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French Protests & Retirement Debates

Turmoil in France over plans to raise the retirement age to 62. We look at the debate there, and America’s own over pushing past 65.

A picture from the recent protests in Paris (Courtesy of Eva Brams, evab.smugmug.com)

Wild times in France. The French government wants to raise the retirement age to 62. Millions of French men and women have poured into the streets to say “no.”  There has been tear gas and riots, with the country half shut down. 

Americans grumble and tea party, but this is on a different scale. Britons are slashing all kinds of public spending. 

Today we look at what’s going on in France. Then we turn the spotlight back home, on American Social Security and the debate over raising the age for benefits right here. 

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Steve Erlanger, Paris Bureau Chief for the New York Times. Read his latest report on the turmoil in France.

Christopher Dickey, Paris bureau chief and Middle East regional editor for Newsweek.

Philippe Aghion, professor of economics at Harvard University. His research focuses on economic growth and development.

James Roosevelt, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan (HMO). He’s a former associate commissioner for Retirement Policy at the Social Security Administration under President Clinton.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005 and now president of the American Action Forum, a public policy institute. He served in top roles at the Council of Economic Advisors under Presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush, and he was chief economic advisor to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.

More:

See images of the Paris protests in recent days, taken by New York-based photographer Eva Brams.

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  • jeffe

    I know there are going to be people making off color comments here about the French. First off I suggest you take the time to understand their system of retirement.
    Second, these protests are only happening in large cities such as Paris, and Lyon.

    Third, we Americans can take a page from the French.
    If you ask me if a majority of Americas did this in this country to get the health care system to into a single payer I bet something would get done. Our entire health care and retirement system is broken. Here there is talk of changing it to 70. Give me a break, that’s just telling people that they don’t matter and that changing the contributions, say moving them up to about the first 300,000 or 400,000K would maybe work. But wait, we can’t insult the wealthy plutocracy that is really calling the shots now. Can we.

    Nah, what was I thinking… we would all rather join Tea parties and tell the government to take their hands of medicare.

  • wavre

    @Jeffe

    You are so right; we have a lot to learn from the French. The way their citizenry is involved in politics, the way they keep their leaders honest or at least protect themselves from being overly abused by the corporations, (the real power behind governments and France is no exceptions.)

    The popularity of French jokes and bashing in the US always puzzled me especially considering their contributions in the birth of this nation. Egalitarianism, secularism has become bad word in this country, but French are still fighting to preserve those “republican values”.

  • Ed

    We are seeing the predictable events of aging societies, we lost many young people over the last 40 years.

  • cory

    Great topic!

    I admire the French for taking to the streets and determining the type of society they want to live in. God bless them for rejecting American style capitalism. Wanna retire? Better work two jobs!

    Do we all have to be swept away in the current of Laissez-Faire globalization?

    I know that it flies in the face of American Exceptionalism, but perhaps a nation and culture a thousand years older than our own posesseses a maturity and wisdom that we have yet to achieve.

  • Nick

    Thank You Jeffe and Wavre,

    I need not repeat your comments which are mine as well.

  • Kevin

    Jeff, Wavre, and Nick–

    This system you’re lauding sounds wonderful until you face the fact it’s unsustainable and bankrupting the country. That’s why Sarkozy is trying to do something. Why should labor unions have the power to shut down a nation? How do you expect an aging society that is producing fewer and fewer children to bankroll these uber-generous pensions that have been promised? It’s all pie-in-the-sky stuff, and when a serious adult points this out, people start kicking and screaming.

    Either fix the problems now or face the music later. There’s no free lunch.

  • BHA

    Frankly, full retirement at 62 instead of 60 doesn’t seem so awful compared to the rest of us. I was at first confused as to why the youth are unhappy given they won’t be ‘there’ for decades, until I found out they fear not being able to GET a job because the ‘old people’ will work 2 years longer.

  • BHA

    And the French are VERY puzzled as to why the Brits are NOT rioting in the streets after the austerity measures they announced earlier this week.

    Difference between two cultures for SURE.

  • BHA

    I looked a bit at the French retirement system (VERY confusing) but I am left wondering:

    How many French people retire at 60 anyway? It doesn’t look like the amount of money people get for Social Security is enough to live on decently (just like here). Seems they would be working out of need like the rest of us.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I seem to be one of the few carrying the flag for self-employment versus jobs (which to me implies corporations and LACK of independence). Okay, I’ll go out on a limb:
    Once upon a time, people aged gracefully. That is to say, you worked at whatever you did forever and ever; you didn’t question it. If your back gave out and you needed it, those who were in your atelier or whatever group you were with, they reorganized so your back could either heal or you could be useful without using it so much.
    A person’s work had to accommodate to the different capabilities of age. An aging person had far more contacts, far more historical perspective, had greater skill in coordinating the various abilities among those involved. (I am thinking across thousands of years, and many cultures.)
    Why do I think that most 9-to-5 “jobs” (here and in France) are not life-course-adaptable? Why do I think people with such jobs end up fed up and worn out with their work long before they are fed up and worn out with life? Look to the streets in France.

  • Sam

    Who else but the French would get so irate when it is suggested that they work until (gasp!) the age of 62? Everyone knows that in France, the age of 61 is reserved for drinking in cafes and being rude to the tourists that bankroll their country.

  • peter nelson

    If you ask me if a majority of Americas did this in this country to get the health care system to into a single payer I bet something would get done.

    And if pigs had gills they’d be fish.

    France is a very different culture and has a very different idea about the relationship between l’etat and the citizen. You’re never going to see anything like that in the US because it’s just not how Americans think.

    Anyway, we should be watching the UK just now with Osborne’s new budget. The Brits are also very different from the US but not quite as much as the French and the reaction to the budget might be “interesting”.

  • BHA

    Hi Ellen,
    I think to a great extent the ‘career’ of old, whether you were a self employed shoe maker or worked for someone else in a trade your entire working life, is long gone.

    How many different jobs are people likely to hold during their working lives now? You are correct, the ’9-5′ job is specific and if you can’t do it anymore, out you go.

    As you said: in the past the job you had when you were young might do in your back but you then started doing work in support of that job. Not now.

  • peter nelson

    I admire the French for taking to the streets and determining the type of society they want to live in. God bless them for rejecting American style capitalism.

    Nonetheless they have to do the math. France, like the US and UK, is facing a huge budget deficit. Waving a banner and yelling “liberté, égalité, fraternité” doesn’t pay the louer.

  • Brian M.

    Another day, another Tom Ashbrook show about deficits and how unfair it is that middle class people are allowed to retire.

  • Al Dorman

    Les grands coups de pied dans le derrière pour toi!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think in America we take to the streets when the particular congressman or senator votes, whether in subcommittee or Congress. I’m not sure if the French get a set of chances to object before push-comes-to-shove.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Another day, another Tom Ashbrook show about deficits and how unfair it is that middle class people are allowed to retire.

