The Democrat War on our 401(k) Plans

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 22nd, 2014

Week in Review

Retirees can’t get by on Social Security alone.  And we can’t raise Social Security payments because the program will be insolvent in a few years.  Because of our aging population.  More people are leaving the workforce than are entering it.  So fewer people are paying taxes to support those in retirement.  And those in retirement are living a lot longer into retirement than the Social Security actuaries thought they would.  Which is why Social Security is going bust.  And people need other sources of retirement income.  And a big source of that retirement income has been our 401(k) plans.  Which President Obama wants to take away (see Obama’s budget bad for 401(k) savers by Scott Hanson posted 3/19/2014 on CNBC).

President Obama’s proposed budget for 2015 would be a disaster for the millions of Americans who are underprepared for retirement. This plan would reduce the tax incentives for employers to offer retirement plans to their employees…

Under Obama’s budget plan, higher-income earners would be limited to a tax deduction at the 28 percent level, even if their current income-tax bracket is much higher…

This means they would not only pay taxes on some of their contributions today, they are fully taxed when they withdraw the money in the future. This, of course, is double taxation.

The Social Security Trust Fund doesn’t have any money in it.  All the money we’re paying into Social Security is going right out to pay for someone else’s retirement.  And what’s left over the government spends to buy votes.  Replacing our money in the Social Security Trust Fund with IOUs.  Promises to repay the money when we need it.  How?  By either borrowing more money.  Printing money.  Or taking a portion of our other retirement money we’re setting aside.  Our 401(k) plans.

It’s no secret that the Democrats hate these 401(k) plans.  For that’s a lot of money people are NOT spending.  And money they can’t tax.  The government is full of Keynesians.  They believe the only healthy economy is an economy where people spend everything they earn.  Keynesians see savings as leaks from the economy.  And they don’t like that.  For them consumption is everything.  And saving is for chumps.  They want our 401(k) plans.  Some have even been thinking about just taking that money and replacing it with some government program.  Like Social Security.  So they can get that money now.  And spend it.  For there are so many votes to buy and so little money to buy them with.  So the Democrats will wage their war on our 401(k) plans.  And then move on to something else.  For they have an insatiable appetite to spend.

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Nanny States emasculate the People and Screw and Frighten Retirees

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

This world isn’t what it used to be.  Everywhere people are looking for others to pay their way.  Or are so emasculated that living frightens them so that they run to government to parent them.  Forever.  What happened to those rugged men that entered the wilderness and built civilizations?  Who asked not for help.  All they wanted was to be left the hell alone.  Because they were men.  Rugged and fiercely independent.  Who filled their speech with obscenities whenever they talked about any form of government or nobility.  Because the government and noble classes were nothing but freeloaders looking for the good life they could force others to give them.

Today people have been so brainwashed by their government that they are incapable of doing anything without government helping them.  It’s a wonder that they can wipe their bottoms after a poop these days.  The growth of the nanny state has brought advanced economies to their knees around the world as the costs of their nanny states push them to the brink of bankruptcy.  And still the privileged/frightened people ask for more (see Business groups oppose ‘made in Ontario’ pension plan by Dana Flavelle Economy and Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew posted 12/17/2013 on The Star).

Ontario’s plans to introduce its own mandatory pension plan could put the province at a competitive disadvantage, business groups warn

“It will add a huge competitive disadvantage to the businesses in the provinces that opt to go down that road,” said Dan Kelly, president of Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

But labour groups and retirees are applauding the province’s move to fill the void left by Ottawa’s decision not to enhance the Canada Pension Plan at this time…

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty and junior minister of state for finance Kevin Sorenson rejected growing calls to expand CPP [Canada Pension Plan]contributions and benefits, saying now is not the right time to hit employers with higher payroll taxes…

Business groups said they welcomed Ottawa’s decision, noting CPP contributions are one of the two biggest payroll taxes they pay. The other is employment insurance premiums…

Few dispute that Canada’s pension system is no longer adequate to meet the needs of an aging population. People are living longer and saving less, while fewer private-sector employers offer pension coverage at work, a trend that plagues many industrialized nations.

