Removing the Income Cap and Taxing Property Income: Two Easy Ways to Assure Social Security Solvency

April 19, 2011

The alleged long term shortfall in Social Security revenue can be easily remedied if the rich were required to pay taxes for the program based on their total incomes as they are required to for other parts of the federal budget such as defense. Right now they pay Social Security taxes on currently only the first $107,000 of their wage and salary income and nothing on their property income, which is the largest source of their total income.

As the below table indicates, for those earning under $100,000, about 79 percent of their Adjusted Gross Incomes come from wages and salaries. But for those receiving over $100,000, forms of property income – profits, dividends, interest, rents, etc. – make up increasing shares of AGI. At some point between $300,000 and $500,000 property incomes surpasses wage and salary income. As a result, those who receive more than $100,000 together receive a greater share of national income than under $100,000 earners but they collectively support Social Security less.

Table

Income Class and Tax Support for Social Security

______________________________________________________________________

Adjusted Gross Income           % Income Subject to

                                                             Social Security Taxation

___[______________________________________________

Under $25,000                                             78.6

$25,000 under $50,000                              82.2

$50,000 under $75,000                              79.4

$75,000 under $100,000                            78.2

$100,000 under $200,000                          63.9

$200,000 under $500,000                          28.4

$500,000 under $1 million                         11.5

$1 million under $5 million                           4.0

$5 million under $10 million                       1.1

$10 million and greater                               0.3

____________________________________________________________________

Source: Calculated from Internal Revenue Service, Table 1.4 “Individual Income Tax, All Returns: Sources of Income, Tax Year 2006, http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,,id=134951,00.html#_pt11

The higher the income over $94,200 in 2006 – the last year for which full tax statistics exist – the greater the proportion of AGI that is shielded from Social Security taxation for two reasons. First Social Security taxes (6.2 percent for both the employer and employee) were collected on only the first $94,200 of wage and salary income. Second, no Social Security taxes are paid on property forms of income.

Social Security revenue could be significantly increased by removing the cap on wage and salary income and exposing property income to taxation.  Removing the cap, by my calculation, would have added $111.6 billion to the $677 billion collected that year – a 16.5 percent increase that would have been much more than sufficient to insure solvency. Revenue could have been enhanced a further $91.1 billion if enough of the nonwage income of those receiving over $100,000 was included so that at least 79 percent of their Adjusted Gross Income was exposed to Social Security taxation as is that of those earning less than $100,000.

These reforms would go far beyond insuring the current benefit levels of Social Security. They could and should be the first steps toward expanding Social Security benefits.

James W. Russell 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­


From Connecticut to Chile: The Neo-Liberal Assault on Retirement Security (article)

April 8, 2011

Reposted from This Week in Sociology, April 4-10, 2011, edition 3

http://www.thisweekinsociology.com/

Since 1981 shaky 401(k) schemes that depend on stock market investing have increasingly replaced secure, traditional pensions in the United States. The financial services industry encourages a belief that these schemes produce generous benefits. But 30 years after their introduction, the first generation of workers to retire with these plans has learned they produce less than half the benefits of the pensions they replaced.

Even before the stock market crisis of 2008, signs were everywhere that very few people would accumulate enough wealth through these accounts to ensure financial security. As a result, most people expect to work longer and experience a dramatic decline in their standard of living when they retire—if they can retire.

401(k) benefits are lower than those of traditional pensions because the financial services industry drains considerable management fees, commissions, and profits from the accounts involved; and individual plans lack the advantages of risk pooling that traditional pensions have. In the strange language of pension economics, it is a risk that someone will live longer than average, thus taking out a larger share of investment.  Of course living a long life is a good thing.  The risk is that one will outlive her or his income.  With traditional pensions, funds built up by those who die early stay in the system to add to the lifelong support of those who live longer—unlike with 401(k)s where those funds are inheritable by younger family members and thereby drained out of the systems.  In other words, because of traditional pension risk pooling, the short lived subsidize the long lived.

Those who still have traditional pensions, mainly public employees (school teachers, fire fighters, etc.) now find themselves under attack for having decent retirement plans. The financial services industry – aided and abetted by conservative think tanks – has mounted a massive propaganda campaign to convince taxpayers that public employee pensions are the primary cause of state budget deficits. They claim privatized plans would result in significant savings over public pensions and Social Security.

