From James K. Galbraith, in Foreign Policy Magazine:
The most dangerous conventional wisdom in the world today is the idea that with an older population, people must work longer and retire with less.
This idea is being used to rationalize cuts in old-age benefits in numerous advanced countries -- most recently in France, and soon in the United States. The cuts are disguised as increases in the minimum retirement age or as increases in the age at which full pensions will be paid.
Here's where Galbraith veers off the conventionally wise path:
In the United States, the financial crisis has left the country with 11 million fewer jobs than Americans need now. No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon. So common sense suggests we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?
The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier.
Sometimes veering off the path makes a lot of sense. This is too rational an idea to ever gain any traction.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org