Why are people saving less?  Two reasons.  First, the more the government taxes away the less they can save.  Second, with the government making promises they can’t keep (we will take care of you in your retirement so instead of saving your money spend it) why should anyone save anything for their own retirement?

Of course labor groups (the privileged) and retirees (the frightened) applaud this.  Labor wants to give their members a better life than those outside their union.  And retirees are living so long into retirement they’re living beyond their contributions into the CPP.  And are all for a little generational theft to make up the shortfall.

The defined-benefit pension is a relic of another era.  It doesn’t work anymore.  If we would have kept having babies like we once did the Ponzi scheme may have kept working.  But we didn’t.  So the Ponzi scheme is collapsing.  As they all eventually do.  The rest of the private sector has gone to 401(k)s and other such retirement vehicles.  Where we put OUR money away for OUR retirement.  Where the government can’t get their dirty little fingers on it.  This is the future of retirement savings.  Because unlike defined-benefit pensions they are sustainable.

All government pension plans need to make such a change.  Because once they do the age of the population will not matter.  Because you are saving YOUR money for YOUR retirement.  Those retired and those within a decade or so of retirement need to be protected from the folly of government in their retirement.  But younger generations coming up need to provide for their own retirement.  Because we can’t keep raising taxes.  For all that does is send jobs from the First World to the Third World.  Good for the Third World.  But bad for the First World.  And retirees.

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Detroit may mark the Beginning of the End of Generational Theft by Public Sector Unions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 4th, 2013

Week in Review

So who’s to blame for Detroit?  The greedy.  The greed of the public sector.  Who stole as much as they thought possible from future generations.  Laughing all the way to the bank.  But never did they think that their greed would eclipse the paying-ability of those they were stealing from.  Future taxpayers.  Which is what happened in Detroit.  And will probably happen elsewhere throughout the nation (see The Unsteady States of America posted 7/27/2013 on the Economist).

Nearly half of Detroit’s liabilities stem from promises of pensions and health care to its workers when they retire. American states and cities typically offer their employees defined-benefit pensions based on years of service and final salary. These are supposed to be covered by funds set aside for the purpose. By the states’ own estimates, their pension pots are only 73% funded. That is bad enough, but nearly all states apply an optimistic discount rate to their obligations, making the liabilities seem smaller than they are. If a more sober one is applied, the true ratio is a terrifying 48% (see article). And many states are much worse. The hole in Illinois’s pension pot is equivalent to 241% of its annual tax revenues: for Connecticut, the figure is 190%; for Kentucky, 141%; for New Jersey, 137%.

By one recent estimate, the total pension gap for the states is $2.7 trillion, or 17% of GDP. That understates the mess, because it omits both the unfunded pension figure for cities and the health-care promises made to retired government workers of all sorts. In Detroit’s case, the bill for their medical benefits ($5.7 billion) was even larger than its pension hole ($3.5 billion).

Some of this is the unfortunate side-effect of a happy trend: Americans are living longer, even in Detroit, so promises to pensioners are costlier to keep. But the problem is also political. Governors and mayors have long offered fat pensions to public servants, thus buying votes today and sending the bill to future taxpayers. They have also allowed some startling abuses. Some bureaucrats are promoted just before retirement or allowed to rack up lots of overtime, raising their final-salary pension for the rest of their lives. Or their unions win annual cost-of-living adjustments far above inflation. A watchdog in Rhode Island calculated that a retired local fire chief would be pulling in $800,000 a year if he lived to 100, for example. More than 20,000 retired public servants in California receive pensions of over $100,000.

This is an important point.  People say that we must honor these lavish pension and retiree health care benefits because they made a deal.  A contract with the city.  Or the state.  But did they?  No.  The public sector unions and the cities and states colluded together to steal money from future generations.  Who were not a party to those agreements.  This amounts to generational theft.  And the generous size of those benefits just makes that theft worse.  Transforming the public sector into an aristocracy.  That cares little for the future taxpayers that they will be bled dry to pay for their long and comfortable retirements.

Detroit is just the first domino to fall.  This generational theft is just unsustainable.  Something has to be done.  But what?

