Charles Krauthammer Schools Carlson and Krugman on Raising Social Security Retirement Age

Charles Krauthammer on Friday gave a much-needed education to Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson about why the age at which one can receive Social Security benefits must be raised.

His words on PBS's "Inside Washington" also refuted Paul Krugman's foolish claims on this matter published in Friday's New York Times (video follows with transcript and commentary):

GORDON PETERSON: Margaret, do you think Congress will dare touch any of the third rail stuff? Social Security, for example?

MARGARET CARLSON: Well, they’ll, they’ll touch the means-testing, I think, because as Warren Buffett says, he shouldn’t be getting his Social Security check. You know, the fairness of these cuts and the tax cuts have to be dealt with, because some of these proposals they hurt the 69- year-old. Listen, a blue-chip corporate lawyer, all of us, we can work till 69. My Irish grandmother, you know, working in a hotel changing beds, she can’t work till she is 69. Some of this stuff has to be worked out, and in context with the tax cuts. Should we put another $40 trillion hole in the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthy? I mean, let us put all this together and try to make it fair.

PETERSON: Alright, let's listen to Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of the deficit commission who served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. Here he is.


ERSKINE BOWLES: We are clearly on an unsustainable path. We can’t grow our way out of this problem, we can’t tax our way out of it, we can’t cut our way out of it. Every single member of Congress knows that the path we are on today is not sustainable, and that if we don't bring these deficits down, and eventually get to balance, you know, we are headed for disaster.


PETERSON: There are twelve members of Congress on this fourteen member commission, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look, there is no way the commission is going to approve this. That’s why the chairman spoke out in advance, because just about anything they are recommending will fail to get the super majority that you need on that commission. It’ll probably have almost zero recommendations. But I just want to make one point. Margaret is talking about her grandmother not being able to work till 69. Margaret, this does not apply to your grandmother. It does not apply to anybody in kindergarten or above. It kicks in 2075, meaning the only people it’s going to affect are pre-kindergarten. And their option is you work until you're 69 or you get nothing because it won’t exist in 2075.

CARLSON: Are those pre-kindergartners who are happening to be doing labor as opposed to not doing it, having the cushy jobs we have, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: If we had indexed the retirement age to life expectancy, it would be way in the seventies now. The idea of a pension instituted by FDR and before him, Bismarck, was to support you in your old age. We are not retiring in old age, and it isn’t even close, and that’s the huge mistake we make. A third of your life is spent receiving the funds of other people who pay taxes, and that’s completely unsustainable.


As NewsBusters previously reported, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman made a somewhat similar claim to Carlson's in his column Friday that life expectancies haven't risen as quickly for poor folks as they have for the rich, and it would therefore be unfair to raise the Social Security retirement age.

Not surprisingly, Krugman ignored statistics published in his own paper two years ago finding that in the year 2000, the poorest people in America lived almost fifteen years longer than the average person did in 1935 when Social Security was first created.

As the retirement age was 65 back then, some increase in when folks can begin to receive benefits in the future regardless of their income level is not only reasonable but also necessary to keep the program from bankruptcy.

As Krauthammer accurately noted, when Social Security was enacted, the intention wasn't that people would spend one third of their lives receiving benefits. Quite the contrary, as life expectancy was only 57 back then, the original equations assumed most people would die before ever receiving one penny.

By not indexing the retirement age to changes in life expectancy, that equation has now morphed into something completely different and therefore unsustainable.

What folks like Carlson, Krugman, and others in the liberal media don't understand is that if life expectancy increases without any change to the age in which one can begin to receive Social Security benefits, you're continually raising the amount that Americans can receive over their lifetimes without increasing how much they pay in to the system.

Even a fifth grader can understand that can't go on forever without the program going bankrupt.

Sadly, when it comes to such simple mathematical concepts, it is quite clear that Carlson, Krugman, and their ilk really aren't smarter than a fifth grader.

Social Security New York Times Inside Washington PBS Gordon Peterson Charles Krauthammer
Noel Sheppard's picture

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