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Forum Post: Who is willing to pay for continuation of the current system?

Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 12, 2012, 2:06 p.m. EST by ThunderclapNewman (1083) from Nanty Glo, PA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Conservative columnist Jack Kelly's op-ed piece linked below claims that liberal angst concerning a "...population bomb is a bust and that liberals still don't get it." The article claims that UN forecasts for population growth show an increase until about 2050 and then birthrates will fall by about 20% by the end of the century.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12043/1209426-373.stm

For the sake of this discussion, let's assume Mr. Kelly's citings of the UN report are correct and that the UN itself is correct. According to Kelly, there "...won't be enough people working to pay for the pensions and healthcare for the elderly."

Who then will maintain the current economic structure? Who will maintain the capitalist markets? Who will maintain the American System that has spawned all of the wealth the few possess? Will those who own that wealth pay for the maintenance of a system of sellers and buyers that have given them the opportunity to earn so much? With a few notable exceptions, the answer seems to be a resounding "NO!"

19 Comments

19 Comments


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[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

Don't worry about running out of people. Medical improvements over the next 50 - 100 years will allow a child born today to reach 180. Not only that but her life will be healthier, she will be smarter, work longer, and be hundreds of times more productive than her counterpart today.

Simple look at the rate of technological development over the last 100 years and project that curve on the next 100. If anything the estimate above is conservative.

Also, men should watch their backs. It won't be very long before they are unnecessary for reproduction.

[-] 1 points by ThunderclapNewman (1083) from Nanty Glo, PA 2 years ago

I heard and read such life expectacy projections as you write of here. So then comes the question of the psychological component involved in living such a long time. How much are we able to absorb or "withstand", if you will, with regard to what one carries in one's memory and how one's memories affect one's outlook?

I know some in thier 80s who have become quite weary of the world. Keeping a healthy attitude and a positive outlook on life can be quite challenging, it seems. Hey, more customers for the pharmas, right? Anti-depressants are seemingly ubiquitous now.

What will the future hold when life expectancies reach their forecasts?

Re: The "necessity of men" regarding reproduction, I smiled when reading that. I think there will always be many who will want the human element involved with recreational and procreative sex.

[-] 1 points by 1sealyon (434) 2 years ago

You’re right. I expect that women may keep a few of us around for our entertainment value.

In the time of Jesus Christ the life expectancy was 25 years. By 1800 that number had almost doubled. Now it is 76 years. Over that short period our bodies and brains did not evolve to be well equipped to endure at 76 let alone 180. What we have been able to do is develop technical improvements to help us cope. This will continue but up to now we have not been able to get past wear-out. Even if all diseases were cured life expectancy would only increase by a few years. Now we are beginning to make the genetic modifications that will replicate the evolution that our bodies need to catch up to the technical innovations. These changes will keep us productive through are working years. There will also be technical improvements that will multiply our productivity. 100 years ago it took 50 men all day to dig a trench 4 feet deep and 300 feet long. Today one man with a backhoe can do that in an hour. This productivity improvement is tiny compared to what we will see in the next 100 years.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Short answer to the retirement question is to slowly increase the retirement age. People are living longer so they will have to work longer if they are going to collect from an employer or state run retirement system. Another option would be for the individual to build an individual plan and retire when he chooses.

[-] 1 points by ThunderclapNewman (1083) from Nanty Glo, PA 2 years ago

If we live in an age of population growth, as the UN report suggests and mechanical labor (robots) increases along with cheap human labor what turmoil may result from the lack of jobs caused by this cheap labor? Are we now seeing a potent of what would be an ever-worsening economic situation that would last until the middle of the century?

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Who knows, I can only live in the present, plan for a reasonable future and try not to act too foolishly in the process.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

The problem with raising the retirement age is, poorer people live shorter than wealthy ones on average. It would hurt the poor disproportionately. They are also the least able to build individual retirement plans, since most of their money goes into surviving on a day to day basis.

I don't see easy, simple solutions for this problem, if the problem really exists at all.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

The poor live longer now they they did when social security was put into effect. In 1935 the average life expectancy was about 62, the poor died, on average three years before they could collect. Now the average is around 78 or 79. You could means test if we're talking about just social security. Everyone wants the rich to pay more into the system, would you like to add legislation that they have to die sooner too?

What is the alternative if nothing is done? Wait and then cut retirement amounts, forcing people to get part time jobs or to work longer anyhow. You could wait until the retired got used to a pension then default on it's payment throwing things into chaos. Tax the smaller number of workers in the future greater amounts.

