As America’s haves and have-nots drift further apart, rising inequality has undermined one of the nation’s proudest social achievements: the Social Security retirement system. Unprecedented changes in longevity, marriage, and the workplace have made the experience of old age increasingly unequal. For educated Americans, the traditional retirement age of 65 now represents late middle age. These lucky ones typically do not face serious impediments to employment or health until their mid-70s or even later. By contrast, many poorly educated earners confront obstacles of early disability, limited job opportunities, and unemployment before they reach age 65.
America’s system for managing retirement is badly out of step with these realities. Enacted in the 1930s, Social Security reflects a time when most workers were men who held steady jobs until retirement at 65 and remained married for life. The program promised a dignified old age for rich and poor alike, but today that egalitarian promise is failing. Anne L. Alstott makes the case for a progressive program that would permit all Americans to retire between 62 and 76 but would provide more generous early retirement benefits for workers with low wages or physically demanding jobs. She also proposes a more equitable version of the outdated spousal benefit and a new phased retirement option to permit workers to transition out of the workforce gradually.
A New Deal for Old Age offers a pragmatic and principled agenda for renewing America’s most successful and popular social welfare program.
This book reinforces Alstott’s stellar reputation in the legal academy and makes a significant contribution to one of the most important public policy debates of our era. Essential reading.
An innovative and well-thought-out approach to the challenge of creating an affordable and sensible Social Security system for the foreseeable future.
What makes [Alstott’s] book so important is that it addresses the reality that Americans in the aggregate are living longer, healthier lives than in the past…Alstott’s proposal is a clever way of redirecting Social Security benefits toward the disadvantaged without explicitly using means-testing to accomplish that goal…Alstott’s rich sets of proposals are part of an important, emerging conversation on the need to adjust America’s social safety net for the modern labor market, the modern family, and a modern aging population.
- 208 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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