Pension Protection & Asset Accumulation

Take-It-or-Leave-It Approach to Pensions Threatens Retirees in Rhode Island

A pension debate in Rhode Island this fall could set the stage for how dozens of other states take up the issue when regular sessions resume in 2012. As Progressive States Network reported last month, calls for dramatic changes to public pension systems and social security are largely an opportunistic move by conservatives to advance a privatization and anti-tax agenda. The debate playing out in Rhode Island has turned into another unfortunate instance of this, driven by a take-it-or-leave-it proposal by State Treasurer Gina Raimando – a venture capitalist by trade – that would slash benefits and partially privatize the system. To support the proposal, a newly formed lobbying organization supported by financiers and business lobbyists is running a full-press political campaign that is choking out discussion of more reasonable alternatives.

Seniors at Risk in Wall Street Financed Attacks on Retirement Security

As protests on Wall Street spread across the country, the dire need for progressive solutions to financial corruption and savage inequality is capturing national attention. One aspect of Wall Street’s agenda that has not been sharply criticized enough is emerging as a defining issue in the presidential campaigns of challengers to President Obama: dismantling Social Security and public pension systems. Texas Governor Rick Perry has grabbed the most headlines by absurdly characterizing Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” and calling it a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” Other presidential candidates are also trying to stake out positions to privatize retirement funds, and state policymakers who are leading ideological attacks on workers have targeted pension funds in an effort to pit union and non-union workers against each other.

Public Employees Earn Substantially Less than Private Sector Counterparts

Refuting right-wing attacks on state workers, a new report by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and the Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE), Out of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20 Years, demonstrates that state and local employees earn an average of 11 and 12 percent less, respectively, than comparable private sector workers.

No Crisis in Public Retirement Systems: Debunking the Hype and the Attacks on Employee Benefits

This Dispatch will emphasize that there is no crisis in most state retirement systems, even according to the numbers of the researchers demanding state leaders take unneeded action to cut the incomes of retirees.  And despite the hype from a few carefully selected anecdotes of retirees gaming pension systems, the reality is that the overwhelming number of public employees receive pretty bare-bones benefits, in some cases not enough even to keep them out of poverty.

Move Your Money: Investing Public Money in Local Banks and Credit Unions to Spur Growth

In an effort to stimulate local economic growth and free up credit markets, New Mexico Sen. Tim Keller and Rep. Brian Egolf introduced HB66, which would require the state to give preference to community banks and credit unions to manage the state's general fund operating cash depository account.  Currently, Bank of America holds the $1.4 billion account. 

Protecting the Unemployed from Abusive Credit Inquiries

As the economic downturn progresses, American workers are facing a disturbing rise in employers using credit ratings to determine job worthiness.  According to a 2006 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, the number of firms using credit histories to screen applicants rose from 25% in 1998 to 43% despite such inquiries often being discriminatory and even illegal. 

401(k)s Delivering Worse Financial Returns than Traditional Pensions

In the last few decades, there has been a massive shift from traditional defined benefit retirement plans -- where workers are guaranteed a yearly return in retirement -- to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s where money may be contributed each year with no guaranteed return. The numbers are stark: of workers with pensions (which includes today only 60% of the population), 83% had defined benefit plans in 1980, while only 39% had a defined benefit plan by 2004.