At the Cooper Tire plant in Findlay, Ohio, Jack Hartley, who is 58, works a 12-hour shift assembling tires: pulling piles of rubber and lining over a drum, cutting the material with a hot knife, lifting the half-finished tire, which weighs 10 to 20 pounds, and throwing it onto a rack.
Mr. Hartley says the pain started for him when he was 50. He doesn't know if he can last till age 66, when he is eligible to collect full Social Security benefits.
After years of debate about how to keep Social Security solvent, the White House has created an 18-member panel to consider changes, including raising the retirement age. Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio and the House minority leader, has called for raising the age as high as 70 in the next 20 years, and many Democrats have endorsed similar steps, against opposition from some liberal groups. The panel will report by Dec. 1, after the midterm elections.
Any changes in Social Security’s retirement age will not affect workers currently in their late 50s and their 60s, who are eligible for full benefits at age 66. But their experiences now are a harbinger of things to come, said Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research in New York, who opposes raising the Social Security retirement age because she says it will have a disproportionate impact on lower-income workers and minorities, who tend to have lower life expectancies and so fewer years of collecting benefits. At the same time, blue-collar workers often spend more years paying into Social Security because they start full-time work younger, she said.
“People who need to retire early — and they need to — are folks that start working in their late teens, whereas people who are promoting raising the retirement age are people who were in graduate school or professional school and got into jobs that would logically take them into their late 60s and 70s,” she said.
That last paragraph is the important one. The people making these decisions are people who have not done physically demanding work. They are not janitors, miners, steelworkers, cooks, carpenters, nurse's aides, or waiters- all jobs that take a toll on the body. Years of heavy lifting, carrying, and repetitive motion create chronic pain.
John Boehner earned his wealth sitting behind a desk. His voice (in concert with like-minded legislators) cannot be allowed to overshadow the voices of those who never got rich, working at jobs that required hard physical labor.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org