    Posted by Brian M., on October 21st, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Brian,

    I’m sorry that you are weary of discussions of deficits, but the economic reality that is coming at us like a freight train is that we have been living beyond our means for decades. $13 trillion, and really much larger when you look at unfunded liabilities for social security, medicare, government pensions, etc. There is plenty of blame to go around. First, and foremost, the Democrats who created the foolish “pay as you go” rather than actually “set the money aside” social security system, then added all kinds of goodies for disability, etc. for people that had not paid into the system. The unions (teachers’ union, government employees unions, etc.) for being out of touch with economic reality. And the republicans for cutting taxes without a corresponding way to pay for the cuts. This deficit crisis is going to be a drag on the economy until it overwhelms us when tax revenues cannot even cover the interest payments on the debt. Sorry, but that is the way it is and will continue to be until the whole system collapses.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Plenty of people here can get “retirement” at late 40s, 50s. Military for one, right? And what happens? One takes one’s retirement benefits, carefully invests them in further education and business startup costs, and relaunches oneself. Teaching is not a bad option, especially since teachers themselves tend to burn out and need replacement. Excuse me; if I were a teacher, I would.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I take it France doesn’t have a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, or they would be kicking people into retirement ASAP, they way is happening in England, hugely, and here as well, where states cut down their payroll by offering early retirement.

  • jim thompson, fort mill,sc

    Tom:

    Well, when one looks across to France, Europe on the whole and indeed here inthe United States it is clear that the only folks paying for the econopmic realities are the working people.

    The uber wealthy continue with their tax breaks, get almost interest free bailouts, minimal regulatory reform and all the costs are shifted downward to the workers.

  • Brandstad

    French = Historically Socialist – Moving Free Market
    USA = Historically Free Market – Moving Socialist

    Which country is on the right course? I guess time will tell.

  • John

    When I was studying in Lyon last year, we had almost a month of student/faculty strikes. No doubt there was broad sympathy amongst the students, but it was really a small core of students that was behind the movement. The problem: it was not until real consequences became apparent (no academic credit, broken relationships with universities abroad, etc.) that the bulk of the students were motivated enough to overrule the troublemakers. When administrators and police tolerate these radicals, they’re really punishing the majority of moderate students.

  • Brandstad

    TOM

    Did anyone see GOOGLE is paying 2.4% foreign income taxes thanks to Ireland!?!?! Irelands tax gain, and everyone else looses…

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-21/google-2-4-rate-shows-how-60-billion-u-s-revenue-lost-to-tax-loopholes.html

  • Nick

    Elite Agism: unless individuals are fortunate to earn large incomes, few can actually retire early.

    Procreation: Europe cannot maintain high population numbers (physical topography; natural resources) hence the decrease in European births.

    I applaud the French working class for their civil disobedience.

    I doubt there are many financiers striking or protesting in the nation’s streets.

  • Brian M.

    Winston -

    Yes, being disabled is really an incredible “goodie.”

    My problem with these shows is that Tom and whatever Heritage Foundation guest he finds usually spend their time talking about how terrible it is there are labor unions in this country.

    Instead of working to raise wages and living standards in this country, people like you are leading a race to the bottom.

    After all, if it’s good enough for China, why isn’t it good enough for Americans, right?

  • BHA

    The French evade taxes??

    Gee, no similarity between the US and French system eh?

    The rich ALWAYS find ways to pay less than they should. Sometimes legal loopholes the put in the system, sometimes they just plain cheat.

  • Brandstad

    Has Socialism succeeded anywhere?

    Isn’t social security the biggest ponsi scheme known to man? if not, please explain why. Both a ponsi Scheme and Social security promises people more money then the people invest and the invested money is essentially not invested, but handed out immediately as benefits to pay the promises to others.

  • Maurice L. Wade

    Americans hit the streets. Surely you jest. Americans will do what we always do. Kick the scoundrels out and replace them with new scoundrels. Eventually kick the new scoundrels out and replace them with other ones. We are stuck on this fallacious notion that the real power of the people resides wholly with the ballot. The real power resides in the fact that the people do the work of society. If they stop doing that work, the politicians, scoundrels though they may be, must respond. The French seem to realize this and so are ready and willing to strike and thereby exercise their real power. I admire them!

  • Kevin

    Dear On Point,

    Please bring on Prof. Philippe Aghion more often. He is not only articulate and well-spoken, he put forth very enlightening points.

    In one sentence, he said something I haven’t heard anywhere else over the past number of days on different media. He put his finger on the point that if you increase the retirement age (and/or required years of work), educated workers and blue collar workers will be disadvantaged to different degrees. And that this is a main issue.

    Wow!

    Kevin

  • Elizabeth

    We NEED to increase the age of retirement in this country – where so many people are living well into their 80s and 90s! Right now the first 20 years of your life you are supported by your family, then the last 25 years (on average) you are supported by your kids (via Social Security), which means that you are working less than half of your life!! That just doesn’t work.

    Also, Social Security was never meant to cover all of the expenses of retirement – we need to be personally saving for our own retirement, but that’s the ONLY part of Social Security that should be privatized!

  • Cya

    I think that I am not far from the mainstream in my concerns about social security, despite the fact that I live in Massachusetts. As the social security age continues to go up it is a less attractive resource or benefit and more of a burden. I dont believe that I will live to 100, 90 or even 80. Why should I pay in to a system all my working life when my likelihood of enjoying the benefit is smaller and smaller. If Americans continue to raise the age there will continue to be more Americans like myself wanting desperately to opt out. We need a security net for society but raising the age is unfair to those of us that are not as likely to live as long- and yes that means lower income and many minorities.

  • gregory schmidt

    Later retirement age impacts employment for the young (currently dismal anyway).

  • Will

    Conservatives have been trying to eliminate social security since it was invented.

    There isn’t going to be a financial crisis with social security until 2037, according to the Social Security Administration. How is that an immediate crisis exactly?

    Why don’t we just raise the cap on social taxes on the wealthy in 2025, 2030 and 2035? It doesn’t even need to be by a lot. That will cover the difference and we won’t need to reduce benefits.

    “People are living longer”. True. More people are living until they are 65. It’s not true that they are living that much longer after 65. And the wealthiest Americans live the longest past 65.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Fewer and fewer Americans are doing physical work, so why not build that into the Social Security equation. Doctors can determine who should retire when. I’m trying to figure out what happens when I’m 70 and still working. I’m assuming I still pay Social Security FICA taxes, while being required to take Social Security payments. What is wrong with this picture?
    The fact a lot of people are figuring how to wing it job-wise more or less indefinitely should be a plus for the Social Security system, if they will accept payments after 70.

  • David Shufelt

    My father is 73 and we were talking on the phone yesterday about the French protests. I asked him if something similar could happen here. He quipped that that if our government said it was raising the retirement age to 75 (!) and that it was going to kill off all women over age 65, his friend from high school days would just walk into the kitchen and say goodbye to his wife rather than lift a finger in protest (it’s a good marriage in case you’re wondering).

  • http://onpointradio Sara Hale

    As it stands now Social Security is a transfer of wealth from the poor, blue collar, black workers to the middle class, i.e., White collar workers, who get better health care and live longer.

  • Alex

    “If Americans continue to raise the age there will continue to be more Americans like myself wanting desperately to opt out.”