Public employees should retire later. States should accelerate the shift to defined-contribution pension schemes, where what you get out depends on what you put in. (These are the norm in the private sector.) Benefits already accrued should be honoured, but future accruals should be curtailed, where legally possible. The earlier you grapple with the problem, the easier it will be to fix. Nebraska, which stopped offering final-salary pensions to new hires in 1967, is sitting pretty.

In other words our public servants should not live a better life than their masters.  Those people paying the bill.  There should be no aristocracy in the United States.  People in the public sector shouldn’t be able to retire young and live a long life in retirement while someone else is paying the bill.  The taxpayer.  People who have to work until they drop dead to save for their own retirement.  That just isn’t right.  If our servants in the public sector want that long and comfortable retirement then they must do what people in the private sector do.  Save for it.  Make sacrifices.  And live more frugally.  Because there shouldn’t be two Americas.  Where one enslaves the other.  While setting up a string of municipal and state bankruptcies because of their greed that threatens the financial wellbeing of the nation.

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Unfunded Pension and Retire Health Care Liabilities are a Problem for more Cities than just Detroit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 28th, 2013

Week in Review

The problem all our big cities are having is the cost of pension and retiree health care for their public sectors.  These cities made ridiculous promises during their contract negotiations with their public sector unions.  Promising them generous pension and health care benefits for life for retirees.  Benefits a later generation would have to pay for.  Which is why these cities are imploding under these costs.  And why Detroit filed bankruptcy.  These cities never put away the money for these future benefits because they were just too costly.  Besides, they no doubt thought, when the bill comes due it will be someone else’s problem.  And that’s where we are today.

How bad is it?  Really bad.  Especially in Detroit.  A city that has about half the population it had when it entered into those agreements.  And nowhere near the automotive industry it had back then.  A race riot in 1967 caused a white flight.  And the black middle class would follow years later.  As the jobs left Detroit for the suburbs.  And the people followed those jobs out of the city.  Just decimating the tax base that has to pay those unfunded benefits (see The Retirement Surprise In Detroit’s Bankruptcy by Robert C. Pozen posted 7/25/2013 on Brookings).

When Detroit recently filed for bankruptcy, one number surprised a lot of observers–$6.4 billion in other post-employment benefits (OPEB). OPEB is primarily comprised of unfunded obligations to pay health care costs for municipal employees.

By contrast, the unfunded pension obligations of Detroit were $3 billion–less than half the size of its OPEB…

The Pew Charitable Trust did a study in 2013 of both pension and OPEB shortfalls in the 30 largest cities in the United States. The three cities other than Detroit with the largest pension shortfalls were:

$14,302 per city household in New York City;
$12,170 per city household in Philadelphia; and
$11,389 per city household in Portland, Oregon.

But the shortfalls for OPEB, primarily healthcare obligations, were significantly larger. According to Pew, the three cities other than Detroit with the largest OPEB shortfalls were:

$22,857 per city household in New York City,
$18,962 per city household in Boston
$13,487 per city household in San Francisco.

These numbers are staggering.  Based on the U.S. Census, there are about 264,209 households in Detroit.  If you divide the total unfunded pension and health care costs by the number of households you get $35,578.  That is, to pay this outstanding debt it will cost each household in the city of Detroit $35,578.  Which will be very difficult to do when the median household income in Detroit is $27, 862.

Those in the union say these people are owed their retirement and health care benefits.  Because they made a deal.  But they didn’t make a deal with the people currently paying the taxes.  What this amounts to is generational theft.  Like all those municipal pensions and health care benefits.  For when they made those generous agreements the people who ultimately had to pay them weren’t in the room when they signed those contracts.  In fact they weren’t even born yet.  The people demanding their benefits now and their union representation apparently had no problem sticking it to future generations.  They were the ones in the room when they signed those contracts.  And didn’t give the people stuck paying for their benefits a second thought.

All big cities with big public sectors have the same problem.  They may not be ‘Detroit’ bad but they have bills that they won’t be able to pay.  There are about 100 U.S. cities with a population of a quarter million or more.  If each one of them had this problem that’s about $1 trillion in unfunded benefits just in these cities alone.  With trillion dollar deficits already, Obamacare coming on line and Social Security and Medicare projected to go broke the federal government just won’t be able to bail these cities out.  Perhaps bringing the days of generational theft to an end.  Which may be the only good thing to come from a wave of municipal bankruptcies.

