An NPR radio interview today with Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colville is a depressing indicator of how little innovative thinking is going into reforming Social Security.
The low point of the interview on Here & Now may be the following exchange:
Interviewer: If you were to raise the age for when you can collect Social Security, it may have an adverse effect on the poor, who may not live as long.
Colville: “Any change is going to have some winners and some losers. So clearly when you talk about changing the retirement age again, you’re going to have some winners and some losers.”
Here’s an idea – Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the rich (instead of the poor) were the losers for a change? American policy makers already insure that the rich (who just happen to include American policy makers) have access to medical care that permits them to live at least a decade longer than the poor. And the rich benefit from obscene wealth inequality, which is essentially a form of subsidy to the rich by the poor.
But why do the poor always have to be the losers?
To continue. When asked what changes are needed to Social Security, Colville replied:
“I think that will depend upon the debate that Congress and the administration and the American public will have. You know, we’re a bipartisan agency, we don’t take a position here, but certainly we expect that there will need to be some changes to the program.”
Yeah, but aren’t you an expert who has actual ideas and recommendations that would help guide clueless policy makers? Are you being paid the big bucks to be neutral? Is mindless bureaucracy your legacy?
This blog has noted that women receive 29 percent less annually than men in Social Security benefits. The average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older in 2013 was $12,857, compared to $16,590 for men. That gap can mean the difference between living frugally and living in poverty. And many more older women do live in poverty than men. A 2013 study by the National Women’s Law Center found that nearly 2.9 million women aged 65 and older lived in poverty, compared to 1.3 million men. The Social Security gender gap reflects the cumulative impact of sex, age and race discrimination against women over many decades. And the worst losers of all happen to be minority women..
Under Ms. Colville’s reasoning, women are losers.
Here’s a novel idea: Change the Social Security benefit formula so that women and the poor are no longer the “losers.”