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How many times have you heard "When Social Security was enacted, the average life [View All]

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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-08-12 07:26 AM
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How many times have you heard "When Social Security was enacted, the average life
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expectancy was 65?"

That misleading factoid is often cited, as if to say, "When Social Security was enacted, no one imagined that Social Security would ever actually make payments, at least not to people over 65."

Call bullshit on that noise every time you have a chance so to do. People have always lived well beyond average life expectancies at birth.

First, average life expectancy at birth was very different from life expectancy at 65 because an average is, well, an average.

For example, if, the average life expectancy of a person who died at age 110 years of age and another person who died at age one day is 55 years, but what does that mean in terms of "old age" benefits? Answer: Less than nothing.

Second, the average life expectancy at birth in the colonies in 1776 was around 33 years of age. For just one thing, young women and babies died in childbirth or soon after much more than is true now that we have even relatively basic (today) things like penicillin, bood transfusions, incubators and IV nutrition. For another, medical treatment ranged from amputating limbs with unsterilized saws to herbal medicine, with little in between.

Are we to assume that actuaries, who obsess over things like that, never realized that medical science would continue to progress and, as it did, life expectancies would continue to increase? Or, are we to assume that no one in Congress consulted actuaries before enacting Social Security Or that no one in Congress had seen with their own eyes that some people lived to a ripe old age, while some died at 65 and some died much younger?

So, yes, Virginia, the average life expectancy at birthcirca 1935 was indeed 65, but no, Virginia, people in 1935 did not expect everyone to keel over at age 65 and to continue to do so forever after.

That is just a factoid that is very misleading in terms of what Congress and the American people expected about Social Security when Social Security was enacted.
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