The Corner

Vatican and Social Security Reform

Apparently, there’s now discussion of setting a mandatory retirement age for popes. This emphasizes the president’s point from last night that Americans didn’t live as long when social security was first created. Fundamental and unprecedented demographic facts are beginning to drive our politics and our culture. We are simply not having many children anymore. That is why, as the president noted, we have moved from about 16 workers for every retiree to about three (and heading for only two workers per retiree soon). The simultaneous growth in life expectancy is compounding the problem. What will happen to society when we find ourselves with huge numbers of fragile older folks who cannot work? It isn’t just a question of social security or medicare. What will happen when boomers with few children and broken families depend on relatives who either aren’t there or don’t care? When the Catholic church even considers changing a thousands year old practice of service unto death, you know that something big is happening in human history. That is why social security reform is only the beginning of the challenges we face. Again, I take up these issues in detail in my new Policy Review piece, “Demographics and the Culture War.”

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