Mar 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Why some in the GOP are floating upping retirement age for some Americans

 Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley participates in a conversation with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) hosted by the Bastion Institute on March 10, 2023 in Clive, Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley participates in a conversation with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) hosted by the Bastion Institute on March 10 in Clive, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some Republicans say changes to entitlement programs, like upping the retirement age to prolong the initiatives, should be "on the table."

The big picture: Entitlement reform is a politically potent topic — and it's one that could be a key part of presidential candidates' messaging ahead of 2024.

  • Medicare is one of the largest line items in the U.S. budget, and as the population ages, it's expected to only get more expensive, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

State of play: President Biden last week offered his proposal for extending Medicare's solvency for another 25 years.

Americans can currently file for Social Security benefits at 62, but they will not receive full benefits at that age. The full retirement age ranges from 66 to 67 depending on their date of birth.

  • In 2022, Social Security trustees estimated in a report that the fund would only pay out full benefits for retirees until 2035. After that, the report said, benefits would be paid out at 80% until 2096 when it is estimated to reduce to 74%.
  • With the U.S. population aging, there are fewer Americans paying into Social Security, which supports a rising number of beneficiaries who are also living longer.
  • The combination of longer life expectancy and fewer workers paying in to the Social Security fund is exacerbating problems for a program that has long warned the money might run out.

Worth noting: The retirement age has been raised before. In 1983, Congress voted to phase in raising full retirement age from 65 to 67, citing an increase in life expectancy and workers staying at jobs for longer periods of time.

Driving the news: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), who is running for president in 2024, said she supports changing the retirement age for Americans who are in their 20s.

  • "It is unrealistic to say you’re not going to touch entitlements," Haley said on Fox News.
  • "The thing is you don’t have to touch it for seniors and anybody near retirement. You’re talking about the new generation, like my kids coming up," she added.

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (R) also said Sunday that lawmakers should discuss raising the retirement age for Americans in their 20s.

  • "For people who are in their 20s, their life expectancy will probably be 85 to 90," Kennedy said on Fox News.
  • "Does it really make sense to allow someone who's in their 20s today to retire at 62?" he added.
  • "Those are the kinds of things that we should talk about, there are changes in Medicare that we should talk about," he said.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) also said that raising the retirement age when it comes to receiving social security benefits "has to be on the table."

  • Mace told CNN that she supports potentially raising the retirement age "as long as it's not anybody that's heading into retirement right now."
  • "We do not want to take away those that are in retirement, or those that are heading into retirement, but if we're talking about younger generations ... then that should be on the table."

Between the lines: Former President Trump has warned Republicans to avoid making changes to Medicare or Social Security amid the ongoing debt ceiling fight.

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