This attack on public pensions amounts to a massive class swindle. The financial services industry is raiding the collective retirement savings of tens of millions of people to inflate its own profits, which have grown enormously at the expense of most peoples’ retirement security. But undermining retirement security in the United States is part of an international pattern promoted by the World Bank, conservative think tanks, and the financial services industry in general.

In 1981—the same year 401(k) plans expanded in the United States—the Pinochet military dictatorship privatized the entire social security system of Chile.  In 1994, after the restoration of formal democracy in Chile, the World Bank endorsed the private model and urged all Latin American, formerly communist Eastern and Central European, and Western European countries to adopt it.  This plan had the most success in Latin America where by 2000 over half of the region’s citizens lived in countries that had partially or fully privatized their national retirement systems. By that same year, however, the first generation to retire under the privatized Chilean system realized—like 401(k) participants in the United States—that their retirement incomes would be far less than promised than those who had stayed in the country’s traditional pension system.

U.S. College professors who have TIAA-CREF and similar plans have also fallen victim to the same swindle since those are variations of the 401(k) approach. In Connecticut public university teaching and administrative employees were eligible to choose a 401(k) type retirement plan originally administered by TIAA-CREF (now by the Dutch financial giant ING) or join the state’s traditional defined benefit pension plan. Most, deceived by the claim that they would do better under the 401(k) type plan, chose it. After years in the plan, they realized that they were paying more than twice the contributions as colleagues in the traditional pension plan yet would receive less than half the retirement benefits.

As in Chile, a movement developed among Connecticut state employees to allow them to switch from their failing plan to the much better traditional pension plan.  A rank and file organization with members in several state employee unions, the Connecticut Committee for Equity in Retirement (CCER), initiated and led the campaign.

Faculty filed a grievance through their unions claiming they had been unfairly steered into the 401(k) type plan when the much better traditional pension plan was available.  On September 22, 2010 an arbiter ruled in their favor – finding that faculty had not been given sufficient information to make informed choices nor had they been told that their decisions, once made, would be irrevocable. As a remedy, the arbiter ordered that they be allowed to voluntarily transfer to the pension plan using accumulations from their defined contribution plans to purchase credit for years of employment.

The Connecticut state employees joined West Virginia schoolteachers who won a similar victory in 2008. Both were significant precedent-setting victories over the financial services industry which has succeeded in transforming the great majority of private sector retirement plans from secure traditional pensions to much less secure and adequate—but more profitable for itself—401(k) like stock market investment schemes and is seeking to do the same with public sector retirement plans.

The transfer in Connecticut was supposed to be accomplished by December 31, 2010.  However, the Retirement Commission, in violation of the terms of the Grievance Award, delayed it based on advice from an anti-union corporate law firm it had engaged.  The firm alleged that an Internal Revenue Service preauthorization through a Private Letter Ruling was needed—a complicated process that could take up to two or more years.

The delay will benefit ING, the third party administrator of the plan, which collects millions of dollars in fees for each year that it maintains control of these retirement savings. CCER is now urging their unions to contest this delay on the grounds that other states that have allowed similar transfers from defined contribution to defined benefit plans have not required IRS preauthorization.

The Connecticut struggle is part of a small but growing movement against 401(k) retirement plans. A parallel campaign exists among Massachusetts state workers. Both hope to achieve the success of West Virginia schoolteachers who in 2008 were able to transfer from their failing 401(k) type plan into the state’s much better traditional pension plan.

James W. Russell


From Connecticut to Chile: The Neo-Liberal Assault on Retirement Security (video)

March 28, 2011

You Tube video of James W. Russell speaking at the Left Forum, Pace University, New York City, March 19, 2011.  Click here.


Social Security and Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address

January 26, 2011

There was considerable fear among supporter of Social Security that President Obama would cave in to powerful financial elites that want to see the program privatized or at least cut back in order to divert more retirement savings dollars to Wall Street. 

The signs were everywhere.  He had dangerously reduced employee contributions from 6.2 to 4.2 percent for 2011, a reduction that will be politically difficult to reinstate.  He had loaded the so-called bipartisan committee on the deficit with enemies of Social Security, who predictably issued a report calling for cutting back and reconfiguring its benefits (see “The Attack on Social Security”). 