    Yep. That’s why I am not playing games with 401Ks, IRAs and the like. These are not government run programs, but the rules are put in place by the government. So with enough lobbying from the financial industry the government can raise the retirement age with respect to those programs, as well. Thanks, but I will save on my own.

  • CHRIS M

    Elizabeth,
    Try telling that to the folks who saved and invested only to have their life saving lost during the stock markets crashes. Most folks do not have the werewithal to invest without support and sometimes the support has had interests other than those who employ them. SS can be shored up by increasing the income thresholds above $106K and obtaining additional income from higher earning incomes. Privatization is the wrong way to go.

  • Tricia Griffith

    Why does no one mention the elephant in the room. Our problems with Social Security should would be solved if we raised the ceiling for contributions. if I am not mistaken, at the present time Payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare are only collected up to the first $90,000. Today, many people make more than that. Dispense with the ceiling and the problem will be solved.

  • Tom

    Hi Tom,

    Please mention that although Social Security is fully actualized, the U.S. government has been borrowing against it for so many years for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is where our money borrowed from the Social Security is going!

  • Nick

    More evidence of America’s Plutocracy.

    Raising the legal retirement age to 67 or 70 only supports the upper-middle class, white collar professionals; the top 20% can retire anytime!

    As caller Chris, the truck driver, remarked, his work is far more physically demanding than the white collar professional class.

    I doubt the majority American working class will get off its couch + take to the streets to protest Social Security. Americans are too comfortable, too complacent, too enarmoured of the “American Dream” that is clearly a fallacy.

    Privatizing Social Security is NOT the answer.

    Only a “locked box” would benefit future Social Security; putting Social Security in the hands of the stock market is ridiculous!!

    Affluent Americans do not need Social Security; why do Congress members get both Social Security + their life-long retirement package?

  • Will

    The key point is that Social Security has its own funding stream. It doesn’t impact the deficit or the debt. Conservatives like to say it does because then it becomes fair game to cut and slash when we’re in an economic crisis. They don’t like it for ideological reasons (the whole lazy-middle-class-being-dependent-on-”the government”-thing), not because it isn’t working.

    Privatization of social security would be a disaster. What do we think would have happened to our social security “personal accounts” if they were in the stock market in 2007-today? How many of us in the middle class would have had our retirement accounts bailed out?

  • Elizabeth

    ““People are living longer”. True. More people are living until they are 65. It’s not true that they are living that much longer after 65. And the wealthiest Americans live the longest past 65.”

    Will – have you looked at the obituary pages in your local paper lately?? I have – and the vast majority of the listings in my statewide paper in New England are for folks who have passed in their low to mid 80s. Now I realize that not everyone pays for a listing, but the plain (aka free/cheap) death notices show the same trend!

  • peter nelson

    Brandstad says, Did anyone see GOOGLE is paying 2.4% foreign income taxes thanks to Ireland!?!?! Irelands tax gain, and everyone else looses…

    So what do you propose, Brandstad?

  • Janet Deutsch

    Great show, as always!!! Perhaps a gradual raising of the minimum age is called for. My husband and I are both 60 and working. He has a state retirement plan to supplement his SS and I have invested through my hospital (401s, 403s). What about the concept that , although all who have worked and paid into the Social Security system are entitled to full benefits, could not those who have other programs as well as those who are comfortably wealthy opt out of full coverage or any coverage at all? This would have to be implemented and administered wisely or else cries of socialism and redistribution would be raised. But perhaps tax breaks or some such thing could be offered to those who opt out of their full SS benefits.

  • Brandstad

    Kevin,

    America provides equal opportunity not equal outcome. Thus to do additional wealth transfers from the successful to the not so successful is un-American. If we continue down the wealth transfer rout to its ends we end at socialism with complete equality and no incentive to work harder than your lazy neighbor. Is that the direction you are looking to go?

  • Charles Smith

    Federal pay is up 400% since 1969. The benefits and the salaries of public sector employees in America are not sustainable. The dyke is cracked and leaking and will break unless something is done to reduce these costs. The costs of State and local level public sector employees are also unsustainable. A New Jersey toll collector with a base pay of $70,000 plus, earned over $300,000 in one year. The director of the New York Public Library earns over $650,000 a year. The Bell, California public sector politicians are being prosecuted for excessive compensation. These extreme examples are indicative of the excesses that exist at the public sector level. The public sector has been immune from criticism for decades. The chickens have come home to roost. The microscope is now on the public sector employees and their compensation. It happened in the auto industry. It will happen to the public sector employees.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If there is a limit over which workers do not pay FICA taxes (on money over $106,000?), is there also a limit to what people can earn post-retirement and still receive federal Social Security benefits?
    It seems to me Social Security benefits should have a floor and a ceiling, for starters. If you have a million dollars in capital gains per year, do you need ANY share of Social Security benefits?
    Do you get any?
    As to whether Social Security is a transfer from the poor who die young to the middle class who live longer, what about a shift from those who pay 15.3% to FICA every year, to those who earn well above the $106,000 and don’t pay anything over that amount. I assume they don’t get any additional benefits either.
    But in any case, should we be federally funding golfing jaunts or basic living?

  • Brandstad

    peter nelson,

    Since the rich will always find the best loophole, we should meet or beat any other countries tax rates.

    If we have 50% tax rate like we do now, the rich avoid it and we get little to nothing for tax revenue. If we had a flat 12% tax rate, it wouldn’t be usefull for the rich to spend money to avoid it and more would pay it. thus craating a winfall of tax revenue.

    Raising the rate like Obama wants does nothing since no one will pay it anyway.

  • Phil

    Seems that France has been a wealthy country for many centuries now, and their medical system is very fair as well as free access to universities, they work 35 hours a week and get 6 weeks vacation.
    In America we work 45 hours per week, 2 to 3 week vacations time, we have a lousy medical coverage and the university system is made for the wealthy.
    Why are we so indebted and our society so immoral? Do we have something to learn from Europe? we could predict that France is going down the tube, but aren’t we instead?

  • peter nelson

    Our problems with Social Security should would be solved if we raised the ceiling for contributions. if I am not mistaken, at the present time Payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare are only collected up to the first $90,000. Today, many people make more than that. Dispense with the ceiling and the problem will be solved.

    Don’t be ridiculous. That would be seen as a “tax increase” so it’s politically impossible. No politician could propose it and survive.

    What country are you people posting from?! Earlier we had Jeffe suggesting Americans should take to the streets in the style of the French to demand single-payer healthcare. This is America – wake up and smell the Tea!

  • CHRIS M

    “America provides equal opportunity not equal outcome.”

    I keep hearing this recently, must be the new talking point. Doesn’t work if the opportunity is totally skewed toward the rich

  • BHA

    “Also, Social Security was never meant to cover all of the expenses of retirement – we need to be personally saving for our own retirement, but that’s the ONLY part of Social Security that should be privatized!
    Posted by Elizabeth”

    Yes but the greedy bankers with their credit default swaps and other ‘financial instruments’ and greedy real estate investors and brokers with their cr@p mortgages pretty much ripped the guts out of our personal savings.

    Back to Square One trying to sock away enough money to put our kids through college and retire before we die as well.

