Commentator Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. suggests raising the qualifying age for Social Security to 70 because “we are living much longer than originally envisioned; our benefits should reflect this fact of life” (“Nine ideas to revive the Republican Party,” Feb. 9).
First of all, there is ample evidence that in 1935, when Social Security launched, the actuaries of the Roosevelt administration knew full well that life expectancy at age 65 would gradually extend. So Mr. Ehrlich is simply wrong on his history.
As to policy, here are the facts: Americans who reach age 65 today have a life expectancy of about 19 more years, to age 84. People aged 65 when Social Security started had a life expectancy then of about 14 more years, to age 79. So we’ve had a modest improvement of five years. But does this five-year average improvement in life expectancy justify moving back the retirement age by five years?