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Greedy Old Geezers? Not

There are thousands of newspapers online and it is one of Crabby Old Lady’s pleasures to skip around among them, especially the editorial and op-ed pages, to see how the national debate is being set.

A few newspapers are more equal than others and therefore more important to read to be an adequately informed citizen. The New York Times is one of that handful because leaders and policymakers worldwide read and are influenced in their decisions by those pages.

It is therefore incumbent on those newspapers to be more fully accurate and to tell the whole story. Today, The New York Times fails egregiously – as they regularly do on the topic of Social Security.

John Tierney, who recently joined the paper’s roster of op-ed columnists, lobbies in his column for raising the retirement age as a way of tweaking Social Security. Crabby thinks this is a good idea, but in making his point, Mr. Tierney accuses old people of being lazy in not working longer than they do.

“Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working…”
- The New York Times, 14 June 2005

No, they cannot, Mr. Tierney.

They took early Social Security out of the necessity to eat regularly because once laid off, no one would hire them. For Mr. Tierney (and other reporters on this topic) to assume laziness in elders is lazy reporting. Let Crabby explain.

Anyone who collects Social Security at whatever age is counted as retired and are then no longer counted in the monthly unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which thereby show older people as more fully employed that some other demographics. That is one way statistics lie – when raw numbers are given unwarranted explanations on whim and bigotry to support a partisan political agenda.

Every survey about retirement in the past three or four years reports that older people in large numbers intend to keep working beyond age 65 and even 70. Where, then, is the survey of early Social Security beneficiaries that asks why they took the benefit at 62?

As Crabby often says, no one is getting rich on Social Security and to opt for early benefits, often in desperation, cuts the amount of the payment dramatically and for life. Yet Mr. Tierney says:

“If the elderly were willing to work longer, there would be lower taxes on everyone and fewer struggling young families.”

What about the struggling old people, Mr. Tierney, who have spent a lifetime paying for their elders’ Social Security without complaint and whom you are now vilifying as greedy old geezers?

If the retirement surveys mean anything, old people are willing to work longer; they are just not allowed to. Until there is a survey asking why the majority take early Social Security, to report that old people are lazy is irresponsible journalism at its worst on the part of Mr. Tierney and The New York Times.


As I go about my daily routine, it has been fun to periodically check the letters in the Times forum regarding Tierney's column: so far(3:30pm CT), there are over 130 letters, and I'd say well over 90 percent of these are negative.

I had not read Tierney before, so thanks for calling him to my attention. He sounds dumb enough to be dangerous, and will bear watching.

Lazy, huh? I'd like that guy to follow me around for a few weeks and then dare to say I'm lazy! Luckily, I own my business, so the only way I will be affected by ageism is by my consumers. I am working more than I care to, but I don't dare slow down!

When my last place of employment was clearly in trouble, the older workers were scrambling, trying to figure out how to make it to the "finish line" - Social Security and even more to the point, Medicare. Anyone who was 65 was considered lucky. It wasn't that they wanted to retire particularly. It was that they were very concerned that there would be no jobs for them anywhere.

I know some people who have retired early voluntarily. Not many. And those have not been dependent on SS benefits. They either had money or very good pensions or both. I know many more who've put off retirement as long as possible and even more than that who work, out of necessity, after retirement.

And there are a lot of people who really can't work longer. My husband will never make it to 65 in the workforce. Or if he does, it'll be a miracle. He's already got more things wrong with him than some people who are on disability and they're chronic and could get worse. No way does he have 10 more years of 9-5 in him.

Mr. Tierny is talking out of the wrong orifice.

I saw a tv program which went along the same vein as the article you talk about. It was talking about 'selfish' baby boomer retirees in Europe (Italy I think) retiring at about 55-60 years old when they could keep on working. Of course they were all draining the government's coffers because of their selfishness. Never, of course, was it mentioned that they might not have been able to find work.


Thanks for posting remarks about John Tierney's column I had just finished reading comments on it on another blog " (check it out). The consensus of the comments on TPM CAFE were
"what has Tierney been smoking" or where did the Times find him and why.

This is about the third crappy article or editorial on aging The Times has printed recently. I cannot figure out where they are coming from. Perhaps the editors have been watching too much Faux news.

I especially liked this comment from TPM

"I would define greed and sloth as the richest 5 percent who are getting tax breaks during a war fought by those who are paying more for less in Bush's economy. Everyone is sacrificing blood, security and treasure for their prosperity."

I say AMEN


Heh. One of the whole points of originally implementing social security was to encourage older wrokers to leave the workforce so younger workers would have jobs. I guess society tends to forget why it does these things, eh?

My son's father is one of those who was recently forced to take reduced benefits at the age of 62. After being laid off from his state job, he'd taken a variety of temp jobs. Then even those dried up. He was out of work for 7 months, racking up debt and borrowing from friends and family (including me his ex-wife), threatened with eviction from his 1-bedroom apartment, when he finally received his first check. No one will hire him, a 62 year-old, able-bodied, college-educated man who WANTS to work. He's still living on the edge.

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