Up to last night’s delivery of the address, no one was sure what he would say and feared the worst.  The advocacy group Strengthen Social Security was on high alert in case he should announce the initiation of a cutback campaign.

To a collective sigh of relief of Social Security supporters, Obama did not call for a cutback in benefits. He said: 

“To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

While he has been politically tacking toward the center, he undoubtedly did not want to provoke a complete cutoff of liberal support in his own party; and he was undoubtedly aware that the overwhelming majority of voters oppose cuts to the program’s benefits.

Nevertheless, that his support for protecting Social Security could not and still cannot be taken for granted is worrisome.

On a different note, CNN after the speech broadcast the Republican response that was delivered by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.  He is a proponent of Social Security privatization, though he did not mention it last night.  What was unusual was it also broadcast the Tea Party Response, delivered by Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, as if we now have three major parties.  The addition of her tilted the discussion further to the right than it already is. 

If CNN had wanted to have more balance, it could have broadcast a response as well by the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives or some other spokesperson for progressives.  But that was not a priority since it is more interested in promoting the Tea Party as a significant political force.  Last summer CNN devoted two hours prime time coverage to a Tea Party convention attended by just 700 persons, including Sarah Palin’s keynote address.

James W. Russell


Actually, The Retirement Age is Too High, by James K. Galbraith

January 21, 2011

Published on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 by Foreign Policy
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/19-8

The most dangerous conventional wisdom in the world today is the idea that with an older population, people must work longer and retire with less.

This idea is being used to rationalize cuts in old-age benefits in numerous advanced countries — most recently in France, and soon in the United States. The cuts are disguised as increases in the minimum retirement age or as increases in the age at which full pensions will be paid.

Such cuts have a perversely powerful logic: “We” are living longer. There are fewer workers to support each elderly person. Therefore “we” should work longer.

But in the first place, “we” are not living longer. Wealthier elderly are; the non-wealthy not so much. Raising the retirement age cuts benefits for those who can’t wait to retire and who often won’t live long. Meanwhile, richer people with soft jobs work on: For them, it’s an easy call.

Second, many workers retire because they can’t find jobs. They’re unemployed — or expect to become so. Extending the retirement age for them just means a longer job search, a futile waste of time and effort.

Third, we don’t need the workers. Productivity gains and cheap imports mean that we can and do enjoy far more farm and factory goods than our forebears, with much less effort. Only a small fraction of today’s workers make things. Our problem is finding worthwhile work for people
to do, not finding workers to produce the goods we consume.

In the United States, the financial crisis has left the country with 11 million fewer jobs than Americans need now. No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon. So common sense suggests
we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?

The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not
enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 — providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and
medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.

A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke.

© 2011 Foreign Policy
James K. Galbraith teaches at UT-Austin and is the author
of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the
Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.


Threat to Social Security: Can Harry Be a Hero? By Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

January 21, 2011

That is the question that supporters of Social Security should be asking as we brace for President Obama’s State of the Union address next week. Specifically, the question is whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will keep up his spirited defense of Social Security or whether he will buckle to the pressure from the financial industry and the Washington insiders.

For those who missed it, Senator Reid distinguished himself by saying the obvious [http://www.americablog.com/2011/01/harry-reid-defends-social-security-to.html] on one of the Sunday talk shows two weeks ago. He said that Social Security is not contributing to the deficit and that the shortfall it faces is still distant and relatively minor. He said he was tired of people picking on this program, which is vital to the financial security of tens of millions of retirees and disabled workers and their families.

Truth is rare in Washington, so Senator Reid’s comments really stood out. If the Senator is prepared to hold his ground, he can save the program.

There is no doubt that the forces arrayed against Social Security are enormously powerful. The wealthy hate the idea of government money going to anyone but them, and since the vast majority of Social Security benefits are going to low and middle-income families, the program is an outrage to their sensibilities.

The financial industry also knows a cash cow when they see one. It would take more than $10 trillion in private accounts to generate the same amount of money as Social Security pays out each year in benefits. If the financial industry collected just 1.0 percent of this sum in fees each year, it would mean another $100 billion a year into the coffers of the Merrill Lynch set.

