Among Americans born in 1875 -- i.e., the first people to receive Social Security benefits -- only about half of men and 60 percent of women lived to age 65. Fifty years later, it was three in four men and five in six women. And those figures haven't been updated (at least on
Social Security's website
) in a quarter of a century; they're no doubt higher now.
So a four-year increase in the full-retirement age over the course of almost one century is hardly extreme -- even if Democrats and perhaps some vote-hungry Republicans will say it is.
The income thresholds (or "means testing") for benefits will probably be even more controversial, even though it's equally sensible. Democrats say they want to raise taxes on the rich; Republicans say they want to reduce spending. Phasing out Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees seems like a logical compromise between the two positions: It focuses on spending rather than taxes, but it also comes at the expense of "the rich" rather than middle-income Americans.
In fact, every Democrat, starting with Hillary Clinton, ought to be asked a simple question: If you favor raising taxes on "the rich," why not support lowering Social Security benefits for them?
Elections are not normally times when these kinds of compromises are discussed. Enter the need for Christie's candidacy.
Whether or not he -- as opposed to the rest of us -- thinks he can win, the premise of his entire political career has been his penchant for straight shooting about tough problems and hard solutions. As long as it emboldens his GOP opponents rather than turning them into pander bears, that could be a very good thing for his party's primary contest.