is the kind of thing, it just drives me crazy. Because you know what the flip side of these guys loving their jobs and never, ever, ever wanting to leave, not even when they're old and their back hurts and they've got lots of grand kids is and the money to take all those grand kids to an island?
They're also not going to stop being CEO of Caesar's because they're paying payroll taxes on more of their income, because they love their jobs. But that is the shell game that gets played here. Folks at the top have convinced themselves that things that won't hurt them at all like raising the retirement age are easy, no brainers, because they won't hurt anybody at all. They're just common sense.
And then they've also convinced themselves that things that will hurt them, will devastate the economy. So when they're saying no to paying higher taxes, they're not being selfish, they're just protecting jobs and growth. As Upton Sinclair liked to say, it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it.
Groups like The Business Roundtable, they have a big voice and they like to quote themselves in the economy and argue that what they say and what they do are informed and driven by just wanting what is best for jobs and for growth and for their company. But it seems to often come down to what is best for the CEOs. It is good to be on the top.
Sadly, yes it is. And those on top seem to be more and more detached from the lives of everyday Americans as the rest of us face those realities on a day-to-day basis. Segments like this one with Klein calling them out for it on cable television unfortunately are all too rare an occurrence these days.
You can read more about this push to raise the retirement age at Klein's blog here: CEOs want to raise the retirement age to 70,
And here's more from Think Progress: Wealthy CEOs Want To Force Americans To Retire Later.