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Aging Populations and State-Provided Health Care will Stress State Systems to Collapse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

When people provided their own health care and retirement nest eggs it didn’t matter if the population was aging or getting younger.  For each person planned to take care of him or herself.  But when the government took over health care and retirement nest eggs the age of the population began to matter.  For when the state provides these benefits they have to pay for them via taxes.  And if the population is aging that is a big problem.  Because more people are leaving the workforce and consuming health care and pension benefits than there are entering the workforce to pay for them.

Which means the government has to increase tax rates on those paying for these benefits.  And when people are living longer into retirement it really throws a wrench into the state’s plans.  For it is requiring a level of taxation that simply isn’t possible.  And this is exactly what the baby boom generation is doing to advanced welfare states throughout the world.  It’s causing greater governmental expenditures.  Resulting in larger budget deficits.  And financial crises (see Our aging population set to put a heavy toll on our systems, and we’re not ready by Simon Kent and Shawn Jeffords posted 6/14/2013 on the Toronto Sun).

The first baby boomers began turning 65 in 2012, and by 2036, one out of every four of our neighbours will be elderly…

“We don’t have a health care system in Canada, we have an acute care system,” [Sharon] Carstairs [former senator and was the first woman to lead an opposition party in Canada] after becoming Manitoba’s Liberal leader in the ’80stold QMI Agency.

The very sick are cared for well but we don’t do a good job of keeping others at home and out hospitals and high-cost facilities.

“We’re using acute care hospital beds to hold thousands of Canadians who should be in long-term care or home care,” she says…

Canada has a “little bit of breathing space” for preparations to cope with aging boomers, but not much, suggests University of Toronto professor emeritus David Foot, one of the country’s most respected demographers.

“We need to get this right to prepare for that boomer onslaught,” Foot says. “We can have an excellent system if we choose to.”

Zero hour is 2027.

“The first boomer born in 1947 reaches 80 in 2027,” Foot says.

That’s when the critical mass, the largest bulge of the baby boom, approaches 80 and will require the most care of their lives…

Canada needs to train gerontologists, therapists, psychiatrists, palliative care nurses and specialists, replace the workforce of aging nurses and the army of some 3 million volunteers who currently provide the bulk of in-home care to seniors, say experts…

“The sheer number of baby boomers that will be drawing on the system will magnify and put pressures on the systems that has not been felt before,” he says.

Both the United States and Canada have aging populations.  And a baby boomer bulge coming down the pike.  It will make it very difficult in Canada.  And far worse in the United States.  For they have about 9-times the population of Canada.  And will have 9-times the baby boomer bulge.  Making it a very poor time for the state to take over more pension and health care spending obligations.  Which is exactly what the Americans did by passing Obamacare into law.

The United States is already suffering record trillion dollar deficits.  By the time Obamacare pays to train gerontologists, therapists, psychiatrists, palliative care nurses, specialists, etc., and builds nursing homes to handle the baby boomer bulge the deficit will soar even higher.  Unless there really are death panels in Obamacare.  Which may be the only way not to break the fiscal back of the nation.  Well, there’s that.  Or they could let people provide their own health care and retirement nest eggs like they once did.  And then the age of the population would be irrelevant.  For it basically comes down to these two options.  Either we pay for our own health care and retirement.  Or the government will have to figure out how to cut costs.  And how do you do that when the largest cost is caring for the very old and the very sick?  In a word, death panels.  Well, two words, actually.

Welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare.

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Britain raising Retirement Ages to cope with an Exploding and Costly Aging Population

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2013

Week in Review

When the actuaries first crunched the Social Security numbers do you know what they did?  They built a system that would start paying benefits to people who on average were already dead.  That is the retirement age was pretty close to the average life expectancy.  Which meant few people would live long into retirement.  So if you’re collecting taxes from everyone but only have to pay about half of them in retirement (as the other half would already be dead) it wasn’t that hard to keep Social Security solvent.  But then something happened.  We started living longer.  Which the actuaries never thought would happen.  Worse, people were having fewer babies.  So as more people lived longer into retirement there were fewer people entering the workforce to pay the taxes to pay for their long retirement.  Creating an aging population.  Something else the actuaries never thought would happen.

