Arnold Kling  

I am not a Populist

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Bryan asks,


Arnold, do you really think that Miron's proposals would appeal to a majority of Americans? Raising the retirement age to seventy?

It depends on how the issue is framed. When Al Gore framed it during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 2000, he framed it as forcing a single-mom waitress to keep working after age 65. And most politicians frame it as if people aged 67 today would be forced back to work.

Instead, it might be framed as, "If you are under the age of 50, we will cut your Social Security taxes in exchange for raising the age at which you collect benefits to 70. Our other choice is to wait until you are 65, and then cut your benefits based on what we think we can afford at that time. Deal?"

The point is that politicians never want to admit that they have promised more than they can deliver on SS, so the debate is always between a "safe, popular program" and a "risky scheme." In fact, it is SS that is the risky scheme.

I am not a populist. I seem to remember that there is a book coming out with the title Myth of the Rational Voter, and I think that the title and the book are on point.

But I think that in dealing with irrational voters, politicians tend to manipulate things in the direction of centralizing power.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Fritz writes:

Voters are very rational. When given ample information, they usually recognize the right course. The burden of policy makers is to blow back the political manipulation of information. During the Presidents attempt to reform SS, polling clearly indicated the public overwhelmingly agreed that something is wrong with SS. Nothing came to fruition because there was no near term political peril for the opposition. Had President Bush created political peril for the opposition in 2001 by taking up "save SS first" card the opposition laid on the table, they would have been forced to engage.

dearieme writes:

It's already started its upward march from age 65 in Britain. Do you guys want to look like wimps compared to the British? Go on, prove yourselves: go for 75.

Lord writes:

And not give them the choice of higher taxes for a longer retirement? I thought this was a democracy.

Brandon Berg writes:

Are you exaggerating when you say that Al Gore was talking about 65-year-old single mothers?

Bob Knaus writes:

Why should SS set retirement at any particular age? Why not simply reform SS to be actuarily sound, with retirement allowed at any reasonable age (say 50+)?

For those who wanted to retire early, just consult the table and see what your monthly check would be. Might not be very much, math being what it is, but at least you'd have the option.

One of the "populist" problems with SS at present is that it strongly discriminates against those with short lifespans who make wages all their adult life. You work work work until you are 65 and then die in a year or two.

If you have a health issues, or come from a short-lived family, you might well take early retirement at a reduced payment so you could enjoy your twilight years rather than slaving away. Why not give people the choice?

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