Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama: Slowly but Surely Stealing our Retirement Savings

How do you get Americans to buy lots of Treasury Bonds? We have deficits as far into the future as the eye can see. Someone, somewhere, has to keep buying the debt so that no politician ever has to feel a cold wind around his reelection prospects. Not everyone in government is actually a fool (it’s the elected part where incidence is higher than that in the general population, not the bureaucracy) so they’ve noted that there’s a few trillion dollars in the 401(k) accounts of the nation. So how can we get that money “invested” in Treasury Bonds rather than in something productive? We can’t force people to do it, that would cause a revolution, despite what some people think is being mooted. We also cannot fool the people as others seem to think will happen. So we’re not going to confiscate the 401(k)s in return for a federal pension, nor are we going fool people into thinking that such would be a good idea. What we’re going to do is to make everyone want to buy Treasury Bonds with their hard-earned pension savings. We’ll start with a note in the Federal Register. Much wise chin-stroking about how not enough people convert their capital into annuities as they age. I can tell you how the next stages go because this is what has been done in my native Britain over the past 15 years or so. Bring in a rule that the majority (75 percent in the UK) of pension savings must be converted to an annuity by a certain age (75 years). Annuities are of course sold by insurance companies and the like, separately, and a few years apart so that no one really notices. Then change the rules on what said companies selling annuities can use to fund them. Instead of the long sufficient mix of a broad range of financial instruments, insist that they use bonds matching the expected payout maturities of the annuities. Then, again a little later, slip in an insistence that the bonds being used must be safe. Triple A, “AAA” for example...more

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