Put it all together and you have a financial mess.  With both Social Security and Medicare projecting to go bankrupt.  But it’s just not in the United States.  It’s everywhere (see Britain ‘woefully’ under-prepared for rising number of elderly people by Juliette Jowit posted 3/13/213 on the guardian).

Britain is “woefully under-prepared” to cope with an expected explosion of older people and ministers need to respond by raising the retirement age and tackle the costs by reviewing pensioner benefits, a House of Lords inquiry concluded.

A special committee of peers blamed successive governments for their failure to tackle policy issues generated by the ageing population, warned that the biggest threats are to already stretched health and social services, and proposed a raft of new policies to help people cope.

Led by Lord Filkin, the group did not put forward a specific timetable for increasing the state pension age – already set to rise from 60 for women and 65 for men, to 66 in 2020 and 68 by 2046 – but the body did cite recommendations made by Lord Turner, chairman of the pensions commission, who had said the threshold could rise to 70 by 2030…

The wide-ranging inquiry heard startling evidence about the scale of the demographic change coming. Between 2010 and 2030 there is expected to be a 50% increase in people aged 65 or older, and a doubling of people aged 85 or older.

The consequences are predicted to be a 50% increase in people with arthritis, coronary disease or strokes, and an 80% rise in people with dementia to nearly two million.

So the British are talking about raising retirement ages.  And means-testing their benefits.  One thing they don’t mention is their Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient.  To help the dying to die with dignity.  Though many call it a quasi death panel.  To help unburden the NHS with a lot of costly patients.  Helping them to stretch their limited resources to cover more people.  Obamacare includes something similar.  Some bureaucrat will make life and death decisions to determine whether medical care will have an acceptable cost-benefit ratio.  If not, well, there will be something similar to Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient in Obamacare.  For it will be the only way to cut costs with an aging population.  Unless you force health care workers to work at bargain discount pay rates.  Like they do in Cuba.  And North Korea.

This will be the future of Obamacare.  For it is the present of the NHS.  And we both have aging populations.

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Email and Electronic Bill Paying as well as Retiree Benefits are Bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The United States is not the only country having trouble with their postal service.  Email and electronic bill paying have taken away a huge source of revenue for the postal service in the US.  As well as in the UK (see Post Office will shut one in five branches after ‘losing £40m a year’ by Anna Edwards posted 2/7/2013 pm the Daily Mail).

The Post Office said they were losing £40 million [$63 million US] a year, so it was seeking retail partners for 70 branches, enabling them to stay in their current locations…

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said the announcement was a ‘huge blow’ to the Post Office network, saying: ‘Staff will be in shock at the scale of what will effectively be the closures of Crown post offices across the country.

‘This move will have a huge impact on the high streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown post office.

‘These offices provide a dedicated specialist service to communities which will not be replicated by a window or two in a bigger shop…

‘It leaves huge questions about the future of the Post Office – how can it realistically deliver services for passport applications, identity services and a range of financial services while being dramatically pruned back? What does it mean for Metropolitan Police plans to move into London post offices?’

Robert Hammond, of Consumer Focus, said: ‘The Post Office network must change if it is to be sustainable.

‘These changes to Crown post offices are part of the biggest-ever programme of change to the network and consumers will want to see Post Office services that are high-quality and accessible, and offer the products and services they need. This is more important than the issue of who operates the post office itself.

People are using Royal Mail less in the UK.  So to save the postal service the UK is taking drastic action.  Basically privatizing as much of it as they can.  By partnering with other retail outlets that can cut the overhead cost of standalone post offices.  Some people may not be happy about these developments.  But it’s their own fault for using email.  And paying their bills online.  If they want to keep the postal service this may be their only chance.  Something the Americans should consider.  Based on the money they’re losing (see Postal Service loses less, but still in trouble by Jennifer Liberto posted 2/8/2013 on CNN Money).

