Getting the facts straight on Social Security

Abby Huntsman, daughter of failed Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. has like many children of well-known politicians, parlayed her family connections and fame into a career as some sort of media personality. And as is the case with media personalities, they feel free to make assertions on policy matters with little attention to facts.

Huntsman recently used her enhanced visibility to issue an ill-informed rant to her age cohort about the state of Social Security, saying that it will not be there for the Millennial generation like hers because the number of retirees is rapidly growing because life expectancy has increased by nearly two decades since the program began. She advocates raising the retirement age to maybe 75.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) took her to task for the shallow nature of her arguments, pointing out that:

  1. While life expectancy has increased by 15 years from 1940 to 2012, most of that has been due to lowered child mortality that has no impact on Social Security.
  2. The relevant number is the increase in life expectancy at age 65, and this is just 6.5 years.
  3. The people that set up the system back at the beginning were well aware of the demographic changes and built those into their actuarial tables. As a result, the payroll tax has increased from 2.0% to 12.4% and the retirement age has already been increased from 65 to 67 to help take care of this problem.

Michael Hiltzik further pointed out that even this 6.5 year increase is not the same for all economic classes, with most of the gains going to the better off and life expectancy for the working classes remaining largely flat.

So the result of raising the retirement age to 75 will be that most poor people will die before they reach retirement while the well off can look forward to living off the contributions of their poorer peers.

So Huntsman’s views are nicely aligned with the worst reactionaries.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    2nd-generation Democratic politicos (e.g., Kennedys) usually turn out to be mediocre.

    2nd-generation Republican politicos (e.g., Bushes, Paul) usually turn out to be gawdawful.

    Hereditary, or cultural?.

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