And, for anti-government conservatives, Social Security is the worst nightmare imaginable: a government program that really works. Its administrative costs are less than one-tenth as high as they are for financial industry. There is minimal fraud and the program does exactly what it was supposed to do: provide a core retirement income and protect workers and their families against disability and early death.

For these reasons, it is inevitable that powerful forces would be looking to ax Social Security. Much of the media, led by the Washington Post (a.k.a. Fox on 15th Street), have abandoned rules of objectivity in their quest to paint Social Security as a basket case.

The most common tactic is to lump Social Security in with Medicare and Medicaid as “entitlements” that will break the budget. Of course, every budget expert knows that the vast majority of the projected increase in spending comes from Medicare and Medicaid due to exploding health care costs, not the modest impact that aging has on projected Social Security benefits.

Peter Peterson, everyone’s favorite Wall Street billionaire, has committed much of his fortune to gutting the program. He is buying everything in sight to advance this goal. This includes setting up a new foundation, paying for scary anti-Social Security documentaries [http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/iousa-not-ok/], setting up a fake news service (the “Fiscal Times” [http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/peter-petersons-fiscal-times-blesses-deficit-reducers-as-being-non-ideological-and-washington-post-concurs/]), sponsoring rigged public forums (America Speaks [http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/America%20Speaks-what%20is%20not%20on%20the%20program.pdf]), and even playing silly games on the mall [http://www.budgetball.org/].

Can Senator Reid stand up to this massive push?

Well, Mr. Reid has two things on his side: public opinion and the truth. As far as public opinion, there is no doubt that Social Security is a hugely popular program. Everyone loves the security that it provides them, their parents, or their grandparents, and their children. Its sky-high approval rating is across the board with all demographic groups and spans the political spectrum from progressive Democrats to Tea Party Republicans.

The truth is also on Reid’s side. One only has to read the Social Security Trustees Report to see that the program will be fully funded for the next 27 years even with no changes at all. After that date, it would still be able to pay almost 80 percent of scheduled benefits indefinitely, even if nothing were ever done. Furthermore, it is not difficult to find progressive ways to make up the remaining shortfall. Just raising the payroll tax cap to where the Greenspan commission set it in 1983 makes up more than one-fourth of the projected shortfall.

The fixes proposed by the Social Security cutters would involve real pain, some of it longer term and some of it very immediate. Most notable is their proposal to reduce the annual cost of living by 0.3 percentage points. After ten years, this would reduce retirees’ benefits by close to 3 percent, after 20 years the reduction would be 6 percent. This would be a big hit to many seniors who are surviving on less than $20,000 a year.

The longer-term plans call for making the program more “progressive.” This generally means cuts for people who earned $50,000 or $60,000 a year in their working lifetime. That’s better than the typical worker, but it doesn’t fit most people’s conception of rich.

What is so frustrating in this story is that we are not a poor country and are not getting poorer. There is plenty of money out there, if our politicians ever had the courage to confront the rich and powerful. We could easily raise more than $150 billion a year [http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&id=2744&view=article] from taxing Wall Street with a financial speculation tax.

We could save as much on prescription drugs if we started having them sold in a competitive market and adopted a more efficient mechanism for financing drug research [http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149]. And, we could have the Federal Reserve Board hold the bonds [http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/feel-no-pain] it is now buying so that taxpayers are not burdened with hundreds of billions a year in additional interest payments to the wealthy in future decades.

These are items that we would be discussing if the political system were not so dominated by moneyed interests. So, in this context does Senator Reid have a chance?

Actually he has a very good chance. There is an important precedent for Senator Reid’s defense of Social Security. In 1997, President Clinton had reached a deal with Trent Lott, then the majority leader in the Senate, to reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security. Their deal would have lowered the adjustment by about 1 percentage point annually. After 10 years this would mean that benefits would be almost 10 percent lower and after 20 years they would be close to 20 percent lower.

This plan might have gone through, except for the opposition of Richard Gephardt. At the time, Gephardt was the leader of the Democrats in the House. Even though the Democrats were a minority, everyone knew that if Gephardt spoke out forcefully against this deal, it would create too much political heat to carry it through.

This saved the day. As President Clinton said at one of the Peter Peterson deficit fests last spring: “I wanted to cut Social Security, but they wouldn’t let me.”

