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HMPRG's Martha Holstein's New York Times Letter-to-the-Editor on Social Security

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
August 25, 2010

Is It Fair to Raise the Retirement Age?

To the Editor:

Re “Attacking Social Security,” by Paul Krugman (column, Aug. 16):

The importance of Social Security generally and the retirement age specifically is closely linked to race, class and gender.

Viewed from the perspective of privilege (most legislators and theco-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility andReform, consciously or otherwise, see the world through that lens), itis easy to say that we are living longer and can work longer. But thegeneralization breaks down once we start paying attention to the workhistories, health status and other limiting conditions that affect vastnumbers of older people — mostly women and people of color.

There are many ways of “fixing” Social Security that will not undulypenalize those who cannot work until 70 or beyond because there are nojobs, or because they are simply too tired or worn down. Unlike peopleof privilege, they cannot retire without full benefits.

No policy should be considered just that further harms the already disadvantaged.

Martha Holstein
Chicago, Aug. 16, 2010

The writer is co-director of the Center for Long-Term Care Reform.