(1) Seniors: Hat-tip to regular blog reader TM for alerting us to an op-ed by WashPo economics blah-blah-er Robert Samuelson (no relation to Nobel prize winning economist Paul Samuelson), who seems to have it in for Social Security. Samuelson tells us that The Elderly Are Better Off Than Advertised. See, I knew that someone besides union public servants like teachers and social workers was responsible for budget deficits! It turns out it’s the greedy, wealthy elderly.
As part of his argument for means-testing Social Security and Medicare, Samuelson claims that “many Americans still accept the outdated and propagandistic notion that old age automatically impoverishes people.” As evidence that the elderly are well off, he points to a study that concludes overall that “Most older people are enjoying greater prosperity than any previous generation.” But the reason that most older people are better off is because of Social Security and Medicare! Consider this statistic from the study: “The proportion of elderly living in the ‘high income’ group–defined as four times the poverty line, or almost $52,000 for a couple in 2009–rose from 18.4 percent in 1980 to 30.6 percent in 2007.” I wonder what Samuelson makes that he thinks it’s a great achievement that just over 30% of the elderly live on $52K for a couple. Put it another way: almost 70% of the elderly live on less than $52K for a couple (and I’m guessing a lot of them live on considerably less than that).
Of course the reason that defenders of Social Security and Medicare want to keep it from being means-tested is to keep it universalistic, and keep it from being the kind of welfare-style program that leads “taxpayers” to resent paying for other people’s benefits. But maybe that’s exactly why people like Samuelson want means-testing–to prepare for the further erosion of these programs.
(2) Students: Catherine Rampell is becoming one of our favorite Times reporters. Today’s paper has a nice piece by her, Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling, about the bad situation for recent college graduates (nice of the Times to cover this right as they are celebrating their graduation). The data are disturbing; on top of 22.4% of members of the class of 2009 who are unemployed, 22% are working in jobs that do not require a college degree. And members of that latter group are displacing workers without college degrees who would otherwise be able to hold those positions. Add to this the huge burden of student-loan debt, and the fact that crappy jobs and low pay at the beginning reverberate throughout one’s career, and it’s a rough situation. This provides a nice follow-up to an article that D&S intern Katherine Faherty wrote for our Jan/Feb 2010 issue, “A Dismal Time to Graduate: What the recession means to the class of 2009, including me.” (Sorry, the article is not online–drop us a line and we’ll send you a pdf.) I’m happy to report that last I heard Katherine was among the 55.6% of the class of 2009 who are employed at jobs requiring a college degree.
(3) Who “Creates Jobs”: One of the right-wing arguments that irks me most is the notion that we shouldn’t overburden the rich with taxes (or otherwise dislike the rich or blame them for social ills) because the rich “create jobs.” Dave Johnson has a nice response to this at the Campaign for America’s Future: Actually, the Rich Don’t Create Jobs, We Do. Hat-tip to blog reader and D&S subscriber Barry B.