Postpone Social Security for the Sake of the Young?

To the Editor:

Re “The U.S. Needs Older Americans to Work More and Take Less,” by C. Eugene Steuerle and Glenn Kramon (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 28):

The authors argue for a higher Social Security retirement age in order to relieve younger working people of some of the burden of paying for the retirements of the elderly. The enormous income gap between workers and executives is a much more relevant factor in the lopsidedness of wealth distribution.

The aging population is depicted as carefree, golf-playing, medically fit scammers living off struggling young wage earners. The truth is the elderly are increasingly among the nation’s lowest-income citizens. Social Security earnings are based on wages earned in a lifetime. Wages have been stagnant for decades while the rich become richer by the minute.

The solution is not to raise the age limit for retirement but to eliminate the maximum taxable income for Social Security, currently $160,200. Millionaires and billionaires are the ones scamming the system. It’s time they paid their fair share.

And to the authors, please stop finding ways to divide the young and the old.

Florence Estes

To the Editor:

I’m a 54-year-old member of Generation X. I would like to retire one day at an age when I’ll still be healthy enough to do the things I dream about, and so it’s tempting to get “on line for mine” as soon as possible, as prior generations have done.

But for the sake of the generations that follow I hope that Gen X will be the one to finally have the guts to fix Social Security and Medicare, even if it means working longer, getting less and deferring good times. It’ll be painful because we’re so close, but it’s because we’re so close that we can lead with credibility.

So yes, OK, I’m willing to work longer, but public policy will need to meet me halfway and get serious about ageism in the work force and incentivizing employers to hire or hold on to older workers. I can’t hold up my end of the deal if I can’t find a job.

David Rizzo
Ridgefield, Conn.

To the Editor:

The authors suggest that I just suck it up and forget retirement. But I’m tired. I spent 33 years in social work. Seventeen years doing crisis work. I’ve been punched and spat on, and have waded into houses deep in cat poop.

So, if I can do it, I’m going to drag myself to work for another five years, because if I retire at 70 I’ll be entitled to $2,000 a month in Social Security. I’m not sure physically I can do any more than that.

And if that means I’m a drag on future generations, I’m not sure I have the energy to care about that.

Jim Alciere
East Machias, Maine

To the Editor:

The authors are really asking people to reshuffle the crumbs left over from the class warfare of the last 40 years between their current selves and future selves. While productivity, the real measure of economic progress, has gone up by 74 percent in that time, most Americans have not benefited from proportionately increased pay. Unsurprisingly, it has mostly gone to the top 1 percent.

So for the good of America, let’s return the top marginal tax rate to where it was in 1980 — 70 percent; let’s eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes enjoyed by the top earners; let’s stop corporations from hiding profits offshore; let’s do a better job of collecting taxes from tax cheats; and let’s provide a better safety net for young and old alike.

Bob Harkness
Medford, Ore.

To the Editor:

The authors fail to recognize an important role that many older Americans play in our society — that of volunteer. I retired a dozen years ago and have contributed hundreds of hours each year to nonprofit and professional organizations. My time and talents have not been wasted.

Volunteerism helps my neighbors, serves my community and nation, provides needed expertise to important projects and contributes to civil society in many ways.

Rather than working more as outlined in the guest essay, older Americans, if they are financially stable, should volunteer more.

Philip Roudebush
Biltmore Lake, N.C.

To the Editor:

This essay reflects the aging of American society as the most powerful, if underrecognized, trend of the 21st century. The longevity miracle bequeathed to us from 20th-century advances in medicine, sanitation and technology is joined by stunningly low birthrates.

We can no longer pretend to merrily glide along without huge economic, social and political consequences. So, three changes:

Employers should lead in getting rid of mandatory retirement and let people work as long as they want and can.

Start spending our health care dollars on prevention to keep older Americans healthier and therefore less of a burden on everyone else — adult vaccines, cardiovascular screening and second fracture prevention programs would change the game.

Reimagine Medicare and Social Security through the lens of 21st-century age demographics and based on a financial and economic analysis that will not leave our grandchildren bankrupt.

Michael W. Hodin
New York
The writer is C.E.O. of the Global Coalition on Aging.

To the Editor:

Do not generalize about older Americans partying on the backs of the younger. Many of us are fulfilling the demanding needs of our even older elders.

My husband died unexpectedly at age 57. I then was forced to “retire” at age 56 and move to Florida to become a caregiver to my aging parents. I haven’t worked in a paying job for 10 years now, and I expect to be an unpaid caregiver for many more years.

I am not out playing golf or pickleball, nor am I traveling the world. I am not one of the elite Americans who are spending their golden years living the dream, using Social Security payments for recreation. My life is unglamorous, my days spent ministering to the increasing needs of elderly parents.

Many “retirees” are like me: unable to work while caring full time for parents. We rely on our dwindling remaining savings and early I.R.A. distributions as well as Social Security and Medicare to make ends meet.

There is no joyride for us caregivers.

Christine Grabowski
Stuart, Fla.

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