Comparing Paychecks

As far as I can tell, the goal of the AARP--- the American Association of Retired People--- is to enslave all those of working age. Once enslaved, workers will support retirees in the style to which the AARP feels they are entitled.

This would be good for the AARP because its real business is selling products to older people by direct mail, and the more income older people have, the better it is for the AARP.

Too bad about everyone else.

If you think this sounds harsh, you’re right. But if you think I’m just a callow 20-something with no regard for my elders, you’re wrong.

I am an elder.

My wife and I collect Social Security. We’re also on Medicare. As I pointed out earlier this year, it takes a lot of young workers at McDonald’s--- most of whom have no health insurance--- to support those of us who have taxpayer-subsidized health insurance from Uncle Sam. And, trust me, the young people fortunate enough to have health insurance aren’t getting it for $96.40 a month in spite of their dramatically lower need for health care.

What we need here is some sharing of the burden, because we’re all in the same sinking boat. It’s called the USS Federal Budget. It’s a big boat, and all of us are going to have to take an oar and pull.

Instead, retirees send emails. They bemoan the anticipation of no increase in Social Security benefits in January 2010. Worse, they anticipate no increase in benefits in 2011 or 2012. If there is no increase, it will be the first time since benefits were indexed to inflation in 1975.

So here’s a rude question. Do you know anyone who has gotten a wage increase every year for 34 consecutive years?

Wouldn’t it be loverly if everyone had more money to spend? Of course. But if you compare the rise in income of the average retiree with the rise in income experienced by the average worker, the two have had virtually identical experiences since the start of the century (see table below).

Workers and Retirees, Neck and Neck

This table compares the annual increase in retiree benefits with the annual increase in wages for the average worker.

Year Social Security Benefit Increase Average Worker Wage Increase
2008 5.8 percent 3.0 percent
2007 2.3 3.9
2006 3.3 4.3
2005 4.1 2.9
2004 2.7 2.1
2003 2.1 2.2
2002 1.4 2.6
2001 2.6 2.7
2000 3.5 3.9
Total 27.8 27.6

This rough parity doesn’t reflect some tough realities. No retiree need fear losing his benefits. But most workers have experienced job loss fear since 2000. Worse, many have suffered wage cuts, or worse. Nearly 8 million jobs have been lost since late 2007.

Retirees regularly complain about the rapid rise of Medicare part B insurance premiums. Premiums have more than doubled since 2000. They eat away at the Social Security benefit dollars retirees have left for food, shelter, utilities and other essentials.

That, however, is exactly what workers have experienced. The amount they pay for their health insurance has also more than doubled since 2000. Do you know what that does? It eats away at the dollars they have left to spend for food, shelter, utilities and other essentials.

As I said, we’re all in the same sinking boat.

Rather than consider the possibility of shared sacrifice, AARP wants to lead a chorus of entitled whiners. Members are getting email messages from Barry Jackson, their online advocacy manager. The messages urge them to get Congress to provide $250 in “emergency relief” for seniors because they won’t be getting a cost-of-living increase.

In fact, there is no reason for another handout that would indenture our children and grandchildren still more. The cost of living, as measured by the CPI, is down slightly.

Here are the numbers. In the third quarter of last year the CPI averaged 215.5. This year it will probably average 211. We’ll know the exact number by the time you read this, but the cost of living is down slightly. For the first time since 1975 there is no reason to give a cost-of-living increase.

But the AARP wants higher benefits anyway.

What do they care? Young people and workers aren’t their customers.

On the web:

Sunday, February 20, 2009: A Meditation on McDonald’s

Sunday, August 3, 2008: Want a Good Raise? Retire.

Social Security CPI data

AARP to seek emergency relief for retirees

AARP Bulletin: Senator to seek Social Security increase