By MARSHA MERCER
As Americans enjoy the Labor Day weekend, some workers also dream of labor-free days – also known as retirement.
Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich, 63, is not among them.
“What do you do?” Kasich, the governor of Ohio, asked a man at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Well, I’m retired,” the man said.
“OK, but what are you doing?” pressed Kasich, who recounted the conversation at a town hall Aug. 19 in Salem, N.H.
“He may have recently retired, because he says he’s now working for his wife, taking care of things around the house,” Kasich said. “But we should never retire, never.”
We are put on this earth for a purpose, Kasich said, and we should use our gifts to make a better world.
That’s lofty, but there’s also a down-to-earth public policy question: When should Americans in the future retire and collect Social Security benefits? Social Republicans and Democrats in the 2016 presidential contest disagree.
Kasich and other GOP candidates are betting that younger workers will willingly wait longer than their parents and grandparents for their labor-free years -- if they’re convinced they’ll actually receive benefits. Most young people now think they’ll never see a dime.
Democrats contend that raising the retirement age is an unnecessary, back-door benefit cut. Some even say it’s time to expand Social Security benefits.
The split illustrates a shift in Americans’ attitudes toward retirement. Healthier as they age, people seem increasingly resistant to putting their feet up – or to admitting they’d like to. Many can’t afford to quit working, others fear too much leisure time and a few are blessed with work they love. It helps to be the boss.
Former President Jimmy Carter, 90, said he and his wife, Rosalynn, talked several times over the years about pulling back from the Carter Center.Not until he received a diagnosis of brain cancer after having surgery for liver cancer did Carter turn over the reins to his grandson, Jason.
Carter still hopes to go to Nepal to build houses with Habitat for Humanity in November, if his treatment schedule allows, he said last month.
Garrison Keillor, 73, announced (again) that he will retire from “A Prairie Home Companion.” Keillor has said for years he wanted to step back from the radio show he started in 1974. He said in 2011 he would retire in 2013, but didn’t.
This time, though, Keillor said his last show as host would be in July 2016 and named a successor, musician Chris Thile.
“I have a lot of other things that I want to do,” Keillor told the Associated Press in July. “I mean, nobody retires anymore. Writers never retire.”
After nearly 40 years in Congress, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland decided not to run for re-election in 2016. Mikulski, 79, said: “Do I spend my time raising more money or, do I spend my time raising hell?”
Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, 81, has the same idea. She continues working to promote social justice and equality.
“The idea of retiring is as foreign to me as the idea of hunting,” Steinem says.
People can collect Social Security at 62, and most do so, even though they would get larger benefits if they waited until the full retirement age of 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. Those who can delay receiving benefits until 70 get the largest checks.
For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67.
Nearly all the GOP presidential candidates say people in the future should work longer.
“We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from 65 to 68 or 70,” to save Social Security for those under age 40, Jeb Bush said on “Face the Nation” in May.
Chris Christie proposes to raise early retirement to age 64 and full retirement to 69. Rand Paul says retirement should start at 70. Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker all favor hiking the retirement age.
Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both want to keep the retirement age where it is. Hillary Clinton has said we shouldn’t “mess” with Social Security but hasn’t given details.
Any permanent fix of the Social Security system likely will include raising the retirement age in the future. Your presidential vote in 2016 may help determine how long young workers wait for benefits. Whether you’re still laboring or labor-free, speak up.
©2015 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.
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