A request for any pollsters asking the public about changes to Medicare or Social Security: Will you please stop asking people 65 and older what they think?
It’s not that I have anything against retirees, but including them in opinion polls such as the CBS/New York Times poll released this week is skewing the results — and the policy decisions those results may influence.
Here’s why: No one is proposing to change the deal for people who have already retired. Even Paul Ryan’s allegedly “Draconian” budget plan exempts Americans 55 and older from any changes.
One reason is simple politics: Older people vote more consistently than younger ones. But it’s also of course a matter of fairness. People who are no longer working don’t have the opportunity to earn income to make up for anything they lose. They based their retirement planning on particular promises from their employers and the government, and it would be unfair to change those promises now. I think we all get that.
So, the chances of a change in Medicare or Social Security for those who are already retired are nil. With that said, here’s what I mean about the effect of asking retirees: From the CBS/NYT poll:
Willing to See Medicare Spending Cut?
Change Medicare to Private-Insurance Program?
If you look at the “All” numbers for either question, it looks like a very close call — slim pluralities favor each approach. But the results for the younger age groups look a lot different from the ones for the 65+ one. I’d like to know what the “All” numbers would look like for just 18-to-64-year-olds, but the poll doesn’t have cross-tabs breaking down the number of respondents by age group.
Suffice it to say, however, that they would look very different.
So, here’s my proposal: If we all agree that the deal isn’t going to change for retirees, can we also agree that the debate going forward needs to be among those who will have to live with, and pay for, whatever changes are made?
– By Kyle Wingfield