Although unknown to most Americans, Teresa Ghilarducci is the intellectual godmother for the Democrats' plans to radically change how Americans save for retirement. Ms. Ghilarducci, an economist at The New School for Social Research, called for the abolition of the tax breaks given to employers for 401k plans and instead proposed the mandatory enrollment of American employees in Government Retirement Accounts (GRA's) that are funded by a 5% mandatory payroll deduction in her book, When I'm 64: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them, published last year.
Ms. Ghilarducci outlined her proposals in a briefing paper nearly a year ago:
"The plan calls for all workers not enrolled in an equivalent or better defined-benefit pension to enroll in a GRA, a plan that borrows the best features of defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans, including guaranteed retirement benefits that last a lifetime, low administrative costs, and steady contributions. With GRAs, workers will accumulate savings in investment funds that earn a rate of return guaranteed by the federal government. These funds will be converted to life annuities upon retirement. Along with Social Security benefits, these will replace approximately 70% of pre-retirement earnings for the typical retiree.
Guaranteed Retirement Accounts eliminate the regulatory and tax law favoritism that not only gives 401(k)-type plans wide discretion and little scrutiny, but does so at the expense of the defined-benefit system.....
Guaranteed Retirement Accounts are like universal 401(k) plans except that the government, as befits a large and enduring institution, will invest and manage the pooled savings.
Contributions equal to 5% of earnings are deducted along with payroll taxes and credited to individual accounts administered by the Social Security Administration. The cost of contributions is split equally between employer and employee. Mandatory contributions are deducted only on earnings up to the Social Security earnings cap....
Participants who die before retiring can bequeath half their account balances to heirs; those who die after retiring can bequeath half their final account balance minus benefits received... "
Briefing Paper on Proposed New Government Retirement System
The rest of her plan is more of the same as the esteemed professor calls tax breaks for 401k plans a wasteful expense, claiming they cost the government $80 billion a year in tax revenue. She considers $80 billion in a $2 TRILLION budget "extravagant" while ignoring the fact these plans ARE taxed upon withdrawal of funds.
One benefit of 401k plans she seeks to change is ownership of the retirement funds. Currently 401k funds are the property of the employee (after becoming fully vested). If he dies, his heirs receive ALL of his money saved for retirement, minus any taxes. Under Ms. Ghilarducci's plan, surviving family members only get HALF of what remains in the account with the rest going back to the government. Consider this example: an American works for 40 years, builds up a nest egg in his GRA of $100,000 and suddenly dies from a heart attack. His wife will only receive $50,000 as the government will seize the money he earned and contributed to his retirement under this plan while the detached ivory-tower thinking of Ghilarducci and government-first philosophy of the Democrats consider such thievery to be "fair".
Unfortunately, Ms. Ghilarducci ignores the the effect her plan will have on financial markets when such a massive amount of 401k funds are transferred to the federal government. The current crisis in our markets will seem mild as they collapse from such a withdrawal of capital. Instead of addressing this very serious concern, she blithely says any injury caused to the worker can be prevented with a tax credit and says the government "conservatively invest" the money contributed to GRA's. One can only imagine the mischief this will create as it gives government further control over the markets and private businesses.
Democrats will seize upon this opportunity to impose conditions on funds receiving government investments as it does for corporations doing business with the federal government: Labor conditions. Environmental regulations. In what countries and types of business does a fund invest its money? Preferred investments and projects by favored political pals (Teamsters pension fund ring a bell?) will be a tempting target. Diversity guidelines. The list goes on as GRA's will inject the government into the economy in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.
Such a scenario is not far-fetched as House Democrats are currently discussing enacting legislation doing exactly what this liberal economist proposes: forcing the involuntary transfer of 401k retirement funds into government coffers. Investment news reported they recently held a hearing to examine "proposals to overhaul the nation's $3 trillion 401(k) system, including the elimination of most of the $80 billion in annual tax breaks that 401(k) investors receive.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, are looking at redirecting those tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute" Earlier Post on Democrats Seizing 401k Plans
Mr. Miller had his own comments for the 401k tax breaks: "“We’ve invested $80 billion into subsidizing this activity,” he said, referring to tax breaks allowed for 401(k) contributions and savings..." Another Kingfish Post on Dem's Seizing 401k Plans.
The playbook is familiar: Democrats will use the worn out mantra about stopping tax breaks for the rich, protecting the little man on the street, etc., then fast-track legislation effectively abolishing private retirement accounts, moving most private retirement funds into the government cookie jar. The victims will receive no right to their money but instead an IOU from the government for an annuity as the government does the same for Social Security and FDIC. Meanwhile, liberals will celebrate, proclaiming they succeeded in protecting the middle class when in reality they reached their goal of enslaving everyone.
This is their idea of change.
Note: Listened to Mark Levin tonight who oddly enough, interviewed Dr. Ghilarducci. She said she wanted to "nationalize" 401k plans. No spin, no out of context, she said that was exactly what she wanted to do.
Are Your 401k Plans Safe From the Democrats?
Ghilarducci NY Times Essay
Money Magazine Article
Washington Post Article on Ending 401k Plans
Additional note: Believe it or not, Limbaugh actually nailed the essential elements of her plan on the radio today. As I've read her policy paper, I can confirm that everything Limbaugh wrote about her plan is true. Nice to see he caught up with The Kingfish Limbaugh Analysis