    The collapse of the economy and stock markets are all the proof needed that your last statement is correct. NO part of Social Security should be put in the hands of ‘consumers’. The market is INHERENTLY RISKY. It doesn’t matter if the govt says “you can choose from only these ‘x’ ‘low risk’ places to invest your SS ‘account money’”. No matter how diversified the selections, EVERYTHING tanked with the economy. Kind of hard to plan that the market won’t lose your retirement money until AFTER you die.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Charles Smith

    You hit the nail on the head. The democrats, in bed with the unions and able to pass all kinds of spending increases in the way of rediculous wages and pension benefits, bow down to the unions to earn their votes. But it is unsustainable and a big part of the problem. And just as the out of touch unions bankrupted the steel and auto industries and public education (the teachers’ unions), they will play a major role in bringing the whole system down in the end.

  • ThresherK

    Guest Eakins said there was never any plan to privatize Soc Sec? Then had to dial it back to “never any legislation proposed” (not verbatim)?

    This is the walkback of a liar. Don’t invite him back. Is the useful part of him, his reality-based insight, so rare that we have to listen to this?

  • peter nelson

    If we have 50% tax rate like we do now, the rich avoid it and we get little to nothing for tax revenue. If we had a flat 12% tax rate, it wouldn’t be usefull for the rich to spend money to avoid it and more would pay it. thus craating a winfall of tax revenue.

    With our current tax rate we have a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit. Your proposal would increase it. So you have an obligation to name, with actual numbers, the spending cuts you would make to balance the budget with your proposal.

    Every time I ask a Tea Party candidate, where I live, this question they duck and dodge and handwave past it. Let’s see if Brandstad can do better.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Every time I ask a Tea Party candidate, where I live, this question they duck and dodge and handwave past it. Let’s see if Brandstad can do better.

    Posted by peter nelson, on October 21st, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Peter, the problem is that the Democrats have been increasing government programs and spending for 70 years and thus created the problem. It is too late to to solve the problem,since we can’t turn the clock back and undo all of this waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • http://ncpr stillin

    Here’s a thought. Work your people to death. Have them under such ridiculous stress as both people working, nobody home raising the kids ( that’s what the TEACHERS DO)…well add the stress of consumerism in this country and chances are, they will get sick and die most likley of cancer, before they can collect their retirement money for all those years! You can just kill them off with overworking and stress! I am glad I do not buy into 99.9% of what I see….I plan on living healthy, not stressing out and working until I don’t want to, then I, inshallah, god willin, ( this is stillin) will live long enough to COLLECT MY MONEY OWED TO ME.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I happen to agree with Charles Smith, except that I believe in certain parts of government the idea is we need to protect those people from corruption. They need to be financially secure in order not to fall prey to gangs (police), corporate sway (legislators), and so on. Certain parts of government are pretty thread-bare, and they stick to the idea of Plato that the philosopher-kings are the governors, and if someone is swayed by money, they don’t belong in government. Those are mostly the lawyers who represent the indigent, by the way, IMHO.
    But Americans seem to agree that enough money to live well is not a “decent income,” and therefore we have to support all sorts of people whose incomes are out-of-scale.
    If your income per hour is a lot less than the person whose services you seek, you probably can’t afford that service (without insurance or government support). I guess I can’t afford the services of a toll-taker. How about a judge? Can I afford a judge? For the chances of my needing one, probably I can afford my share.

  • CHRIS M

    “Peter, the problem is that the Democrats have been increasing government programs and spending for 70 years and thus created the problem. It is too late to to solve the problem,since we can’t turn the clock back and undo all of this waste, fraud, and abuse”

    Really Winston, you don’t say????? Bit if revisionist history going on here – why don’t you read about what has been happening with our govt for the last 30 years. Republicans are as much at fault for the mess we are in, sometimes more.

  • Nick

    Mr. Winston Smith states, “the Democrats have been increasing government programs and spending for 70 years and thus created the problem.”

    If it wasn’t for the Democrats (Roosevelt, JFK, Johnson) there would be NO Social Security; Medicare; Medicaid; Civil Rights Act; public education.

    What would you propose, Mr. Smith?

    Let me guess: a white, patriarchal, neo-conservative, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, John Birch Society.

    Absurd!

  • WINSTON SMITH

    What would you propose, Mr. Smith?

    Let me guess: a white, patriarchal, neo-conservative, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, John Birch Society.

    Absurd!

    Posted by Nick, on October 21st, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Nick,

    What I would propose is a system in which the retirement money (social security) is set aside rather than borrowed from by the Treasury Dept to fund even more deficit spending, a system in which we must have a balanced budget rather than passing along our irresponsible spending to our children, and to living within our means. Like what you and I do in our own personal financial lives. By the way, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, actually enacted the legislation to end slavery.

  • Phil

    Big government in Europe gives them a much higher standard of living.
    Are the government programs in this country so poorly supervised that big business is making sure they all fail under the unscrupulous eyes of the Republicans?

  • dnxtlvl

    The emporer has no clothes. It’s way past time to deal with it.
    The wealthy have been demonstrating their intentions and their arrogance is blantant. The corps, rich – are bullies and spoiled kids. It’s time to put them in “Time Out”.

  • http://www.baxterblogs.com Marla

    Not sure how anyone can say that the Democrats have been increasing the size of government for 70 years. Seems to me the Republicans have done more than their fair share of over spending and expanding. But some people believe, what they want to believe.

    I enjoyed today’s program, but I was frustrated that the panel didn’t discuss a very obvious funding flaw in Social Security. The cap is a major problem.

    From the SSA 2010:
    “The social security portion of FICA is 6.2% of your covered wages, up to a maximum wage base of $106,800 in 2010. If you reach the maximum payment, you do not pay any more social security tax until the next calendar year. ”

    The flaw is, people earning more than the cap, will still pull the maximum benefits from the system, yet they only pay up to the cap. Why is no one discussing this? I think I know where the government can find some extra money to keep it going.

  • Nick

    Elizabeth @ 10:46am stated:
    “We NEED to increase the age of retirement in this country – people are living well into their 80s and 90s. . . which means that you are working less than half of your life!! That just doesn’t work.
    Social Security was never meant to cover all of the expenses of retirement – we need to be personally saving for our own retirement, but that’s the ONLY part of Social Security that should be privatized!”

    Personal savings are fine if people are actually earning real incomes! The median American middle-class family annual income is $49K. 40 million Americans are now receiving Food Stamp Benefits; the number of people falling below the Federal poverty level is increasing!

  • Nick

    Thank you for responding, Mr. Smith.

    Actually, I didn’t discuss who ended slavery in America. Where in my comment did you read that??

  • BHA

    Posted by Brandstad: “If we have 50% tax rate like we do now, the rich avoid it and we get little to nothing for tax revenue. If we had a flat 12% tax rate, it wouldn’t be usefull for the rich to spend money to avoid it and more would pay it. thus craating a winfall of tax revenue.”

    ROTFLMAO. Brandstad you are drunk on the Republican Kool-aid.

    1) The max 2009 tax rate is 35% on the taxable (AFTER all the weasel deductions and evasions are taken) income OVER $372,950. That does not include long term capital gains which were taxed at 15% in 2009.

