George Will To Economic "Hypochondriacs": Stop Whining

Conservative columnist George Will goes after everyone complaining about an impending recession, especially folks in the 65-and-over crowd who think it’s their constitutional right to retire:

The proportion of people aged 55 to 64 who are working rose 1.5 percentage points from April 2007 to February 2008, during which the percentage of working Americans older than 65 rose two-tenths of one percentage point. The Journal grimly reported, “The prospect of millions of grandparents toiling away in their golden years doesn’t square with the American dream.”

Oh? The idea that protracted golden years of idleness are a universal right is a delusion of recent vintage. Deranged by the entitlement mentality fostered by a metastasizing welfare state, Americans now have such low pain thresholds that suffering is defined as a slight delay in beginning a subsidized retirement often lasting one-third of the retiree’s adult lifetime.

In 1935, when Congress enacted Social Security, protracted retirement was a luxury enjoyed by a tiny sliver of the population. Back then, Congress did its arithmetic ruthlessly: When it set the retirement age at 65, the life expectancy of an adult American male was 65. If in 1935 Congress had indexed the retirement age to life expectancy, today’s retirement age would be 75.

In other words, Grandpa, get off your lazy keister and back into the steel mill. As for the economy, Will says, things just aren’t that bad:

The standard definition of a recession — two consecutive quarters of contraction — means we still are probably several months short of being in one. The 9.9 per cent first-quarter decline of the Standard & Poor 500 barely ranks among the 40 worst quarterly losses in the index’s history. Leave aside the 39.4 per cent decline in the second quarter of 1932. The economy experienced no long-term trauma because of the declines of 10.3 per cent, 14.5 per cent and 23.2 per cent in the third quarter of 1998, the third quarter of 1990 and the fourth quarter of 1987, respectively.

Yes, in January single-family homes in major metropolitan areas lost 10.7 per cent of their value from last January. To find such a large decline in a year you must peer back into the mists of prehistory, all the way back to . . . the 1990s. Furthermore, the vast majority of homeowners will remain well ahead, even after the market corrects for housing inflation.

He’s right about the decline in the stock market so far, at least: We ain’t seen nothing yet. And it’s true: the housing “collapse” has thus far affected mostly those who got in in the last year or two.

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