(Update) 401(k)s – economic stratification and inequality, less retirement security

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Last week I posted about the report by Lydia DePillis at Ezra Klein's Wonkblog, 401(k)s are replacing pensions. That’s making inequality worse.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos adds, New
IRS report confirms upcoming retirement crisis

The IRS recently released a first-time, and alarming, report
on participation in retirement savings accounts, showing that the fewer
and fewer workers are saving for retirement out of their paychecks, and
the amount they are saving is shrinking too
, down 6 percent in real
dollars from 2008 to 2010.

David Cay Johnston, investigative journalist
and author, and specialist in economics and tax issues, was one of very
few in the traditional media to register the appearance of this report,
and it's got him worried.

[T]he number of Americans deferring part of their wages into 401(k)-type plans fell in 2009 and again in 2010.

Two-thirds of taxpayers with jobs saved nothing in retirement plans.

Among twenty-somethings, only 1 in 8 or so saved. […]

Overall, the IRS report and other official data show how government
policy that favors individual savings in 401(k), IRA and similar plans
simply are not meeting the needs of workers, or of American society

Tens of millions of Americans will reach old age without adequate
financial resources if we continue with our three-decade-old experiment
with defined contribution plans that shift all risks onto the workers
If we continue down this path, we will in time face a stark choice –
greater burdens for taxpayers, a boon for the makers of cat food, or
unconscionable deaths by starvation.

Johnston argues, as many of us have, that the government should be
working on making sure that private and public pension systems are sound
and adequate to stave off the otherwise inevitable retirement crisis.
Until employment increases, wages increase, student loan debt shrinks,
and health care costs are reduced, working people are just going to be
too stretched to be able to save adequately. That's particularly true
when you're talking about plans that are invested in a volatile and
unpredictable stock market. Tackling all of that is a massive, daunting
proposition, but one that has to be faced and soon. A really good place to start would be strengthening Social Security, and increasing its benefits.

This is the economic reality context in which the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and the "Kochtopus" tentacle of the Goldwater institute are pushing initiatives in Tucson and Arizona to force all new public sector employees into defined benefit 401(k) plans, which will only deprive the pension funds of new contribution revenue, exascerbating any shortfall in pension funding caused by a sluggish economy and volatile investment portfolios. Their goal is not to make the pension funds financially secure; their goal is to eventually eliminate the pension funds altogether and to leave workers dependent on private retirement accounts that are proving woefully inadequate.

And make no mistake. These very same right-wing organizations still dream of the day that they can privatize Social Security and Medicare. They are thieves who want to steal your money, and your retirement security.

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