Graying America Feels the Pinch

January 27, 2008 12:08 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The nation's Social Security program is stretched as baby boomers hit retirement age. America is not alone in facing difficulties raised by an aging population.

30-Second Summary

An assisted living facility in the western New York town of Newark was once a middle school. Much of the town’s workforce is retiring—or will do so in the near future—leaving an aging population to rely on a dwindling force of medical caregivers.

Estimates project that by the year 2030, about one out of every five Americans will be 60 or older, compared to roughly one in eight now. The first baby boomer applied for Social Security benefits in October 2007. As that generation approaches retirement age, pundits are questioning the viability of the nation’s support networks for the elderly.

Washington Post
columnist Dana Milbank believes that the wave of Social Security applicants that started last October may grow to consume the federal pension system. “As the boomers retire, Social Security will go into the red in 2017 and become insolvent 24 years later, according to the system’s trustees,” he writes.

Megan McArdle argues in The Atlantic that Social Security can survive the onslaught of baby boomers cashing in on their benefits. AARP, an organization that lobbies on behalf of senior citizens, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan concur. In an article by media watchdog group FAIR, Greenspan is quoted as saying, “We’re approximately 2 percentage points of payroll short over the very long run. It’s a significant closing of the [Social Security] gap, but it's doable.”

Western Europe, whose population is lopsidedly older than America’s, also worries about the viability of its social security systems. “Instead of four workers to support every retiree, we’ll have only two,” writes Hans Ulrich Maerki, chairman of IBM Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Headline Link: ‘No Country for Young Men’

Background: The aging world

Analysis: ‘Fear of a Gray Planet’

Opinion: Will graying baby boomers sink Social Security?

Skeptical about Social Security’s future

Reference Material: Getting on higher financial ground


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