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May 10, 2023 01:41 PM UTC

Buck's Debt-Ceiling Solution: Work Until You Die

  • by: Colorado Pols
Rep. Ken Buck (R) displaying his retirement policy.

Colorado’s arch-conservative but occasionally unpredictable Rep. Ken Buck was one of only four Republicans to vote against GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s sweeping spending cut proposal in exchange for what should be a routine hike in the nation’s debt limit–a proposal itself considered dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, failing to resolve the impasse as a potentially disastrous default on the nation’s debts looms.

This week, Rep. Buck appeared on local news channel FOX 31 to talk about the debt limit negotiations, and answer the hard question: if McCarthy’s proposed cuts weren’t enough to win Buck’s support, what would be?

Especially if you’re under 30, you might not want to know the answer:

Buck said it’s important the country continues to fund border protections, national defense and social security and Medicare for people currently on those programs. But he also suggested raising the retirement age, saying, “We absolutely need to look at saving those programs and reforming those programs for folks that are under 30 years old.”

The congressman highlighted rising life expectancy nationwide, adding that the retirement age could differ depending on jobs.

“For some folks who have had mostly white-collar jobs during their lifetime and are healthy, the retirement age may very well go up to 70, 71, 72 years old. [Pols emphasis] For those folks who are working in construction, working in other areas, where their body tends to break down, we need to make sure we have a lower retirement age,” Buck said.

Let’s be clear: if Rep. Ken Buck had his way, the retirement age for most American workers would become the highest in the world.

To put this in perspective, most industrialized nations have a retirement age ranging from only 60 in China to 62-67 in most of Europe–notably excepting France, of course, where centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 was met with nationwide protests. To be clear, despite the perennial handwringing over the supposedly imminent “bankruptcy” of the nation’s social safety nets, relatively modest changes like removing the income cap from Social Security and increasing the high-income Medicare tax could fix the system’s “solvency problem” with far less pain. But those are solutions Republicans are ideologically prevented from even considering.

It’s almost always a question that Republicans don’t want to directly answer with the painful specifics, so Buck gets credit for honesty if nothing else. But in reality, Americans would readily choose any number of fixes for Social Security and Medicare before being forced to stay on the job until age 72. That’s one of the reasons you almost never hear specific proposals like Buck’s near elections or from Republican candidates considered in any way vulnerable.

If making Americans work until 72 is what Republicans want, take it to the polls.

The smart ones know how that will end, and that’s why they won’t.


8 thoughts on “Buck’s Debt-Ceiling Solution: Work Until You Die

  1. On the surface, Buck’s comments make an amount of sense.

    But, as always, the “devil is in the details.” What constitutes a “white collar job” versus a job that may be mostly “hard labor?” 

    The US Department of Labor has an older, large document, called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. There have been more job tracking and job description tomes added in more recent years. Few job descriptions are so simplistic as to be easily definable. Often, the actual job title won’t match what the actual job requirements are.

    As an example, people may think they know what a “Hooker” is. The actual job, though, is in the steel making industry.

    I worked some years in disability benefits. One worker doing harder labor may see their body breaking down at age 45. Another may make it to 65. Every situation is different; every case is different.

    An increase in the payroll tax cap is the best way to deal with impending fiscal issues for Social Security and Medicare.

    1. If we all agree on the solution, why raise the retirement age at all? 67 is plenty of time in the workforce. Let us enjoy our golden years.

  2. Ken Buck in a capital-M Moron.

    In my lifetime I’ve worked in various physical and less-physical occupational areas — construction, farming, and ranching at a young age; finance, management, and other “desk jobs” at a later age. Most folks have.  So who gets the lower age, and who gets the higher age?

    And, shouldn’t this mean that Ken Dipshit and others can’t begin drawing their congressional pensions until much later in life?  (Yeah. That’s not happening, huh?)

    Of course, Buck knows he’s not offering any proposal worthy of consideration, he’s just slinging some party-appropriate buzzword salad hoping to find any way to excuse his party’s not doing anything to actually solve the obvious funding problem.

  3. I just looked it up. Granted, I haven't punched a clock in a long time, but 7.5% was deducted from my paychecks for Social Security, matched by the employer. It's now 6.2%. If anything, the rate ought to have gone up when the Boomers began retiring. We're such a large cohort and will, most likely, live a lot longer than older generations on that money.

    1. I think you are talking about the 7.5% FICA tax line. 

      What is FICA?  “The FICA tax is the amount of money Uncle Sam deducts from your paycheck every time you’re paid. The money goes to the Internal Revenue Service first, then is steered into a Social Security fund to pay for Social Security program funding. A portion of your FICA tax also goes into the federal government’s Medicare trust fund. (Medicare didn’t launch until 1965.)”

      There’s been a few adjustments.  These days,

      • The FICA tax represents 7.65% of payroll earnings, up to $127,000 (any income earned via wages above $127,000 aren’t subject to FICA taxes.)
      • Workers pay 6.2% of their paycheck toward Social Security.
      • Employers pay 6.2%, per employee, for a combined amount of 12.4% of a career professional’s income.
      • Additionally, Uncle Sam deducts 1.45% from every worker’s paycheck for Medicare, and that 1.45% number is matched by an employer contribution (for a total of 2.9%), thus fulfilling the FICA obligations of both employee and employer.

      So, removing the cap ($127,000) and broadening to all sorts of income instead of just payroll earnings are both proposals to make the systems more solvent.

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