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.