Please, For the Love of God, Stop Talking About Raising the Retirement Age

I guess there’s no avoiding the fiscal cliff. I feel like I want to scream the next time I hear the phrase, but that cuts no ice with either the media or my editors, who want me to write a fiscal cliff piece of my very own. I’m going to put that off until my head feels a little less explode-y, but maybe everyone will get to hear my pearls of wisdom next week.

In the meantime, I gather that our newly reelected president is talking this morning about….the fiscal cliff. I don’t have the TV on, but Digby informs me via Twitter that this is the state of things:

This just drives me nuts. I’ve said repeatedly that I think liberals should try to cut a deal on Social Security. This hasn’t done my popularity any good, but I continue to think it’s a good idea. It could be done fairly easily with a combination of benefit cuts and revenue increases that are quite small and would be phased in over a couple of decades, and it would get the issue off the table so we can focus on other, more important things. It would also be a proof of concept that Congress can actually get something done.

But I continue to be gobsmacked by the insane preoccupation with increasing the retirement age. I get that it’s easy to understand, and that makes it an obvious target. But it’s probably about the worst possible way of cutting benefits. It’s regressive, it’s unfair, it’s blunt, and it’s stupid. That might not matter if it were the only solution, but it’s not. There are dozens of other ways of shaving benefits a bit, and virtually all of them are better and fairer than taking a meat axe to the retirement age.

(Which, by the way, was already raised to age 67 for younger cohorts way back in 1983. Does anyone in the media know this?)

If you don’t like the idea of any benefit cuts, no matter how small or how slowly phased in they are, then you just don’t want to cut a deal. That’s fine. I disagree, but that’s fine. Ditto for all of you who oppose any revenue increases, no matter how small or how slowly phased in they are.

But for the rest of us, who think there’s at least the chance of a productive conversation on these topics, can we all just shut up about the retirement age? Pick some other way of shaving benefits. It might take you an extra few seconds to explain, but who cares? Take the extra few seconds. It’ll make all of us a little bit smarter.

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