The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
I know it is risky so early in the year, but I have a nomination for the worst idea of 2010. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), wants to make Social Security retirement benefits available beginning at age 60. Temporarily. To create jobs.
His logic appears to be this: If one million people between 60 and 62 (the current age for early Social Security eligibility) retire early, they will open up one million new opportunities for younger people. Somehow, in Kucinich-math, this creates jobs.
Now, this scheme may create some job openings, and it may reduce the unemployment rate (since it would take some 60-year olds out of the workforce). But it won’t increase the total number of people working, which I thought was the idea. Indeed, since employers may not replace all these new retirees, the scheme could even make the jobs problem worse.
Kucinich says this early retirement plan would be temporary. In recent weeks, he’s suggested it might be for five years, or six months, or that he'd lower the eligibility age for the first one million people who apply for early benefits. But does anyone out there actually believe Congress would raise the retirement age right after lowering it? I don’t. And I doubt Kucinich does either.
Kucinich figures these extra benefits would cost $15 billion. He’d pay for them with $10 billion in bailout money and $5 billion in stimulus dollars. That is to say, he’d borrow it. The former presidential hopeful thinks he gets a fiscal pass because Social Security isn't paying these added benefits, but borrowing is borrowing.
Let’s be serious. Social Security has a problem, and lowering the retirement age would only make it worse. The government has already promised retirees about 30 percent more in benefits than it can pay over the long-run. It will somehow have to find a way to either hike taxes or reduce promised benefits to bridge that gap. Raising, not lowering, the early retirement age would be a good start. With luck, President Obama’s deficit commission may find the political will to fix the troubled retirement program. Kucinich, by contrast, only wants to make things worse.
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