New Jersey governor
Tony Soprano Chris Christie appeared on This Week With George Stephanapoulis on June 14, and in less than a minute destroyed any chance he may have had of getting to the White House, except maybe as part of a tour group.
In an incredibly tone deaf comment, Christie says that raising the retirement age by two years will not “stop the world from spinning on its axis.” Spoken like a person who has never held a job in his life where he had to do physical labor. That was only one of the ridiculous things the governor said. He spent over a minute reciting one false comment about Social Security after another.
Christie really has no clue of what he’s talking about. So I’m going to help him a bit. Put down that sandwich, Chris, and pay attention.
1. Social Security is NOT an “entitlement.”
Social Security is not an “entitlement,” which is the word Republicans like to use when they want to talk about a benefit that they believe people shouldn’t be getting. It’s paid for by a payroll tax that is taken out from the first dollar that you earn, up to a maximum of $118,500. Which means that working stiffs pay that 6.2 percent tax on their entire income. The well off, governors and such, don’t pay once their income goes beyond that amount, making their effective tax rate lower than that of the middle class. We won’t even get into how investment income, which the rich often live on, isn’t subject to Social Security tax at all.
2. Social Security is not going bankrupt.
Christie frames the choice as being between “insolvency” for Social Security, or a “massive tax increase on the American people.” First of all, because Social Security is funded by a payroll tax on both workers and employers, that comes out of a person’s pay before he/she ever touches it, the system can’t go bankrupt, unless everyone in the country stops working. And that massive tax increase Christie hints at? By simply removing that earnings cap on the FICA tax, any potential upcoming funding problems with Social Security are solved.
3. People are not living a lot longer than they used to.
People on all sides of the Social Security debate like to claim that Americans live a lot longer now than they did 100 years ago. But the evidence they use to prove that point is the increase in “life expectancy at birth.” Thanks to a greatly reduced infant and childhood mortality rate, life expectancy at birth is much higher now than it used to be. But that means absolutely nothing for Social Security.
What matters for Social Security is how long you can expect to live once you reach retirement age. That has hardly budged since the early 1900’s. According to the Center For Disease Control, a male who reached 65 in 1980, could expect to live another 14.1 years. A male who turned 65 in 2010 could expect to live another 17.7 years. In that 30 year span, life expectancy at 65 increased by 3.6 years.
Why use 1980 as a benchmark? That is just before Congress changed the law, gradually increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67. Add another two years to that, as Christie is proposing, and even with another slight increase in life expectancy, the average person could plan on collecting Social Security for only around 12 years. A 2010 congressional report says that when worker contributions, employer contributions, and interest are all considered, a worker retiring in 2020 will take over 20 years to get back everything that has been put into the system on his/her behalf.
Chris Christie may not think that messing with the retirement age is a big deal, but most Americans would disagree with him. A study by the National Academy of Social Insurance found that when it comes to making changes in Social Security, raising the retirement age is not a popular idea.
That sound that you hear may just be all of the air coming out of Chris Christie’s presidential trial balloon.
Here’s what Christie told Stephanopoulos about Social Security, via Crooks and Liars:
Featured image via Luigi Novi/Wikimedia Commons