Social Security: Analysis and Suggestions

In 1935, why was the mortality age of men fifty-nine (+/-) years?

At that time roughly 4 in 10 people worked on farms, family farms. Workdays were long and seven days a week year round, especially if animals were involved. Farmer families usually had many children to do some of the work as soon as they learned to walk. As the kids grew they did more and more until they finally provided for their parent's retirement. Not too much different than in ancient times. Sure, in 1935 some mechanization was beginning, but the Great Depression limited the distribution and purchase of labor saving inventions. At that time, farming in the US and around the world was still pretty primitive and hard on the body. Today, farming is highly mechanized and less than .02% of the US population feeds our nation and some of the rest of the world.

Like farming, there were many other physically taxing jobs. Factory workers, miners, longshoremen, meat production, carters, and on and on. Iron ore, copper, coal, steel, automobiles, tires, home appliances as they were then, nuts, bolts, furniture, et et. Work places were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Work environments were dangerous, safety standards at the discretion of the employer. Transportation workers had a hard life too. Railroads were king, automobiles were growing and aviation was in its infancy. Medical and dietary science were progressing but in their infancy. Many diseases, even from ancient times, were still inflicting pain, anguish and death. Diseases of older age known today were unknown then.

The service industry meant lawyers, accountants, babysitters, maybe street sweepers, federal, state and municipal bureaucrats and the like.

1935 was at the height of the Great Depression and the country was depressed, misery was rampant. With the hard labor, the long hours, the poor nutrition, the state of medical knowledge and services available, it was a wonder that people lived to 59/60. In 1900, average mortality had been only 35/40. [These averages take into account higher mortality at birth and among younger children from various sickness too].

Today with all the advancement on each of these fronts, average longevity is in the 80s and headed to the 90s. The largest growing demographic are the centurions and over--for all the reasons that you readers know.

So...What to do to rationalize the Social Security Retirement System?

To begin, let's separate "retirement" and "spousal" support from every other benefit. Segregate those funds into its own Trust. Move aid to dependent children, disability benefits, widow benefits, funeral costs (a joke at $255 ☹!) all to welfare, to be paid by the federal operating budget.

1. The 'Retirement payroll tax contributions should only be used for the retirement benefit.
2. Many, most of the hard labor jobs have been ameliorated. Farming is mostly industrialized and mechanized. Factory workers have electric lifts, conveyors, robotic arms, and other tools to make their jobs physically easier.
3. Union and State Labor laws limit working hours, without additional premium compensation. And OSHA prescribes safety regulations for all classes of industry, i.e. work places of every sort. Many manual labor jobs that still exist have been moved out of our country.
4. We've had a tremendous surge in Service Sector jobs. The professions as noted previously plus the massive healthcare facilities, day care centers, senior care facilities, banking and financial industry workers, the education profession, advisors and mentors of every sort, restaurant and food services, the media and entertainment industries, and other less physically taxing service providers.
5. This wouldn't be too difficult to accomplish. A person's retirement age could be modified, based on the life expectancy of the Labor Code in which the person works! Maybe quarry workers, crane operators, maritime workers, and others in still physically taxing work should be entitled to an earlier retirement age than a civil servant.
6. The Labor Department has employment codes, Standard Occupational Codes, for every job in the country. Lawyers and other sedentary employment codes should be subject to later retirement and delayed social security benefits--maybe to age 78, 80 years or older? People with harsher working conditions AND people who might be a danger to others from the effect of advancing age, e.g. tractor trailer drivers, might be allowed to retire and qualify at 67 to 72. Maybe physical exams might be used to set the age for any particular individual. I don't know the exact answer, but there are doctors, economists, actuaries, statisticians, psychiatrists, etc., who might be able to figure that out.
7. In industries that supplant human workers with machines, i.e. robots, the companies should still be required to pay their share of the lost Social Security contribution into the Trust for each robot that cancels a human job.
8. There should be a sliding scale of payroll deductions--according to the amount of the wage or salary being received by the employee and matched in kind by the employer. Lower wage earners should pay a lower percentage of their pay, to a lower maximum. People who earn more, should pay a higher percentage to a higher maximum. The retirement benefit given to each retired worker should be rationalized to provide some leveling of the effect of the income gap.
9. I am not keen on "means testing." Any employee that has paid into the system, appropriately to their wage/salary should be entitled to receive their benefit. If Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and all the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Obamas, want to waive their right to receive their benefit--that would be their decision.

So, I think a range of retirement ages should be established for the various Labor Codes according to the 'wear-out' factor for that job. That lower paid people should pay a lower % of their Gross Pay on a lower base than higher paid people--with as many brackets as reasonably practical. Wealthy people can deny their benefit at their discretion but I don't think the government should decide that someone is not entitled to their benefit because they were financially successful or inherited wealth.

The SS Trust should invest the proceeds of the payroll deductions in a balanced portfolio of stocks, government and corporate bonds as a committee of experts decide. This is presently occurring with many many private funds, pension funds, charitable trusts, insurance company assets, corporate surplus portfolios, and even other nation's national retirement systems, think Canada. Simply leaving it as cash or only lending it to the Feds to help them balance their bloated budgets was, and still would be, fool hearty.

Think about these issues and suggestions. Put your own ideas on this site. I'll answer you if you ask a Q or say something that I think is 'out-of-line' or just 'dumb.'

Read my predictions of the future in 2039, 2nd Edition. Soft Cover and Kindle at Amazon.