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Social security won’t be around long enough for me to collect it (repost from 2014)

June 11, 2018 - 14:42 -- Admin

The claim that our current healthcare and pension policies are unsustainable is a classic zombie idea on the political right, embodied in the regular Interngerational Reports produced by the Australian Treasury which invariably fail to mention the real threat to the future posed by climate change and environmental destruction more generally.

In the US, the release of the trustees reports for Social Security and Medicare has produced <a href=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cowardice-of-the-political-class/2018/06/10/71520c0e-6b40-11e8-9e38-24e693b38637_story.html?utm_term=.42caa7a6e650″>the usual crop of alarmist articles</a>, though with more pushback than in the days when the political class was united around the idea of a “grand bargain”. So, I thought I’d repost <a href=”http://crookedtimber.org/2014/03/23/social-security-wont-be-around-long-enough-for-me-to-collect-it/”>this piece from 2014</a>.

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Salon has a couple of interesting articles about millennials. Tim Donovan focuses on <a href=”http://www.salon.com/2014/03/22/this_is_not_a_typical_millennial_the_dark_truth_about_a_misunderstood_generation/”>the plight of young people without college education</a> who are suffering the combined effects of long-term growth in inequality and the scarring that comes from entering the worst labor market in at least a generation[^1]. Elias Isquith has a piece <a href=”http://www.salon.com/2014/03/22/rand_pauls_youth_snow_job_why_hell_never_ever_ever_win_over_young_voters/”>debunking Rand Paul’s prospects of pulling the millennial vote</a> (I’ve seen a few of these lately, which may or may not mean anything), which includes the following observation<blockquote>Despite the fact that a whopping 51 percent of millennials believe they’ll receive no Social Security benefits by the time they’re eligible, and despite the fact that 53 percent of millennials think government should focus spending on helping the young rather than the old, a remarkable 61 percent of young voters oppose cutting Social Security benefits in any way, full stop.</blockquote> The idea that “Social security won’t be around long enough for me to collect it” is a hardy perennial, and thinking about it led me to the following observation:

It’s now possible for someone to have spent their entire working life believing that Social Security would not last long enough for them to receive it, and now to have retired and started collecting benefits. This belief has been prevalent at least since the early years of the Reagan Administration when it was pushed hard by David Stockman, and I’m going to date it to the first big “reform” of the system in 1977. Someone born in 1952, who entered the workforce in 1977 at the age of 25, would now be turning 62 and eligible to collect Social Security.
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I’m betting that, in 20 years time, when the 1952 cohort reaches their average life expectancy, having enjoyed their full entitlement to benefits (assuming no ‘grand bargain’ intervenes) that the belief will be just as prevalent

[^1]: As I’ve argued <a href=”http://crookedtimber.org/2012/08/17/the-generation-game-2/”>many</a&gt; <a href=”https://johnquiggin.com/2003/12/07/can-we-stop-the-generation-game/”>times</a&gt;, the shared experience of entering the labor market in a recession is one of the few instances where membership of a particular generation is more than a marketing label.