    2) And you REALLY believe the treasury would take in more money at a flat tax rate of 12%? Using 2009 tax rates: A person making $372,950 would pay $100,894.50 in income taxes (33%). A person making $50K paid $6665. Under your 12% plan, the rich person pays $44,754 and the middle class person pays $6,000. The rich person has $328,196 to live on instead of $272,055 and the middle class person has $44,000 instead of $43,335. Yeah, both pay less but AS USUAL, the RICH get a WHOLE LOT RICHER with the result being the treasury is out almost $57,000.

    Now you are going to tell me the rich person is going to create jobs with that extra $56K in tax savings right? Bull. Employers will hire more people WHEN THERE ARE BUYERS for the goods/services – not before – no matter how little they are taxed.

    3) No matter HOW low the tax rate goes, the rich will work as hard as they can to pay less of the money they ‘earned’.

    The grossly overpaid in this country have a serious feeling of entitlement to their compensation even though they don’t work all that much harder than anyone else. Find me ANYONE making 2 million dollars a year that works 40 times as many hours a week as the ‘average’ worker making $50K a year. Let’s see the “Nine to Fiver” works 40 hours a week so that means the amazing exec must be working 1600 (of the available 168) hours a week, right?

    Oh, it is their BRILLIANT decision making and incredible responsibility that makes the compensation ‘reasonable’?

    Yeah, OK – when things go well, it is because they made great decisions. When things go south, it is because they made great decisions that kept if from being even worse and the problems were caused by ‘things’ not in their control. When things go REALLY south, they get paid millions to vacate their office because SURPRISE! They weren’t all that brilliant after all.

    The President of the USA is responsible for 305 million people. He is paid $400,000 (it is taxable). Yes, he gets (a REALLY nice) room and board, a travel budget and secret service protection (including 10 years after leaving office) but really, does ANYONE have a job with MORE responsibility?? His pension (about $200K at the moment) pales in comparison to retired CEOs of large companies.

  • BHA

    Maria: “The flaw is, people earning more than the cap, will still pull the maximum benefits from the system, yet they only pay up to the cap. ”

    What you get out is based on how much you put in. The ‘flaw’ is that when SS was started, people worked until the age of 65 and died a few years later. Now they retire at 60 and live to 85.

  • Rob (In NY)

    Another day, another topic, and another NPR discussion board dominated by liberals, who believe they have a natural born right to live off what other people earn. I have a question to the liberals who want to eliminate the earnings cap on social security, rather than raising the retirement age or reducing the cost of living adjustments by indexing to inflation rather than wages, both of which solve most of social security’s actuarial problems. Under your system, would the person who earned an average $270k receive three times the benefit as the person who earned $90k. After all, social security was originally sold to Americans as a retirement program where there was direct relationship between benefits and what a person pays into the system. Would this not be “fair”? Of course, I am being somewhat sarcastic, but you can understand my point.

    If you want to retire earlier, save more and consume less during your working years. The French system is completely unsustainable.

  • CHRIS M

    “Another day, another topic, and another NPR discussion board dominated by liberals, who believe they have a natural born right to live off what other people earn.”

    Sorry Rob, but it appears you put in “Liberals” when you really should have used Republicans/Conservatives. They are the ones who live off workers and game the system in their favor. But I suppose if you think people should die in the street because they are being prevented from earning a livable wage and saving anything for their retirement, we are going to need some kind of system to pick the bodies up. Maybe the “bring out your dead” wagons like in Monty Python.

  • William

    Eventually, economics catches up to you. The French thought that “the other guy” would pay for a early retirement, but those socialist dreams are over. Even Castro has finally admitted that Socialism has failed.

  • peter nelson

    What I would propose is a system in which the retirement money (social security) is set aside rather than borrowed from by the Treasury Dept to fund even more deficit spending, a system in which we must have a balanced budget rather than passing along our irresponsible spending to our children, and to living within our means.

    As I said originally, show us the math! (conservatives never do the math – they were the kids who made fun of all the little nerds like me with glasses and slide rules. But we got the good grades)

    They don’t do a pay-as-you-go social security system because no one can make the math work out for a defined benefit plan, which is what social security is.

    Seriously, what would the FICA amount be under your scheme? Or are you really saying that you would junk SS in favor of a 401(k)/IRA defined contribution scheme?

  • Mar

    Hear, hear! Jeffe & Wavre! I’ve always admired the French’s willingness to stand up and stand together. Our lazy butts have a lot to learn from this.

  • Chuck Bagg, Chuck-full of Ideas

    Retirement? Forget it! It’s over. From now on, you just work till you die.
    As I explain in my Kindle e-book, “How To Fix America”, throughout history, the world has been run by megalomaniacs – rich and powerful people who want to own and control everyone and everything. There was no middle class, only rich and poor, kings and peasants, masters and slaves. That was a totally “free market” society, with no individual rights. Our constitution was specifically designed to place limits on wealth and power (i.e. “regulate” the markets for the common good) so a middle class could exist and flourish, creating a government of the people, by the people, for the people.) That’s what made America great.

    The rich and powerful republicans have been deliberately deregulating the markets and destroying the labor unions so they can wipe out the middle class and go back to a free market society of only rich and poor. And they are brainwashing people into voting for it.

    The rich and powerful corporations are taking over the US government. They have deliberately exported the means of production to weaken the country. Corporations do not have constitutions, and employees do not have rights. Many corporations are already bigger and more powerful than most governments, and will take over everything if we let them. We may have to depend on the French to bail us out again.

  • John S.

    The UK seems to have a better plan than we do. They are planning to cut 500k government workers to save some money. We could and should do the same thing here.

  • Yar

    Social Security is for the Security of the Nation as much as for the individual.
    Treating everyone the same is inherently unfair. The job makes a big difference. Maybe the high labor jobs need to pay in at a higher rate, but they need to be able to get a living wage at an obtainable retirement age. (Even China gives bigger rations to the field hands.)

    We also need to look at the rising age of parents when they have children in respect to cost of benefits. Disability and surviver benefits also effect the amount paid out as our population ages.

    The biggest challenge is that simply haven’t had enough children to support the expanding elderly population of our nation without significant increases in immigration or productivity.

    The system only works with an expanding base. That is true for the stock market and Social Security as well.

    What happens as the baby boomers need to withdraw 50 percent of the market capital over the next 15 years?
    Who is going to buy those stocks? They can only withdraw from the market if there are buyers. If too many need to sell and there are too few buyers then the price drops.

    Today’s show started with talk of sustainability, nothing we have done for the past 100 years has the word sustainable anywhere near it.

    The French are protesting because they see the paradox of working for tomorrow in a climate that isn’t even paying for today.

    With Global warming and false economics, we are in a generational war over who gets the bill for the excesses of our current economy.
    The only solution I see for the US is to implement a jobs program for our youth building infrastructure, and improving education and healthcare. By using these conscripted young people to make our nation a better place to live through a revived version of the CCC that takes 2 years of service for every citizen between age 18 and 24.
    That is a lot of manpower. It will build a lot of skills and actually hand the country to the next generation in better shape.

