photo: ecatoncheires (flickr)

Wealthy elites are talking to each other about making Americans work until they are 70 before retiring with their full Social Security, and as usual, their Veal Pen buddies and their tame economists are in rapturous agreement*. The Cat Food Commission, a group of stalwart disciplinarians (as long as it doesn’t affect them), and their leader Peter Peterson, billionaire, are just one group. Democrats like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, and Republicans like John Boehner are ready to screw workers as thoroughly as possible.

As far as I know, none of them have talked to any workers to explain why they have to sacrifice their lives and work until they drop, despite my request. I assume that they realize that this won’t sit will with anyone who actually works for a living, so instead they hide behind soft-handed academic economists:

“For awhile, there’s been a consensus among economists that raising the retirement age makes a lot of sense,” said Richard Johnson, a senior fellow and the director of the Retirement Policy Program at the Urban Institute, a Washington research group.

Richard has a hard job, writing and directing the writing of reports for the Urban Institute.

Raising the retirement age for full eligibility would have two benefits, Gordon Mermin and Eugene Steuerle argued in a 2006 Urban Institute paper.

“In addition to helping Social Security,” they wrote, “working longer would also improve individuals’ own retirement finances by generating more retirement wealth and reducing the number of years their wealth needs to fund.”

Surely no one is interested in policy advice from the Veal Pen, and especially from Veal Pen economists.  Yves Smith wrote a book, ECONned, thoroughly dissecting the failures of economists. It isn’t just that they were wrong, they don’t admit it, and they refuse to reexamine their theories in the aftermath of their disastrous failure which led to the Great Crash. This is a shameless group, utterly lacking in intellectual integrity.

I could ask Richard and Gordon and Eugene to go tell this guy about the many benefits of working until he is 70 (fabulous picture by Willy Ronis), but the plain fact is they won’t do it. They are quite happy to work until they are 70, if you can call whatever it is they do work. They make plenty of money, and they will retire when and if they want to quit, quite nicely. Why should they care about the janitors and police and EMTs? After all, those coal miners and pipe inspectors could have gotten desk jobs.

Many successful Americans refuse to recognize how lucky they are. They think they got where they are solely on the merits of their hard work and natural talents. They can’t see that their success is based on some combination of things beyond their control, including good genes, good parents, introductions, good manners, and being in the right place at the right time. There are plenty of people as smart or smarter, as nice or nicer, as diligent, or more diligent, as insightful or more insightful, who had the wrong parents, weren’t taught good manners, had no introductions, and were never in the right place at the right time. They don’t even give credit to the institutions that mold society, in particular the statutes that conveyed the learning of the past into social forms that make their soft lives possible.

They must figure all those failures out there, unemployed, underemployed, those who never had a chance, they are just somehow lesser people, whose lack of success is their own fault. Maybe they just didn’t think positively. For an alternative possibility, take a look at this short story by Jack London: A Piece of Steak.

But I don’t want you to think that Richard and Gordon and Eugene and their co-workers Melissa Favreault and Dan Murphy are unaware that actual workers are quite likely to be unable to work that long because of the physical demands of their jobs and the stresses of poverty. They tenderly suggest that they go on disability and get benefits that way.

I wonder how long disability benefits will last in a country willing to be led by people like these.
*I refrain from adding a reference to Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins.