Unions Covet Your 401K, Obama Wants to Oblige
Flush with the victorious takeover of health care by the President and his progressive lemmings have a new target, your 401K. Under the guise of "protecting your future," they want to take over your IRAs in exchange for getting a lifetime guaranteed annuity. Your retirement accounts will be put in the same pot as the Union pension plans (most of which are failing) creating a big pot with all of the solvency of Social Security and AARP wants to help.
Annuities generally guarantee income until the retiree’s death, and often that of a surviving spouse as well. They are designed to protect against the risk that retirees outlive their savings, a danger made clear by market losses suffered by older Americans over the last year, David Certner , legislative counsel for AARP, said in an interview.
“There’s a real desire on a lot of people’s parts to try to encourage something other than just rolling over a lump sum, to make sure this money will actually last a lifetime,” said Certner, legislative counsel for Washington-based AARP, the biggest U.S. advocacy group for retirees.
In February Newt Gingrich and Peter Ferrara warned that the government wants to use the money to pay off the federal deficit:
They will tell you that you are "investing" your money in U.S. Treasury bonds. But they will use your money immediately to pay for their unprecedented trillion-dollar budget deficits, leaving nothing to back up their political promises, just as they have raided the Social Security trust funds.
This "conversion" may start out as an optional choice, though you are already free to buy Treasury bonds whenever you want. But as Karl Denninger of the Market Ticker Web site reports: "’Choices’ have a funny way of turning into mandates, and this looks to me like a raw admission that Treasury knows it will not be able to sell its debt in the open market — so they will effectively tax you by forcing your ‘retirement’ money to buy them."
Moreover, benefits based on Treasury bond interest rates may be woefully inadequate compensation for your years of savings. As Denninger adds, "What’s even worse is that the government has intentionally suppressed Treasury yields during this crisis (and will keep doing so by various means, including manipulating the CPI inflation index) so as to guarantee that you lose over time compared to actual purchasing power."
This proposal follows hearings held last fall by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., of the Ways and Means Committee focusing on "redirecting (IRA and 401k) tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute," as reported by InvestmentNews.com.
Last week, Connie Hair disclosed in Human Event s the rationale behind the effort— protecting the failing Union Pension Plans:
In February, the White House released its “Annual Report on the Middle Class” containing new regulations favored by Big Labor including a bailout of critically underfunded union pension plans through “retirement security” options.
The radical solution most favored by Big Labor is the seizure of private 401(k) plans for government disbursement — which lets them off the hook for their collapsing retirement scheme. And, of course, the Obama administration is eager to accommodate their buddies.
….the backdoor bulls-eye is on your 401(k) plan and the trillions of dollars the government would control through seizure, regulation and federal disbursement of mandatory retirement accounts.
Boehner and the group are sounding the alarm, warning bureaucrats to keep their hands off of America’s private retirement plans.
The House GOP Savings Recovery Group sent a letter to the Labor and Treasury secretaries, outing the issue :
Dear Secretaries Solis and Geithner:
As members of the Republican Savings Solutions Group, we write today to express our strong opposition to any proposal to eliminate or federalize private-sector defined contribution pension plans, such as 401(k)s, or impose burdensome new requirements upon the businesses, large and small, who choose to offer these plans to their employees.
In the Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, Vice President Biden discussed at length the creation of so-called “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, (GRAs)” which would provide for protection from “inflation and market risk” and potentially “guarantee a specified real return above the rate of inflation” — presumably at taxpayer expense. In the Report, the Vice President recommended “further study of these issues.”
The Vice President’s comments are troubling, insofar as they come on the heels of testimony before Congress from supporters of GRAs proposing to eliminate the favorable tax treatment currently afforded to 401(k) plans, and instead use those dollars to fund government-invested GRAs into which all employees would be required to contribute a portion of their salary — again, with a government subsidy. These advocates would, essentially, dismantle the present private-sector 401(k) system, replacing it instead with a government-run investment plan, the size and scope of which remain to be seen. This despite data showing that 90 percent of households have a favorable opinion of the existing 401(k)/IRA system.
In light of these facts, we write today to express our opposition in the strongest terms to any effort to “nationalize” the private 401(k) system, or any proposal that would dismantle or disfavor the private 401(k) system in favor of a government-run retirement security regime.
Similarly, and more recently, the Departments of Labor and Treasury have jointly issued a “Request for Information” regarding the “annuitization” of 401(k) plans through “Lifetime Income Options.” While we appreciate the Departments’ seeking guidance and information from all parties and stakeholders in advance of regulatory activity, we strongly urge that the Departments not proceed with any regulation in this area before they have carefully and thoroughly considered all of the information received.
More specifically, we urge that the Departments take no action to mandate that plan sponsors — often, small businesses — include a “lifetime income” or “annuitization” option if they choose to offer a 401(k) plan to their employees, or that beneficiaries take some or all of their retirement savings in such an option. Data shows that 70 percent of Americans oppose the concept of a mandated annuity or government payout of their 401(k) plan. On a more fundamental level, Congress should not be in the business of choosing “winners” and “losers” among retirement security stakeholders. Instead, we urge the Departments to make it easier for employers to include retirement income solutions in their savings plans and to help workers learn more about the value of their retirement savings as a source of retirement income. Finally, to the extent new mandates and bureaucratic red tape from Washington push small employers out of the business of offering these plans to their employees, we would submit such an effort weakens, rather than strengthens retirement security.
We appreciate your consideration of our views in these important matters and stand ready to work with you and the Administration to promote secure and adequate retirement savings for all Americans.
The Progressives may find a way to try to shove it though before the election after all they have all of those union pension plans to protect.
How bad off are the union pension plans? The best single indicator of a plan’s financial health is its Funding Percentage. A fully funded plan will have a funding percentage of 100%. A plan is underfunded when the percentage is below 100%. The lower the percentage, the greater the risk that benefits will not be available when they come due.
According to the Pension Protection Act of 2006 multi-employer (plans set through unions and company sponsors) plans are evaluated via their funding levels. To ensure retiree benefits are protected, when a multi-employer plan falls below certain funding levels, stronger funding requirements become effective under provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Plans whose funding levels are below 80% are referred to as “endangered,” while those below 65% are referred to as “critical.”
The list of 108 union pension plans below is from the Moody’s September 2009 report (they only measured 125), all are below the 80% level, about half of them are below critical.
Folks examine these numbers carefully,because one day your pension plans will be making these plans solvent—at your expense.
Cross-posted From "The Lid"