Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The French and the barbarians

The world news (that is, the world outside the American media circus) is agog over the proposal to raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62—over the next eight years.

Let's pause and contrast this with the United States. Here, the official retirement age (that is, the age at which once can claim full retirement benefits) has risen to 66 for those people not already above 65. This happened some years ago, and the change seems to have got past nearly everyone under age 55. Most of them still think it's 65.

The next step was supposed to be raising the retirement age to 67 and performing the minor tweaks that would fix the Social Security deficit that would otherwise become a concern around, oh, my 95th birthday, if I'm unlucky enough to have one. The Republicans and the teabags, having fallen intro the trap of believing their own rhetoric, are instead saying, "oh hell, why don't we just shut down Social Security now, totally, and Medicare while we're at it. And screw the unemployed into the bargain." It's troubling to observe that our supposedly socialist administration seems to think all this is a good idea.

Oh, and if you're of a mind to grunt and say "fine, let them work," remember that they (we) can't. That is, many of us can't. Because while all of this is going down, the de facto retirement age* in the US has slipped under 50. So, as of this writing, when you lose your job at 45 or 50 you won't get either the unemployment benefits or Social Security that you worked for, or Medicare, or another job. Best bet is to hang onto whatever cardboard, blankets and and camping gear you may have, and steal a shopping cart to tote it in. If you then learn the fine art of dumpster diving and travel in packs, you may be able to last a few months after you blow through whatever money you had left after Wall Street pissed away the rest.

Although France may raise the retirement age by two years over the next eight, they still plan to see that their older citizens have some means of support. This is considerably more compassionate than the emerging American "plan," which seems to be no plan at all.

Mary Renault wrote that in Doric Greece, residents who, through bad planning or bad luck, lived to the age of 60 were expected to go up in the hills and do away with themselves. We used to consider this barbarism. Now we call it deficit reduction.

*The de facto retirement age comes when employers have at least ten excuses for not hiring you for every year of experience you can offer.

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