Fix Social Security? Just do what FDR did

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It is time for baby boomers (like me) to stop whining about reform of Social Security. If FDR was still around, they might be facing a bigger whack than what is being proposed.

And it is good that there is at least a discussion going on about it in Congress.

According to the Boston Globe, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of a plan to cut trillions in future federal spending, is optimistic about entitlement cuts beyond Medicare and Medicaid.

“Social Security reform, hopefully, is an area where we might have a shot at a bipartisan agreement this summer,” he said.

We should all hope so. Getting the grandfather of entitlement programs onto some kind of credible financial footing will require more than simply raising taxes on the rich or, as the robo-Democratic talking point puts it, “ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.”

It will require ending Social Security as we know it. And that would be a good thing. Ending it as we know it is a much better alternative than ending it altogether, which is where it is headed.

Yet, the Globe reports that even the idea of raising the retirement age by a couple of years – the president’s deficit commission recommended age 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075 – polls very poorly:

Raising the retirement age, even by just a couple of years, is an idea that remains unpopular nationally, according to polls. A Harris Poll in February found that only 37 percent were in favor of increasing the age of eligibility. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans would rather see Social Security taxes increase over benefits being cut and the retirement age increased to 69, according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in January.

Apparently we have forgotten that when Social Security began under liberal icon FDR, the retirement age was set about three to four years earlier than the average life expectancy. As everybody knows, people are living longer and healthier. Why should a healthy 65-year-old quit working and start collecting?

With life expectancy in America now at 78.4 years, if Congress and the president simply did what FDR did, nobody would start collecting until 75. Problem solved.

But, whoever proposed to follow that model would be vilified with claims that he or she wants elders to suffer on an unprecedented scale. It’s enough to make you wonder how the Republic survived its first 160 years.

And that’s why we have a problem.