Thursday, March 7, 2013

Myerson: Re-secure U.S. retirement

You tell me what's wrong with this scenario:
  • "Greedy old people" are poorer than they were 30 years ago;
  • Old people are working longer than they did 30 years ago;
  • Fewer retirees receive a defined-benefit pension than 30 years ago;
  • Retirees rely more on Social Security than ever to avoid poverty;
  • Medical and drugs costs for seniors continue to climb, making Medicare more necessary than ever. 
  • U.S. corporate profitability and productivity are at all-time highs;
  • "Fix the Debt" CEOs, the American Chamber of Commerce and other "pro-business" groups keep telling us we need to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid... or else.

Here's how Harold Myerson sums it up:

Just as U.S. businesses have been able to raise the share of corporate profits to a half-century high by reducing the share of their workers’ wages to a half-century low, so, too, their ability to reduce pension payments has contributed not just to their profits but also to the $1.7 trillion in cash on which they are currently sitting.

Myerson, Paul Krugman, Rep. Alan Grayson, et al are right: this entitlement- and debt-cutting fetish in the aftershocks of the Great Recession is total bullshit.  It's a scam. It is complete opportunism by corporate big-wigs and bankers who see a way to cut their costs and attract more SS money into financial markets for them to gamble with, while they enjoy both real and implicit subsidies and government guarantees in case they f**k up (again). 

Let's face it, our national 401-k  experiment has been a disaster for this generation of retirees and near-retirees.  This is not to mention the young and middle aged: "Today, more than half of U.S. workers have no workplace retirement plan" at all, according to Myerson. And yet Republicans want to cut younger workers' future SS and Medicare benefits "so that Social Security and Medicare will be there for them when they retire"?!  

Sorry for my potty mouth, folks, but that's called "getting f***ed at both ends," there's just no other way to describe it.

UPDATE (03.16.2013): I usually don't loop back like this, but I can't get this one phrase written by Lynn Stuart Parramore out of my head, it was such an eye-opener for me, and it totally relates to this antedated article: "There was no imagined past where people saved up for their old age."  What we are going through, we are the first people in the history of the earth to go through, not to mention the history of the United States. We need to cut ourselves a little slack here.

This is so, so important for Americans to remember when they're feeling financially stressed out and inadequate in the face of global financial markets and contradictory investment advice, not to mention getting lectured at by rich businessmen and their pocket politicians about how underpaid, overworked Americans need to save more and depend on government less.

By Harold Myerson
March 7, 2013 | Washington Post

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