In the three months ended Dec. 31, the agency lost $1.3 billion — considerably less than the $3.3 billion lost in the year-earlier period.

The service was hurt as the volume of first-class mail, which most consumers use to pay bills and stay in touch, decreased by 4.5.%, said USPS chief financial officer Joseph Corbett. But it got help as shipping and package volume for the busy holiday season increased 4% compared to the prior year.

Still, the service is in trouble. The key culprit remains a 2006 congressional mandate, under which it has to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees. The USPS has been borrowing billions of dollars from taxpayers to make up for the shortfalls…

The Postal Service on Wednesday unveiled a plan to end Saturday delivery of mail, a move which is expected to save $2 billion a year, a drop in the bucket compared to the $16 billion loss the organization reported for 2012.

The US has about 5-times the population of the UK.  So if we multiplied their losses (in US dollars) by 5 it comes to $316 million.  A far cry from the $16 BILLION lost in 2012.  The U.S. Postal Service has a far greater crisis on its hands than the Royal Mail.  And it goes to that unfunded retiree health care plan that the U.S. government is now forcing them to fund.  Compounding the problem of email and electronic bill paying.

Employers who provide retiree pensions and health care benefits are supposed to put money aside for their current workers’ retirement.  In accounting terminology, this retirement expense should be expensed on the income statement (lowering profits) with a credit going to the balance sheet to show the money owed.  A liability.  When a person retires and starts incurring retirement costs the employer pays for these and debits that liability account.  Reducing it.  And credits a cash account.  Reducing it.  When an employer pays a retiree it should be entirely a balance sheet transaction.  Completely off the income statement.  With no impact on profitability.  This payment should reduce their cash balances.  As well as their liability account for retirees.  For as they pay their retirees it reduces what they owe their retirees.

The U.S. Postal Service didn’t do this.  They simply paid and expensed these retirement benefits as they incurred them.  Greatly understating their retirees’ costs.  And overstating their profitability.  Leaving a massive unfunded retiree health care liability.  Funding this massive unfunded liability is bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service.  Or rather these massive retiree costs they were hiding off the books are now bankrupting the U.S. Postal Service.  Unions want to go back to NOT funding these retirement costs.  And have the U.S. taxpayer bail them out.  Just like they bailed out the UAW retirement plans when GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.

The U.S. needs not only to privatize portions of the U.S. Postal Service like the UK they also need to privatize pensions and health care plans.  Like most businesses have.  Give employees money to put away for their own retirement needs.  For the old ways just don’t work anymore.

Funny how progressives hate all of the other old ways.  Like thrift, going to church, waiting until marriage before having sex, etc.  But pensions?  Retiree health care benefits?  No, when it comes to these things they’re all for going back to the Fifties.

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Great Britain is trying to Privatize their State Pensions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2013

Week in Review

Britain is a social democracy.  Not as much as they were before Margaret Thatcher.  But still a social democracy.  They have national health care.  And state pensions.  Something the American Left always wanted in the United States.  They got the state pensions—Social Security—a long time ago.  But they’ve been waiting a very long time for their national health care.  Now they’ve got something like it in Obamacare.  And now the Left can follow in the footsteps of that social democracy they so admire.  Who has no problem whatsoever in providing those lavish benefits onto their people (see Start retirement saving now or the government may make you by Sarah Mortimer posted 1/25/2013 on Reuters).

Britain may soon have to force workers to start saving for retirement to cut a soaring pensions bill set to reach 120 billion pounds in 20 years…

The government’s current pension legislation is an attempt to tackle the country’s ballooning pensions bill, set to hit 8.5 percent of economic output by 2060, from 6.9 percent now…

Britain lags behind countries including Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia in global pension rankings. Its pension system ranks seventh out of 16 countries in a global comparison of national schemes, according to data from consulting firm Mercer. Its lowly ranking reflects an ageing population, low investment returns and large government debt…

“One way or another, long-term pension contributions will increase,” Paul Macro, defined contribution retirement leader at Mercer said. “The government are trying to stop people relying on the state to support them in retirement.”

An aging population, low investment returns and large government debt?  Sounds like they’re talking about Social Security.

