Entitlements Favor the Rich —Because They Live Longer

Peter Orszag: Social Security, Medicare formulas should be tweaked
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2012 1:59 PM CDT
Rolls of blank Social Security checks run through printers and are processed at the US Treasury's Financial Management services facility in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower, File)
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(Newser) – Most people don't think of Social Security and Medicare as regressive programs that favor the well-off, but they are, former Obama budget director Peter Orszag argues in his Bloomberg column. Chalk it up to one simple reason: "Better-educated, higher-income Americans are living longer than everyone else." And that gap is increasing. In 1990, a white man who was college-educated could expect to live five years longer than one who hadn't graduated high school. By 2008, that gap had spread to 13 years.

By living longer, these better-educated people are reaping more benefits from entitlement programs. Orszag thinks that means we need to make Social Security and Medicare formulas more progressive to compensate, reducing Social Security payouts for the more fortunate, and increasing their Medicare premiums. "We may not be able to do anything immediately to lengthen the lives of America's poorest and least-educated people," Orszag writes, but "we can at least even out the resulting differences in their lifetime benefits." Read the full column here. (Read more Peter Orszag stories.)

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