There’s one economist who’s been beating the drum for an economic fix that is the opposite of what many are suggesting.

james-k-galbraith-scc.jpgJames K. Galbraith, the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, wants tp kick older employees out of the workforce, not at 65, but more like 58 or 59.

“We should move as many older workers as we can out of the labor force,” he maintained, and allow them to collect Social Security early. With more Baby Boomers out of the way, he added, there will be more jobs for younger workers.

This, he told me after Obama’s jobs plan was announced, would help the economy and lower the unemployment rate.

He admitted his idea goes against conventional wisdom right now. But he doesn’t care.

The way it’s set up now, if you were born after 1960 you’re going to have to wait until 67 for full retirement. That’s almost 70. I don’t want to be slaving away until then. Do you?

But Galbraith isn’t worried about people like me or him who sit at a desk all day. It’s the people with the tough, manual jobs or jobs where they’re on their feet all day, who’ll be anxious to retire their back braces and wrist supports and head for rocking chairs. “They’ve been working since they were 25 and they’re worn out,” he added.

The calls to increase the retirement age, he continued, “would be disastrous. You’re telling people ‘you have to hang on.’”

Some lawmakers have called for an increase to 70 as a way to shore up the Social Security system that some believe will otherwise go bankrupt.

nathan.jpgSandra Nathan, senior vice president for economic security for the National Council on Aging, does not believe the Social Security system is on the brink of financial ruin, and she agrees that hiking the age would be disastrous.

“For individuals with higher incomes and education that could be viable solution,” she added about raising the age. “But for the vast majority of older individuals, retiring later is simply not an option.”

Already, she said, a record number of older workers are filing for early retirement because of health and economic reasons.

Last year, the Social Security Administration released a report that found:

* 72 percent of men who filed for Social Security benefits did so early in 2009, up from 58 percent the previous year.
* 75 percent of women filed early in 2009 compared with 64 percent the prior year.

Maybe Galbraith is onto something.

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