How surprising. It is Monday, and on the editorial pages of the Washington Post, constant critic of Social Security, Robert J. Samuelson is yet again calling for "some benefit cuts or tax increases, though unpopular...Gradual increases in eligibility ages, starting now, would similarly represent a common-sense adjustment to a graying society." This is the sort of thing Dean Baker usually roasts him over, but Beat the Press seems inaccessible today, so I guess I shall have to do the beating.
While this is just par for the course for RJS, today's twist involves emphasizing how there ought to be generational warfare going on, but for strange reasons it does not seem to be happening. He quotes the ridiculous column by WaPo's new economics columnist/blogger, Jim Tankersley, whom several of us bashed pretty hard, but with RJS apparently unaware that his column has pretty much been torn to shreds by everybody who has commented on it and does not write for WaPo. (My critique of it can be found here.)
Another new twist is that while Samuelson has long claimed to be a boomer while bashing the boomers and calling for benefit cuts for them, he finally outs himself as having been born in 1945, the last year of the Silent Generation, just before the front end of the boomers. This is actually kind of funny because in that special Outlook section of WaPo where Tankersley's silly piece appeared there was a discussion about how many Silents identify themselves as boomers. Weird.
So part of the claim by Silent Samuelson and Gen-Xer Tankersley is that the boomers were "born into some of the strongest job growth in the history of the US." Unfortunately for them, that is not as true as claimed. The strongest job growth period was the Golden Age of 1945-1973, which only the front end of the boomers managed to get into a little bit of. Since then job growth has been less dramatic, and median real wages have barely moved. The people who really got the benefits of that Golden Age were the later stage Greatest Generation and most dramatically the Silent Generation, Samuelson's generation. So when he brags in this column today about how he "saved adequately for retirement," well, whoop-de-doo! He is a Silent, the real ripoff generation. But he does not call for them to pay anything. It is those spoiled rotten boomers who must pay, without him saying a word about how the Greenspan Commisson of 1983 already imposed the retirement age increases he calls for as well as a pretty hefty tax increase so that the boomers would "pay for their retirement."
What is really weird is that while he seems to think that introducing more gradual increases in eligible retirement age will somehow make the current or even boomer elderly pay more, it is those future generations who will get hardest by such increases, the hapless Gen Xers as well as the millennials. Maybe the millennials have figured this out, although with half of them reportedly thinking that they will get nothing from Social Security, I remain highly doubtful about their level of economic knowledge. They have been bamboozled by the relentless propaganda emanating from the likes of Silent Samuelson.
I will give RJS credit for an insight he makes in the later part of his column. While accurately noting that indeed many millennials are currently hurting with the recent bad economy and student debts and so on, he notes that they also seem to be optimistic about their future prospects. He finally puts it together that one reason they might be so is indeed this awful wave of retirements of boomers that he mostly rants about as awful: those retirements will open up a lot of opportunities for not only more jobs but also promotions for the millennials. Not all is lost for the millennials, and Silent Samuelson sort of admits it, even if he wants to hit them with all these retirement age increases, which maybe they are not looking forward to having implemented.