Ronald Reagan's legislative attempt to limit Social Security benefits in the 1980s was defeated. He called Social Security the third rail of politics.The third rail of a train track is electrified and therefore his warning is to stay away from it. Krugman in his editorial talks about the foolishness of some of the current arguments about Social Security. Two misconceptions he rebuts in this article are: 1) raising the retirement age to obtain benefits to age 70 because people are living longer and 2) seniors are doing fine because the poverty rate among seniors is low at 9%.
Krugman explains that the low income worker and uneducated do not have a longer life expectancy only the more affluent. His observation is that the Social Security reformers are in effect saying is we can't afford to let janitors retire because lawyers are living longer.
Krugman also discusses that many of the current retirees are only able to maintain a decent standard of living because of pensions. However fewer and fewer employees have pensions and this will mean future retirees will likely have a lower standard of living.
This gives all of us something to think about when a politician starts talking about being fiscally responsible means raising the retirement age, instead we should make sure that the elderly have sufficient secuirty to live in dignity not poverty.