By Robert Mann
If ever a candidate for high public office proved himself disconnected from the worries and fears of average citizens, it was Rep. Bill Cassidy in last Tuesday’s U.S. Senate debate in Shreveport.
A three-term Republican congressman, Cassidy seems to have trouble connecting with the average fellow. His pedantic speaking style was evident during the televised debate with incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and Tea Party favorite Rob Maness.
However, it wasn’t Cassidy’s awkward delivery that should worry voters. It is, instead, his appalling ambivalence to the travails of older Americans who rely on Social Security income for survival that should cause concern.
In the debate, Cassidy tried to make a case for raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. For most Baby Boomers, the retirement age is 66, but it’s been gradually inching up so that anyone born after 1959 will not receive full benefits until age 67.
Those were actions taken in 1983 to shore up the system, which Cassidy claims will go “bankrupt” without dire, corrective action. “Bankrupt” is the wrong word, but useful if you want to scare voters. By 2035, the system will only be able to pay 75 percent of earned benefits. Not good, but certainly not bankrupt.
Social Security has problems, but they’re not so serious to require the harmful medicine Cassidy prescribes: make older Americans work another three years.
It’s not really Cassidy’s idea. Increasing the retirement age has long been a “solution” for Social Security’s problems, a bulwark against an easier approach that would strengthen the system without the pain and suffering Cassidy recommends.
Raising the income cap for Social Security – thereby expanding its tax base – would solve Social Security’s problems for many decades to come, but corporate titans and Cassidy’s wealthy friends oppose it.
Right now, if you earn $117,000, you pay the exact amount of Social Security taxes that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pay on their hundreds of millions in annual income. That hardly seems fair, especially when the alternative is forcing millions of older people, many of them with no other income, to continue working physically taxing jobs until they turn 70.
Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2014/10/social_security_retirement_age.html#incart_river—