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2008 Discussion Archive

Monday, December 29, 2008

Social Security and the Vanishing 401(k)

Eric Kingson
Professor of Social Work and Public Administration, Syracuse University

Originally Published 12/28/08, The New York Times Online

The availability, stability and value of traditional defined benefit pensions are diminished. Americans are experiencing dramatic losses in 401(k) and I.R.A. retirement savings accounts. Home equity is shrinking. Employers have been bailing out of retiree health plans. Unemployment is increasing and now, faced with mounting pressures, some employers are reducing contributions to 401(k) plans.

This unfortunate state of affairs serves to remind the nation of the importance of the core mission of Social Security — to provide widespread and basic protection against loss of income due to death, disability or retirement.

Although this comes as a surprise to some, Social Security is fundamentally sound, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. Projected financing problems, though real, are relatively modest, manageable and many years in the future.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Challenges and Opportunities for Retirement Security

Anna M. Rappaport, F.S.A., M.A.A.A.
President, Anna Rappaport Consulting

We are truly at a crossroads with respect to retirement security in America. We have an opportunity to improve and build on what we have in the longer run, but only if we effectively address some short-term challenges. We need to do several things or we will lose our opportunities:

Find a forum where diverse stakeholders will work together effectively – those who represent the public, labor and business must work together to strengthen the system. Repeated failure to work together has led to regulatory instability and chaos that for decades has been a major contributor to the decline of pensions and loss of retirement security.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Social Security Fix for 2008

Robert M. Ball
Founding Chair of the National Academy of Social Insurance

This op-ed piece is the last op-ed written by NASI founder Robert M. Ball, who died in January 2008. It was originally published on October 29, 2007 in The Washington Post.

In the Oct. 19 editorial " Mr. Giuliani's No-Tax Pledge ," The Post stated: "It's no more responsible for Republicans to rule out tax increases [to strengthen Social Security] than it is for Democrats to insist on no benefit cuts." The Post praised, as a "bipartisan blend," President Ronald Reagan 's acceptance of a 1983 fix that included both.

I take exception. It's the essence of responsibility, in my view, to insist on no benefit cuts. In 1983, I served on the National Commission on Social Security Reform (better known as the Greenspan Commission) and represented House Speaker Tip O'Neill in negotiations with the White House . What was right in 1983 -- a balanced package of benefit cuts and tax increases as part, roughly half, of the final agreement -- would be wrong today.

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Posted on November 19, 2008  |  Write the first comment
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Prime Target for Health Care Reform: The $300 Billion, Yes Billion, Spent Wastefully on Processing Bills

Merton C. Bernstein
Coles Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington University; Former Principal Consultant to the 1982-83 National Commission on Social Security Reform; Founding board member of the National Academy of Social Insurance

Over 15% of the medical care dollar gets spent on “processing bills, claims and payments” according to a McKinsey Quarterly analysis.1 That tots up to some $300 billion a year. In contrast, Medicare spends about 3% of its outlays for administration.

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Posted on November 18, 2008  |  2 comments  |  Add your comment
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Economical Way to Assure Medical Care for Children and Young People That Also Reduces Strains on Family, Business and State Budgets: Medicare

Nancy J. Altman and Merton C. Bernstein
Former senior staff to the 1982-1983 National Commission on Social Security Reform in the United States Senate and Board Members of the National Academy of Social Insurance

President-elect Obama’s proposed health care reform includes a requirement of mandatory, universal, and comprehensive health care coverage for all children. No reform is more urgent, offers greater returns, or is more readily achieved at such low cost.1

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Posted on November 12, 2008  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Towards Guaranteed Retirement Security

Teresa Ghilarducci
Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz Chair of Economic Policy Analysis
The New School for Social Research

American workers lack pension security, beyond Social Security, because individual commercial retirement accounts are tied to the volatility of finance markets, are inadequately funded, have poor net-of-fees returns, and do not pay a guaranteed rate of return for the rest of a retiree’s life. Also, employers have conflict of interests between their needs and their workers' needs when choosing 401(k) investment vehicles. Pension coverage is stuck at half of the workforce

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another Lesson from Today’s Financial Meltdown

Henry J. Aaron, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, The Brookings Institute

In the midst of the financial chaos enveloping Wall Street and threatening the economy of the nation and world, it is hard to think of much else. But it is worth a moment to recall the quite serious debate about partly privatizing Social Security that absorbed national attention just three years ago.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Pensions for Everyone

Jonathan B. Forman, Alfred P. Murrah Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma College of Law

Only half of American workers have a pension plan, and only a fraction of those have traditional pensions that replace a meaningful part of their final pay. Instead, most workers with a pension today have a 401(k) plan or an individual retirement account, and according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, only a fraction of those workers will save enough to get a meaningful monthly benefit.

This month the oldest baby boomers started turning 62, and millions more will follow in the coming decades. Before it is too late, we need to adopt policies to ensure that every worker has adequate retirement savings.

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Posted on January 11, 2008  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
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