Note how Britain is trying to make their people less dependent on government while the U.S. is trying to make their people more dependent on government.  Even though both countries face the same problems.  An aging population, low investment returns and large government debt.  So it would appear one country—Britain—is trying to be responsible.  While that other country—the United States—isn’t.  Why?  Because Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare are not about taking care of people.  They’re about increasing the power of government.  Which is why the U.S. continues to increase their spending obligations no matter how much they can’t afford to.  Because spending money buys votes.  And winning elections give them power.  Which is what they want.  So they will ignore the responsible governing Britain is doing.  While implementing the kind of programs that caused Britain’s financial problems in the first place.

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Aging Populations have Cooled Economies in Japan and South Korea and may do the same in China

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 12th, 2013

Week in Review

The dependency ratio is a measure of the burden of the unproductive population on the productive population.  We calculate it by dividing the number of people not of working age (typical those under 15 and over 64 years of age) by the number of people of working age (typically those between the ages of 15 and 64).  The higher this percentage the fewer people in the workforce paying taxes to pay for state-provided pensions and health care.  Two things can increase this percentage.  A baby boom.  Which isn’t a problem.  Or an aging population as the younger generation is having fewer babies that those leaving the workforce had.  This is a BIG problem.  As you have fewer and fewer people paying taxes to support more and more people in retirement.

This is why Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt.  It’s not because the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.  It’s because there just aren’t enough people working anymore to collect enough tax revenue to pay for the exploding pension and health care costs of an aging population.  This is why the Eurozone is suffering a sovereign debt crisis.  It’s why the UK is trying to find billions of savings in their National Health Service.  It’s why France wants to tax millionaires at 75%.  They have shrinking tax bases because their populations are aging.  So they raise tax rates on the fewer people working.

As governments use their monetary policy tools to help them spend money they don’t have their economies suffer.  In fact, there is a direct correlation between a rising dependency ratio and falling GDP.  As Japan’s and South Korea’s populations aged their GDPs fell.  Which should be sounding a lot of warning bells in China.  For their dependency ratio is now rising (see China Hits A Demographic Turning Point by Joe Weisenthal posted 1/11/2013 on Business Insider).

So the great economic miracle that was China may be coming to an end.  Unless they find some other way to address the costs of an aging population.  Something the other, older economic powerhouses have yet to figure out.

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Public School Teachers and Public Sector Workers have Secret Millionaire Retirements

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 6th, 2013

Week in Review

President Obama stood firm during the fiscal cliff debate to raise taxes on the millionaires and billionaires.  To get those who can afford it to pay a little more.  The visible millionaires.  To help pay for the secret millionaires.  Public school teachers.  And public sector employees (see Millionaires, Billionaires, and Teachers by Randall Hoven posted 12/10/2012 on American Thinker).

Our President likes to use the phrase “millionaires and billionaires.” A person whose net worth is $1 million or more is a “millionaire.”

Most of us working stiffs have trouble thinking in terms of net worth; we are more used to the concept of annual salary. How does net worth translate into annual income, or vice versa? In round numbers, the annual income equivalent is 4% of an investment nest egg. So if you have $1 million socked away, consider that to be equal to $40,000 income every year…

That relationship can be turned around: if you have an annual pension of $40,000, you are effectively a millionaire, especially if that pension is adjusted for cost of living…

Now let’s look at public school teachers. In Illinois, where I live, the Illinois State Board of Education puts out a report on teachers’ salaries. The table below is a pretty good summary of that 110-page report. A beginning teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in a median school district might make about $40,000 per year. But by the time a teacher retires, she could be making $55,000 to $120,000, depending on how much graduate education she got and her school district.

And when that teacher does retire, what is her pension? If most school districts are like Chicago’s, the teacher will make about 50% of her final salary if she retires at age 55, or 75%, the maximum, if she waits until age 59…

In short, a lot of retired Illinois teachers are millionaires.

But that’s not all. Teachers who retired from the Chicago school district get 60% of their health insurance premiums subsidized. In round numbers, let’s call that a value of $8,000 per year.