    The ability to work is the best skill we can pass to our children, that is what I think we can do with a modern version of the CCC.

    Think in man-hours instead of dollars.

    Work produces wealth, money only alludes to the work, and it is becoming less representative of the work it is intended to stand for.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The rich, above a certain pay grade, are not dealing in “wealth”; they are dealing in “power.”
    Why? We are not in a democracy of free speech. We are in a democracy of paid speech. And we consider it part of the Constitution that money “talks,” and it talks, nowadays, anonymously. If there ever was a formula for a spring to concentration of power/wealth, this is it.
    Citizens United. The voter’s voice is not one person/one voice. Rather the “voice” in our elections is pay-go from even before the primaries.
    It is one dollar/one piece of an ad, and decades a-brewing, in one form or another, time to get very manipulative indeed.
    Why are people more “active” the less they know? Maybe because they have more time. Just a hunch.

  • EDC

    BHA, great comment! Not much to add. I do wish they stop paying for wars with money from the SS. Here we go, why don’t we privatize the armed forces, so next time the oil barons decide to invade a country the money comes from their pocket, not ours.

  • joe

    its like a pyramid, people dont want an unfair law, they can stop it. the top of the pryamid isnt where the power lies, its at the BOTTOM. more of them. the people have power they dont realize they have. The public can do any deals if they dont give their power away to the few.

  • Flowen

    Congrats on another thought provoking show, guests and comments.

    While there are a dozen or so things I think would make SS a better system, I don’t believe it is that great of a problem; it’s not among our top ten problems. It works reasonably well at the moment and there aren’t great complaints. Healthcare costs, environment, income disparity, cost of living, blow it out of the water, to name a few.

    But along those lines, a deeper issue is jobs. I contend it is an illusion to believe that all we need is jobs. I prefer John Lennon, “love” sounds better. I argue we already have too many jobs doing too little meaningful, often destructive, work; consuming resources and increasing stress all for the purpose of keeping the economy growing. Growth for growth’s sake. The nearest parallel in nature is cancer. When growth is cancerous, the tumor grows at the expense of the body; just as the wealthy elite grow at the expense of the population.

    Jobs is an issue we are collectively much conflicted over. We believe more jobs will solve nearly all problems. We don’t realize that we have had excellent job growth over the past 30 years, during which time our problems exploded. We want to work and have careers so we can afford leisure time; we invest in technology to reduce workforce, and expect to grow jobs; we create working environments where people are stressed, and complain about product/service quality; we complain about young workers, but they have nothing to do and learn only how to push buttons all day; we berate the poor and middle class for being lazy, when in fact there is nothing for them to do; we sell and push leisure and entertainment, and wonder why our youth is not more engaged; the people who game the system earn by far the most, the honest people interested in making a productive living are least recognized and least paid; the corporations already have the strongest balance sheets (cash on hand) than ever, and they are who we give benefits to in the belief it will create more jobs!?!?!; and on and on.

    Our GDP measure does not separate good from bad: say a real innovative service like Google from an oil spill clean-up or hurricane/flood re-build. Similarly, we have no mechanism to price clean energy as more valuable than dirty energy. And we don’t distinguish between jobs that add value from jobs that just suck off societal cash flows, or fulfilling contrived needs created by corporate interests.

    Most families may prefer but don’t have the one-income choice; they’re not greedy working two jobs, they just can’t pay all the governments and taxes, the financial institutions, the education institutions, the entertainment/communications industry, the energy industry, and everyone else demanding money. It should not be so. Our current crazy commercial consumer culture is an aberration in history; it is unsustainable and it will pass, one way or the other.

    For we Americans, still enjoying the largest and most powerful economy on the planet, with the greatest opportunities available anywhere, and 400% more resource use than our global per capita share; it is shameful that we argue amongst ourselves without recognizing the theft and criminality of our current un-holy corporate-government alliance: a government of the corporations, for the corporations, and by the corporations, where rewards are privatized, and costs and risks are socialized.

    The rest of the world still follows much of what we Americans do; we need to do some serious soul searching, to re-evaluate and re-define a new dream for ourselves. The Status Quo will fight all the way. Navigate the continuing break-down.

    BTW, if you believe as I do that the USA has seen its’ best days, that we are on the backside of the peak of influence of the American empire, we may also see declining longevity. Contrary to the technologist claims that we can push life span to 150+, I expect longevity will reflect the vitality of our culture, which I believe is in decline. That of course will be a tailwind in solving our SS problem.

  • F

    Yar @ 3:17

    I really like your take on youth and work.

    It would be a win-win-win-win; kill 4 birds with one stone, is what I like.

    With a 14 yr old daughter, I can tell you it would be a great thing, assuming it was properly done. Great for the kid, parents, society, and get a job done too!

    F

  • jeffe

    The UK seems to have a better plan than we do. They are planning to cut 500k government workers to save some money. We could and should do the same thing here.

    One problem with that, all of these people will now be on the dole. They will also cause an increase in usage of the NH system due to stress related illnesses. Families will be come under stress as well. Laying off 500 thousand people at once is asking for civil strife.

    At the same time the need for the social services is going up they Tories are going to drastically cut them.
    This should be an interesting social experiment.

    Next they will bring back debtors prisons.

  • Jim in Omaha

    @ Brandstad 10:33 AM re; Google: I suspect you are envious and supportive of a company like Google being able to achieve your version of the American dream: Enjoy the benefits of operating here without having to pay a fair share of the costs. I guess our corporate taxes aren’t really so high in practice, are they?

    @ Brandstad 10:43 AM: It’s not a Ponzi scheme if you put money aside for future needs and someone steals it. A social security surplus of over $90 billion as of 2010 has been built up by people like me paying more INTO the program than was being paid out. You see, we planned for our future needs. Of course it has all been spent on other things like unwinnable wars, no-bid crony contracts, tax cuts for the highest income recipients, that is, to fund the right wing regressive agenda.

    Others have repudiated his other incorrect (deceitful?) posts. Where do you get this stuff. You can’t possibly believe it.

  • david

    The French govt. as true socialist are, needs control to exist. How do you control the people??? You become the source of their needs. So the government becomes the source. The govt. dangles nice juicy entitlement teets off the govt. The people rush in, they become addicted. Soon the well starts to dry up. The govt. inorder to insure control collects taxes. The cycle continues and the people are happy. More control is needed, so more teets are added and more folks flock to the govt. Along comes a economic disaster, the well dries up and the govt. needs to shed some people inorder to survive itself. Thus you have the problem happening in France today and soon to come to America.
    America, Wake up!!
    We have a 13 Trillion dollar debt and a 110 Trillion unfunded liability debt.

  • jeffe

    Again, it amazes me how many people are so misinformed on the cultures and systems of different nations. It’s as if our system and country is so great. Well the French did not have the housing bubble we did now did they.
    Who’s the idiots here? Who had the huge financial melt down? We did.

    Obviously something needs to be done, but it’s up to the French. I just love how they take to the streets and are so passionate about their politics. Is it a good thing?
    I think it is, I think protest is a good thing.