Let’s hope that Harry Reid and the American people also don’t let President Obama cut Social Security.

–This article was originally published on January 21, 2011 by TPMCafé [http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/21/can_harry_be_a_hero/].
_____________________________________________


401(k)s versus Social Security: Comparing the Rates of Return

January 12, 2011

A common claim of advocates of Social Security privatization is that private accounts deliver much higher rates of return for participants. The Cato Institute, for example, in its Cato Handbook for Policymakers tells us that:

�Social Security taxes are already so high, relative to benefits, that Social Security has quite simply become a bad deal for younger workers, providing a low, below-market rate of return. This poor rate of return means that many young workers� retirement benefits are far lower than if they had been able to invest those funds privately. However, a system of individual accounts, based on private capital investment, would provide most workers with significantly higher returns. Those higher returns would translate into higher retirement benefits, leading to a more secure retirement for millions of seniors.�

But is that true? To test the claim I compared my Social Security statement with my TIAA-CREF statement for a 401(a) plan which is essentially the same as a 401(k). Both list the total contributions made by the employers and myself. The Social Security statement indicates my benefit at 66, the age of my full retirement. My TIAA-CREF statement has the total accumulation. Since I am nearly 66 I can know much an annuity income it is worth.

My first year Social Security benefit was 12.61 percent of my total contributions. The first year TIAA annuity was 12.06 of total contributions�lower not higher than the return on my Social Security contributions as the Cato Institute so confidently claims.

It is important to point out so that as a professional employee, I am in a relatively high income category with a Social Security rate of return that is less than that of lower-income participants. For them, the rate of return for Social Security compared to private accounts would be much higher than mine, making it an even better deal.

Like the optimistic projections of the financial services industry whose interests it serves, the Cato Institute�s claim is based on before-the-fact overly optimistic assumptions of future market returns. My comparison was based on after-the-fact actual experience.

Addendum: from a reader of Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis who ran his own numbers:

“I looked at my last Social Security statement that was mailed to me, which covered the years
from 1967 to 2011.  The contributions of my employers and my own added up to $115,000.
From then to retirement, another $8,000.  Thus a total o $123,000 gives me a retirement
income of just over $1800/month.
“For a 401K to achieve this at a 5% rate, I would need to save an amount of $432,000.  That is
being generous with the rate;  I think they are now around 4%.
“The above reminds me of a quote you included from Lawrence Summers.  To paraphrase,
its all about efficiency-99% of contributions go to benefits.”

–James W. Russell


The Simpson-Bowles Attack on Social Security

January 5, 2011

Despite being stacked with opponents of Social Security, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform�s report, otherwise known as the Simpson-Bowles Report, did not garner enough member votes to be automatically taken up by Congress. The report provides, nevertheless, an indication of the tactics of those who wish to reduce Social Security�s role in national retirement provision and thereby increase the amount of national retirement savings that are funneled through the financial services industry and its 401(k)-like accounts.

Most commentary on the Social Security part of the report centered on its recommendation to raise the normal retirement age from 67 to 69. Far more damaging, though, were its recommendations to reduce benefits by an average 21% and change the formula for determining the distribution of them among income groups.

Social Security Benefits Under Current Law and Reduction Proposed by National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

_________________________________________________________________________

Current Law                             Proposed Law

Income     Benefit      Replacement   Benefit          Replacement

income        %                     income                     %

_____________________________________________

$  9,000      $  8,100          90%          $  8,100                   90%

$ 38,000     $17,380          46%          $16,800                    44%

$ 64,000     $25,700          40%          $19,400                   30%

$107,000    $32,150           30%          $21,550                  20%

_____________________________________________

Source: Calculated from The Moment of Truth: Report of the

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,

December, 2010, Figure 11

As the table indicates, the benefit formula would be changed so that middle and upper middle class participants would suffer steeper cuts in benefits than working and lower class ones. The Commission disingenuously touted this as a �progressive� reform.

In fact, it was a change that would have the effect of undermining middle and upper middle class political support for the program, which has been crucial to its success. It is well known that Social Security has survived the attacks of privatizers precisely because it enjoys a cross class base of support.