I agree there are no simple solutions. Government doesn't ever seem to solve problems, just cover them over for the moment. People always have the right to plan for their own retirement and stop working when they want.

There shouldn't be a problem telling people say 45 and under, in order to save the system, you can't collect until 67, that adds just one year to collecting on social security. Tell people under 25 you can't collect until 68, Those born in 2012, you may collect at age 70. Private plans may need to do something similar to remain viable. I'm picking ages out of thin air just for an example, before any plan was implemented someone would have to closely look at the numbers.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

I absolutely like the idea of means testing.

But you're wrong in terms of the current relative mortality rates between the poor and the wealthy. The wealthy really do live longer on average. As such, raising the retirement age is discriminatory, based on economic class. (Which just happens to coincide with race, as well.)

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

I wasn't comparing the poor to the rich, I left the rich out of the statement completely. I said the poor, on average died before they could collect social security back in 1935. Now they collect for well over a decade and their numbers are breaking the system. The rich have always lived longer, look at the age the founders of the government reached, at a time when the average life ended at 35.

Something has to be done to properly fund pension systems. Collect more, pay out less, or pay out later. If you think there are enough rich people to pay in then raise the payroll tax, and cut off any payments to them (discriminate against success?). If that isn't enough you have to consider more unpleasant alternatives.

This goes beyond Social Security, union pensions are also in danger of breaking the system. The longer we live the more likely we'll take out more then we put in. We're healthy for a longer period of our life and may have to work longer before we collect. We can always do what Greece has done, ignore the problem until you're forced to make draconian cuts.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

You are mostly right (though I would strongly disagree about the unions, and Greece is far more complex a problem than what you make out in your statement.)

I think s means testing and lifting the cap on payroll taxes would take care of most of the problems. There is no need to raise the retirement age, and doing so is effectively discriminatory, even if that's not the intention.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

I haven't crunched the numbers, I'd be open to whatever worked. It seems unfair to totally exclude someone who pays in his entire life just because he's successful, some combination of things that spreads the suffering around but doesn't fall on one group.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

I have no problem with a graduated tax. (And paying in - at all levels of income - but being subject to means testing for benefits falls under that category.) If someone is fortunate enough to become wealthy, he is fortunate enough to pay a bit more or receive fewer benefits he scarcely needs. His "suffering" would be far less than the one who has worked just as hard, but is poor, so is less likely to see a comfortable retirement, or one at all if he has to wait too long. Keep in mind that the poorer classes do most of the manual labor, and they may not be able to keep going beyond a certain point.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/07/more_on_raising_the_retirement.html

http://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_raisingretirement_raisingretirement/

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

I agree completely with the paying more, but not with excluding anyone from collecting benefits. As far as the issue of dying is concerned, the reasons are a mix of healthcare and lifestyle. We can't allow the system to crash because part of the fix looks unfair.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

It wouldn't just look unfair, it would be unfair. Means-testing payouts after a lifetime of paying in is also unfair. The question is which unfairness hurts people more?

As to your assertion that it is healthcare and lifestyle that determine the difference in mortality, it is only partly correct. Poverty dictates certain choices. It blocks access as well. But finally, it is BY ITSELF a cause of earlier death. Socio/economic status has been found the chief correlate for low birth weight and infant mortality, even when nutrition and access to quality prenatal medical care was identical. And that turned out to be true regardless of absolute income, whether higher or lower. It was simply the place on the economic distribution curve alone. Social scientists don't understand why this happens, but they have known about the phenomena for a quarter of a century at least. There is no reason to assume that if infant mortality is effected, old age isn't, too.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

You may not even be looking at cause and effect then. It's all beside the point though. An effort should be made to make sure any pension fund is properly funded so that all that pay in may benefit from the system. Poverty isn't going to be wiped out in the foreseeable future.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Agreed, in principle anyway. The devil is in the details, though. how can SS be properly funded so those who need it most receive the full benefit?

[-] 1 points by ThunderclapNewman (1083) from Nanty Glo, PA 2 years ago

Advances in medicine that will allow for longer life expectancies, but what will the quality of life then be in our advanced working years?

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ActiveAging/humans-live-longer-2050-scientists-predict/story?id=9330511

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Since expensive, quality medical care is best afforded by people with more money, life expectancy will still be shorter for the poor.