    People forget about the civil strife we had in this country at turn of the 20th century and civil right marches were not exactly small potato’s. Nor were the antiwar protests.

  • jeffe

    david, you need to go back to school, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Nor does it seem as if you listened to the show, if you had you would have at least heard that the French are highly suspect of their government.

  • david

    The French are mad because the govt. teets are drying up. Concerning the SS trust fund. “The Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress issues factual public reports on the social security situation. The CRS says bluntly: There is no social security trust fund with real money or assets in it. Most people, and most of the media, don t realize that social security taxes taken from people s paychecks are not paid into a social security bank account. They are paid directly into the federal government s general account. The politicians in Washington have stolen and spent over a trillion dollars of excess social security taxes that were not paid out in benefits to retirees.”

    http://blog.heritage.org/2010/08/05/once-again-the-social-security-trust-fund-has-no-money-in-it/

  • Ellen Dibble

    Maybe the French have enough security to be able to take to the streets the way they do. Do they have more time off than we do? Shorter work weeks? Longer vacation time?
    Anyway, Jeffe, what do you mean “turn of the 20th century”??? for activism.
    I was in college in the late 1960s, and in those days the ones with plenty of time to protest were the college students. And they would take the summer to protest for civil rights around the South. Or a few years later, protest over the Vietnam War. That could ruffle an entire campus, as you can imagine, because the draft was in effect. If everyone was subject to draft into the military, between Iraq and Afghanistan, I think the campuses would be broiling. As it is, campuses seem more or less confused, by comparison. We used to hold campus-wide “moratoriums,” where we sat around and moped. Or fasted. We planned take-overs of campus buildings. Not really “we.” I wasn’t in Nixon’s camp, but I didn’t think we knew all the answers either.
    The Pentagon Papers I believe came along a few years later, after the “in” set already had long been convinced.

  • Jim in Omaha

    @david

    Of course there’s no account set aside for SS. There isn’t one holding money due for future payments to active or retired military either, or for many other government obligations. But it’s the money we have actually paid into the system that is being threatened. I expect that if the same treatment was threatened for future military paychecks we’d be seeing a very different response. Either way I think we agree the money has been stolen by Congress.

  • Mickey

    The social security discussion was really important. Equally important was a missed point: I’m 70 years old, and although I began to receive benefits at 65, I still need to work because I haven’t any other income. I was laid off from my job May 2009; it is not an easy matter for a woman of a certain age to get hired! Even though I am of sound mind and body and am not the tv version of a 70 year old woman. So with unemployment insurance finishing on December 1st, I will have a huge problem. And so it will be for folks in their late 60′s if/when the qualifying age for social security is raised to 70. Thanks for reading this.

  • jeffe

    Ellen who were all those African Americans and other people marching? You did not read my post correctly, I mentioned the 60′s. The late 19th and early 20′th centuries were full of labor strikes and very intense political upheaval in this country. People were shot and killed in miners camps and on picket lines by private militias basically, and the police.

    Look up the WW1 Bonus marches, a very sad part of our history.

  • jeffe

    Mickey good points. We don’t have social safety nets here.
    We do not have a good health care system. We have a health care market.

    I lost my health insurance and right now in Massachusetts unless you can pay the higher premiums yourself, you’re screwed. Commonwealth care is broken, or is breaking down.
    I’ve been told I have to wait 10 days or more and I might not be eligible as I’m one of those who kind of falls through the cracks. So this means I might be fined.

    The Democrats and Obama have set up similar system, when this kicks in it will be a nightmare.

    We need Single Payer NOW!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Yep, I misread your post. I think a certain pair of my grandparents were scared right out of the huddled masses by the strikes out in Detroit in the 1920s, sort of assumed a gated awareness that shunned those inclined to riot (protest, strike), and it seems to me a peculiarly American brand of aristocracy was born then, a kind of Edwardian sense of entitlement, a blend of noblesse oblige and of entitlement-by-association (not with black people for sure, not with Jews for sure; maybe with Charles Lindbergh, whose Nazi sympathies may have been a revelation and a shock). Some people who were NOT striking were scared out of their very grassroots and joined he upper crust. I do think universal service for men during World War II brought us a sense of common destiny and common humanity, however.
    In short, I’d say a certain swath of Americans reacted badly to all those protests, all that activism preceding WWII.

  • Ellen Dibble

    There is a UMass radio station I happened to hear, Jeffe, talking about how you won’t hear straight news on commercial radio, and you won’t hear but some large majority (65%?) nationwide favors (regularly when polled) single payer health insurance, and most notably (to me), in Massachusetts (where we have a health insurance mandate and have for several years), WMUA says it is clear that 85% (EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT) are in favor of single payer.
    We have tried the Obama plan, and we want change.
    Apparently there is a question on the ballot in many precincts in Massachusetts, do we direct our representatives to demand single payer health plans, something like that. They were trying to make sure people go out to vote, given issues like that.
    A lot of us are in the position of paying a penalty on our state tax forms and waiting until we hit 65 (and Medicare) for getting certain care we know we need. We “are” the donut hole. Sorry, jeffe.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Balancing the budget on the backs of the workers and retirees? Hah. I heard on the news tonight I believe it is 60 billion dollars a year we could realize in taxes on profits from corporations like Google (was the prime example) who use Bermuda as a base, with 0% corporate tax, all of those corporations being entirely within the law, and Congress being quite aware of this. I mean, jobs are at stake, right? They use their profits better than the government uses revenue, right? Who could argue that…

  • cory

    I reject the idea that we can’t afford the programs that constitute a social safety net. I’m often told ny conservatives to “do the math”.

    My math and my eyes see Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, George Soros, and my doctor who buys a new BMW every other year. My eyes also see a world with enough resources so that everyones basic needs should be met without question.

    So I say again how much I envy the French resolve to determine the shape of their lives. Vive’ le France!

  • peter nelson

    I lost my health insurance and right now in Massachusetts unless you can pay the higher premiums yourself, you’re screwed. Commonwealth care is broken, or is breaking down.
    I’ve been told I have to wait 10 days or more and I might not be eligible as I’m one of those who kind of falls through the cracks. So this means I might be fined.

    Could you elaborate on this? I thought the concept in Massachusetts was that low income people who can’t afford the high premiums are eligible for some sort of premium reduction so that everyone can be covered. What’s the reality?

    We need Single Payer NOW!

    I don’t see any possibility of this in the US in the foreseeable future. It’s interesting that in Cameron’s/Osborne’s new axed budget (in the UK) NHS was ring-fenced. Maybe the Americans should truly reject the (original) tea party and say to the Brits “please come back, all is forgiven!”.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Massachusetts health. Go to mahealthconnector.org and select Find Insurance. The plans on offer to Massachusetts residents who are self-employed or otherwise end up buying their own insurance are, in my experience slightly better actually outside of the Connector. Blue Cross, for instance, will offer a parallel plan that is not negotiated with The Connector, but which people like me can buy and which satisfy the mandate. I get an official form, similar to a W-2 income form, for inclusion with taxes. For someone who makes an average income (I believe that’s about $40,000; you can submit your tax returns and they can determine if you get some money back). For me, it would take longer to do the paperwork, and cost me in terms of money I could be earning in those hours; and the year it went into effect whether I would get any refund depended on whether they counted the refund as part of my income.
    So above that amount, there is no support. My insurer told me about 1995 that my rates would go up 8% a year till I was 65. It has gone up at least that. Each year I have kept my monthly bill down to about $700 by reducing my coverage. Finally, I got to the point where needed care wasn’t really covered, so I reduced my coverage back to $563, and just postpone care. Insurers cover lots of very high-profit types of care for certain complaints that doctors in this day and age know how to address. If you happen to have complaints not yet easily addressed, science being where it is right now, you will end up figuring out your own cure the best you can and financing it yourself. Health care is big on profitable aspects, not so high on delivery.
    So there is a donut hole for those who are doing pretty well — until they have to buy health insurance, and then they suddenly have no disposable income at all.

