The PJ Tatler

Matthew Yglesias on Raising Social Security Retirement Age: "Quite Horrifying"

Think Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias in an interview talking about the five books he views as most important for understanding the progressive faith:

OK. So we’re having this very intense debate about the budget right now. There’s a lot of talk about taxes and a lot of talk about spending programmes, the consensus now being that the retirement age for social security will have to be raised. If you really drill down and look at it, what does it mean to raise the retirement age for social security? You see that for some people, it’s actually a relatively modest change. We are living long lives nowadays, thanks to advanced medicine. We have comfortable jobs, we’re bloggers or lawyers or whatnot. But for other people – a substantial minority of the population – who have low income, much lower life expectancy, who are doing more physical labour and have much worse career prospects, it’s a giant change. For some of the worst-off people it’s a very real blow to their living standards. So if your starting point is “I’m seriously considering the interests of everybody equally”, then this idea – which now passes as common sense in Washington – suddenly starts to look quite horrifying. There is a consensus around this small change, but it’s a change that has a drasticallydifferential impact on people, with the most negative impact on the most vulnerable.


In other words: Yglesias isn’t actually interested in treating everyone qually, he’s interested in trying to make everyone equally broken. To do otherwise is “quite horrifying.” I’m not an Obectivist but Ayn Rand’s description of the doctor who cripples 10 men so the one man with a broken leg can be “equal” to everyone else comes to mind.

The thing to bring to mind here is the “quite horrifying” Freudian slip. The thought that a tiny minority of people will have to wait a few additional years to collect Social Security benefits is “quite horrifying.”

I stopped finding the plights of America’s prosperous poor to be “quite horrifying” after I spent three years living in sub-par apartments and working alongside them after graduating from college. It’s hard to use the word “horrifying” about the life of anyone who can afford a cell phone, internet access, and cable TV. Not when children are indoctrinated to want to exterminate the Jews, and videos of gay Muslims being burned alive in Iraq are easily available. (Do the search, I’m not linking to it.)

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