Also, the above values do not include any other savings or investments made over the teachers’ careers, including home values. If they have their own 401k’s in addition to their pensions, those were not included. Social Security was not included either.

Wait, there’s more. These pensions are for life. Many or most of them are also adjusted for cost of living. Every month, for the rest of their lives, retired teachers get checks or automatic deposits of a reliable amount, indexed for inflation and guaranteed by the government. They don’t have to worry about investment risks…

The situation of the retired public school teacher is also not that much different from fire fighters, policemen, postal workers and other public employees. Nor is it that much different from a lot of other retired workers, especially union members such as General Motors retirees. If such people are getting pensions and benefits of $40,000 per year or more, not an exceptional amount, they are millionaires…

The main reason the US Post Office, the federal government and many state and local governments face unsustainable debt, bankruptcy and default is due to the costs of public employee pensions. GM went bankrupt largely due to the costs of its retirees’ pensions and benefits.

Businesses go bankrupt, governments face default and economic growth slows to a near standstill. Meanwhile, retired public school teachers, who had to work 9 months of the year during their careers, now pull in checks 12 months a year, indexed for inflation and guaranteed by the government, in amounts that often make them millionaires, maybe twice over.

So public school teachers, fire fighters, police officers, postal workers and other public employees are not the same as people who work in the private sector.  For when people retire from middle class jobs in the private sector they don’t live a long retirement like a millionaire.  They live a shorter life in retirement worrying that they may outlive their retirement savings.  Or that some illness may wipe out their retirement savings.  Forcing them to return to work in the last remaining years of their life.  Something school teachers, fire fighters, police officers, postal workers and other public employees don’t have to worry about.  As long as they can maintain a privileged class in America.  An American aristocracy, if you will.  The thing we fought the Revolutionary War to put an end to in the New World.  Old World aristocracy.

Not everyone can live like this.  For there just isn’t enough taxpayer income to tax away to pay for everyone.  Which is why the aristocracy is a privileged class.  In a ‘classless’ America.  A class that attacks rich people to pay their fair share.  So they can enjoy their millionaire retirements.  Without having the talent or ability of an entrepreneur.  The investment savvy of a Mitt Romney.  Or simply not having been lucky enough to be born into an aristocratic family.  Like a Kennedy.

And if you think these millionaire retirees have earned their good life like an entrepreneur, consider how hard they have to work for their Masters Degree.

You might notice from the table of teacher salaries that a Masters Degree with extra graduate hours can add $20,000 or more to a teacher’s annual salary. Just for fun I want to show you two course descriptions. The first one happens to describe an engineering course I teach which is for undergraduates, required of all engineering students and generally taken in a student’s 2nd or 3rd year of college.

 Engineering Mathematics: The Laplace transform and applications; series solutions of differential equations, Bessel´s equation, Legendre´s equation, special functions; matrices, eigenvalues, and eigenfunctions; vector analysis and applications; boundary value problems and spectral representations; Fourier series and Fourier integrals; solution of partial differential equations of mathematical physics.

This second course description is taken from the University of Missouri St. Louis bulletin. It describes a graduate level course in the Education school.

 The Educational Role of Play: Emphasizes play as a constructive process with applications to cognitive and social development. Special attention to facilitating play in early childhood classrooms.

Note that the first course description (the one with all of that math) was an undergraduate course.  While the second course description (all about having fun) is a graduate course in the school of education.  The person learning about fun in the classroom will live like a millionaire in their retirement.  While the odds are that the one that worked so hard to learn all of that math to help create the wonderful things in our high-tech economy will not.  Why?  Because brilliant engineers have to earn their retirement.  While the privilege class makes the engineers and other hard working Americans pay for their millionaire retirement.  Is that fair?  According to the Left, yes.

Worse, these are the people teaching our children.  This privileged class that exploits the taxpayer so they can live a longer and more comfortable retirement are teaching our kids the evils of capitalism.  To turn them into Democrat voters.  So they vote for the party that attacks those who earn their wealth.  To make them pay their fair share.  So these teachers and public sector workers can continue to live their millionaire retirements.  While most of their student’s parents struggle in their own lives because they’re paying so much in taxes to support the better lives of their children’s teachers.

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