Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Screw the Help (Again)

Do people still know what it's like to spend a long day at work, every muscle aching from the job you're doing, and then to go home and collapse in a heap to try and rest up so you can make it through tomorrow, without the energy left to do much of anything else? Well you can be sure some people do.

But they aren't likely to be the ones sitting in the capitol pulling the strings on Social Security. I am sick to death of people without a clue as to what it's like working hard, underpaid physical labor, who sit around making pronouncements about what should be done with our money. When is the last time someone who worked with their hands went from the worksite to the House or Senate? When is the last time they sat on a thinktank or journalists' roundtable of "experts" to hold forth on what should be done with the little peoples' retirement future?

There's been a lot of discussion about the future of S.S., but much of it betrays a blindness (or callousness) as to what many of the suggestions, if implemented, would mean in the real world. Many of those who would gut and destroy the system have no worries for their own futures, and the existence of that check each month is not going to make much difference to them either way.
One of the worst suggestions being seriously considered by Republicans and open to compromise by the Democrats is the possibility of raising the retirement age to bring it in line with (let's face it, because they're the highest) white female longevity averages. But who really looks at what impact this could have?
Over at Brad DeLong's site, he quotes Irwin Stelzer of the Weekly Standard as having "some smart things to say about Social Security". "Smart" meaning, in part, that:

"Surely, extending the retirement age to reflect current longevity expectations should also be on the table."
Surely, no reasonable person with a 6 figure income, a portfolio to die for, and plenty of investments squirreled away offshore, anyway.

This was my response in DeLong's comments section:
"As long as the subject of raising the retirement age keeps coming up, let's talk about what that would mean for people whose work consists of hard physical labor, often with physical side effects that can be debilitating over a long period of time.
I never hear anyone discussing this, probably because the people debating it and most likely to write or influence the law on it themselves work mostly in offices where the hardest labor they encounter may be hauling a couple reams of paper, and the worst disabling injury may be carpal tunnel syndrome.
Getting to the average retirement age in one piece and still working can be a challenge to people who work in meat-packing plants, construction, domestic service, and similar work.
Many of these people are praying every day that their bodies will hold out. To move the retirement age even farther away from them is not only cruel, it is symptomatic of how alienated the governing and academic classes are from the people who create and support the infrastructures of their cushioned lives."
The question is now: Who will stand up for these people? Who is left to be their voice in the media, the government, and on the street now that the Democrats have abandoned human rights and justice for the sexy language of "moral values", and the Republican party has safely made the final transition to a completely plutocratic vehicle for the rich and powerful?


eRobin said...

The unions used to do that. But now the power elite has convinced workers that unions are bad for them and that they should simply trust employers to do the right thing. And Labor let that happen.

Riggsveda said...

As a union member myself, I wholeheartedly agree. But we need to look at this as an opportunity, not a death knell. It's when people have their backs to the wall that they fight the hardest.

Anonymous said...

Just be careful that your Union leaders don't sell out like those in britain, have sold out to Tony.