  • peter nelson

    Poll support for single payer healthcare depends on how the question is worded and who you ask. If it’s worded abstractly then there is broad support for the concept:

    http://www.wpasinglepayer.org/PollResults.html

    One you start throwing in details it gets messier. For example Medicare is popular among patients but doctors and hospitals can’t make ends meet on the low reimbursement rates so they pass higher costs onto to private insurers. So there is deviltry in the details of stuff like that.

    Also, polls are not elections. In real elections voters demand to be advertised-to and will cast their vote for whoever produces the most compelling ads. Many important politicians including Barney Frank and Chris Dodd include insurance companies among their top 5 donors (source: http://www.opensecrets.org )

    Another difference is that when polls are restricted to likely voters the numbers go way down. For example, the Kaiser poll in the first link showed 58% support for single-payer, but the poll didn’t screen for likely voters. A Rasmussen poll 1 month later which did screen for likely voters showed support at 32%.

  • jeffe

    Peter the whole things a mess. In Massachusetts they laid off a huge amount of staff and they are also dropping low income people as fast as they can. In my case I’m not making enough to afford $400 to $500 a month as an adjunct and I’m not sure what’s going on. I’ve been using a medical finance officer at my doctors office and she even admitted that she has no idea what is going on.

    I was originally told it would only take a few days and now it’s changed to ten or more. Maybe month or more.
    It’s a mess.

  • Jane Meredith

    Government employees in the United States get to retire after 30 or 35 years of work. I know many school teachers who are retired, collecting a full pension with lavish health benefits, in their mid-fifties. Ditto for an in-law who worked for the National Weather Service and another who was an architect for the Navy. This is unsustainable for the American tax payer to fund. I wonder why this issue has never been raised in this country? This situation makes the French system look reasonable with retirement at 60!

  • William

    The MSM has been touting MA and it’s healt

  • twenty-niner

    “Government employees in the United States get to retire after 30 or 35 years of work.”

    In the military, members get to retire after twenty. I know quite a few “double dippers” – receiving a military pension on top of a salary, many times doing the exact same thing they did in the military, but just as a contractor.

  • Don

    Hi Brandstad,
    Like you, I realize that some of our nation’s social programs might subsidize the older and less affluent members of our society. However, I am also always mindful of the fact that the thousands of soldiers who have died fighting for our country were disproportunately younger and less affluent than the rest of us.
    To me this is what living a society is all about….
    sometimes you make sacrifices for others; and sometimes others make sacrifices for you…..
    Please remember, you just can’t accept being a member of a society when it benefits you; and then feel free to reject your social obligations when you feel otherwise. To do so would be the ultimate in selfish behavior!!!!!!

  • Lon C Ponschock

    The salient remark after two days of comments on here is that of age war. The young French people realize that a higher retirement age works against their ability to do work.

    The equity in this arrangement favors older workers. If the older workers can take their social security and be well within the safety net without these “cat food commission laws” raising retirement, then it behooves those who can release the jobs to the next generation should do so.

  • justanother

    This is amazing! Where were protests by American citizens when SS silently raised the retirement age?

    American used to very active on injustice, it seems we are too comfortable with the reporting from all medias, which often times they select what they want to broadcast. American need to be back on the streets protesting so many WRONG things about this country, not just to air the Tea baggers.

  • http://findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    The most elegant and fair solution is free choice in this manner: let people individually retire when they wish, on their own choice, with the level of retirement benefits their length of work has earned mathematically, without subsidy. This will require a reasonable guess at future returns of their current value of implied retirement accumulation (amount of money put aside for their retirement to date), or simply…give them the current full amount, 100%, and let them invest the money themselves….

    There’s nothing like individual choice to put people back in touch with the real world (and it’s realities).

  • justanother

    Does anybody sense WWIII coming? I do. This time is to fight “Capitalism” instead of “Communism”, just wait and watch it unfold.

  • justanother

    Posted by Maurice L. Wade, on October 21st, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    Maurice, can’t agree with you more! Bravo!

  • justanother

    I don’t see anything wrong with the “idea” of SS, but the “execution” & “management”.

    How can SS money be borrowed and used as our government pleases, and who pay back those interest from borrowing, raising our retirement age? Where were our watch dogs? This is so screwed up!

  • d

    Under the FERS system, retirement for all govt. folks goes like this. 1% per year of your high 3.
    If you made $50,000 high three for 30 years, you would get $15,000 a year as a retirement benefit from the Govt. The second leg would be thrift savings plan and the third leg SS.

  • Hal Horvath

    Not to belabor the obvious at length, so just the headline:

    “Americans Dumbfounded As French Protest Increase In Retirement Age To…62″

    http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/americans-dumbfounded-as-french-protest-increase-in-retirement-age-to…62-535535.html?tickers=XLE,UUP,TLT,TBT,TOT,OIL

  • millard_fillmore

    “The popularity of French jokes and bashing in the US always puzzled me especially considering their contributions in the birth of this nation. Egalitarianism, secularism has become bad word in this country, but French are still fighting to preserve those “republican values”.”

    People like you were probably the first to criticize France’s ban on burqa and how this ban is ‘racist’ and how American secularism is better. And suddenly, now France is much better than America? Who saved their sorry arses in WWII?

    Re: people/Americans marching in the streets, there were posters for anti-war protests in Boston almost every other month when a Republican was in the WH, and from what I’ve read, these anti-war rallies were well-attended. Annual rally in support of marijuana also draws a huge crowd at the Boston Common. Funnily enough, the war goes on to this day, but those anti-war protest organizers are nowhere to be seen (or heard from) since November 2008. ;)

    And how the left deserted Cindy Sheehan as if she had the plague after she continued with her anti-war activism post-2008 and started challenging Democrats-in-power, is too well-known to be repeated. There’s plenty of hypocrisy on both sides – left as well as right.

  • http://www.cratercom.com Amanda Crater

    I just read another interesting article about the French riots and the implications for CEOs in an increasingly hostile and unstable world. It’s called “Your CEO in Riot Gear” by Eric McNulty – thought people who commented here might want to check it out: http://montarosasearch.com/2010/10/your-ceo-in-riot-gear/

    As for my personal opinion, I don’t think the age at which we retire is the issue as much as the way we are expected to work as Americans. The need for better work/life balance is what would drive me into the streets protesting.

    @AmandaCrater

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