That attempt to undermine Social Security failed for the moment. But it was immediately followed by another when President Obama with the support of Congress gave a one year reduction of the payroll tax for Social Security from 6.2% to 4.2% for employees. While the money will be replaced by revenue from other parts of the budget, it sets a dangerous precedent as the first such reduction in the history of the program.

A year from now when the reduction expires, Republicans will undoubtedly push to make it permanent, thereby weakening the program�s financing and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that it is fiscally unsustainable�all as preparation for still another push for privatization.

–James W. Russell


Boomers and Social Security

January 1, 2011

January 1, 2011

This mornings New York Times carried a story: Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65 by Dan Barry that noted that the oldest of the boomers will hit official old age this year. It is a noteworthy demographic fact to comment upon.

If I had been writing the article, I would have made a central theme out of the insecurity of boomer retirement, since their generationI just missed it by being a late war babywas massively subjected to having secure traditional pensions replaced by shaky 401(k) stock market investment schemes.

Instead, the only comment Barry made about boomer retirement was in passing:

“About 13 percent of the population today is 65 or older; by 2030, when the last of the baby boomers are 65, that rate will have grown to 18 percent. In addition to testing the sustainability of entitlement programs like Social Security, this wholesale redefinition of old age may also include a pervading sense that life has been what might technically be called a ‘bummer.'”

It is a testament to the success of propaganda campaigns by the opponents of Social Security that journalists like Barry take it for granted that its fiscal sustainability is problematic. Nowhere did he mention that 401(k) were a problematic vehicle for retirement security.

The only danger to Social Securitys sustainability is political not economic: if national politicians do the bidding of the financial services industry and reduce or eliminate its major competitor for retirement savings.

–James W. Russell


The Retirement Crisis and This Blog

December 31, 2010

The Perfect Swindle is about understanding and finding solutions to the growing retirement crisis facing tens of millions of Americans.

Since 1981 shaky 401(k) schemes that depend on stock market investing have increasingly replaced secure, traditional pensions. The financial services industry encourages the belief that these schemes will produce generous benefits. But 30 years after their first introduction, the first generation to retire under these plans has learned that they produce less than half the benefits of the pensions they replaced.

Even before the stock market crisis of 2008, the signs were everywhere that very few people would be able to accumulate enough wealth through these accounts to ensure financial security. As a result, most people are looking forward toor rather becoming resigned toworking longer and seeing their standards of living dramatically decline when they do retire.

401(k) benefits are lower than those of traditional pensions because the financial services industry drains considerable management fees, commissions, and profits from the accounts involved; and individual plans lack the advantages of risk pooling that traditional pensions have.

Those who still have traditional pensions, mainly public employees such as school teachers, find themselves under attack for having decent retirement plans. The financial services industry, aided and abetted by conservative think tanks, has mounted a massive propaganda campaign to convince taxpayers with disingenuous scare tactics about unfunded liabilities that their retirement plans should also be converted to 401(k)s.

These same interests would like to further undermine retirement security by privatizing or lowering the benefits of Social Security.

What has and is occurring is a massive swindle in which the financial services industry is raiding the collective retirement savings of tens of millions of people to inflate its profits, which have grown enormously at the expense of retirement security.

This blog is dedicated to exposing and organizing resistance to that swindle.

Who am I? I have researched retirement systems in the United States, Europe and Latin America and written about them in articles and books. The most relevant is Double Standard: Social Policy in Europe and the United States. Through that research I realized how bad the retirement situation is becoming in the United States. I also realized how bad my own retirement situation was since I had a 401(k) like retirement plan. That led to the formation of the Connecticut Committee for Equity in Retirement, a rank and file advocacy group that initiated a union campaign that won the right of public employees in Connecticut to transfer from our failing 401(k) type plan to the states traditional pension. We recommend that other employees examine their plans and, if necessary, work toward reforms that will reverse the disastrous trend and restore or create traditional defined-benefit pensions. We are also strong supporters of Social Security, a successful and necessary program that needs to be defended and expanded.

For more information about me, you can go to my website.

This blog will be open to everyone who wants to learn more about the retirement crisis in the United States: accepts its general point of view that defined benefit pensions, including Social Security, are better than 401(k)-type private accounts for ensuring retirement security; and is interested in engaging in progressive retirement reform movements.

–James W. Russell