Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Women in Bush's Social Security Plan

Bill Thomas, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has ideas about women. Specifically, he airs the idea that women's Social Security benefits should be altered:

The Ways and Means chairman said the entry of more women into the workforce and the narrowing of the gap between men's and women's salaries — at a time when the gap between women's and men's longevity is increasing — meant that Congress should consider whether men and women should get equal Social Security benefits. He did not say whether women's benefits should be adjusted up or down.

"At some point, somebody might want to suggest that we need to take a look at the question of whether or not actuarially we ought to adjust who gets what, when, and how," Thomas said

This is one of those cases which causes statistical discrimination whatever one does. The problem is that men, on average, die earlier than women. If men and women are paid the same benefits per person per year, then women will collect more money as a group because more women will live to older ages. If, on the other hand, we changed the system in the way Thomas suggests, women would get less money each year than men, and as groups women and men would collect equal amounts. But then all the men who live longer than the average man would be getting "extra" benefits, whereas the women who die earlier than the average woman would never get their "fair" share.

I'm pretty sure that the Supreme Court has ruled against Thomas' plan as discriminatory in the past. The justification was that individual discrimination is worse than unequal group outcomes. But this is a new era with a new Supreme Court so one never knows. Or, rather, one does know, of course; even if one would rather not. If you get my meaning. I'm very glad that I'm a goddess right now so that I don't have to try to eke a meager survival on my reduced Social Security checks in extreme old age.

And, as someone suggested on Eschaton, why not use the same argument to cut the annual benefits of whites? Whites also have a longer life expectancy than blacks.