There is a growing consensus among much of the conservative political elite that there should be major regressive changes to Social Security, like cutting back on benefits and/or raising the retirement age. Endorsing this approach, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) will soon release legislation that would involve gradually raising the retirement age to 69, based on the recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission.
Rep. Bill Huzeinga (R-MI) championed these regressive cuts to Social Security during an appearance on Fox News last week. During a discussion about the federal budget deficit, Huzeinga said that we “certainly” should be having a “conversation” about raising the retirement age for Social Security. He explained that at a recent town hall meeting, a constituent complained about these cuts, and that Huzeinga responded by telling him, “Look, I’m 42. I’ll be 106 when these recommendations, if we adopted them right now, would actually come into place. I’m gonna be okay”:
HUIZENGA: So, we saw Erskine Bowles and we saw Alan Simpson with, the debt commission come out with some discussion points about raising the retirement age and looking at means testing, some other things. And whether we go that direction or not specfically on means testing, certainly that conversation about raising the retirement age is something we can have. I had somebody at a town hall meeting sorta go after me about that. And I stopped the guy and I said, look, I’m 42. I’ll be 106 when these recommendations, if we adopted them right now, would actually come into place. I’m gonna be okay. We’re going to have to reset the paradigm for people here in America as to what the purpose of social security really is.
As a member of Congress, Huizenga of course is not tasked with just looking out for his own well-being and the well-being of current retirees — he is also responsible for how his legislating effects future generations of Americans. This is something he himself admitted in a statement he released in response to President Obama’s budget last week, saying that it is important to ensure that we “can provide for future generations as well as our own.”
As the Center for Economic Policy and Research shows, raising the retirement age would unfairly hurt the “nearly half of workers over the age of 58 work at jobs that are either physically demanding or involve difficult work conditions” who, if current trends continue, will not be the recipients of any future gains in life expectancy; additionally, even most self-identified tea partiers would rather raise taxes than raise the retirement age.