How Politicians Partner with Wall Street to Rip Off American Retirees

Lynne Stuart Parramore, Campaign for America’s Future, March 27, 2014

Wall Street loves to celebrate its knack for innovation, and it’s hard to disagree. The ingenuity financiers have mustered to scam Americans out of their retirements is truly a wonder to behold.

Working through well-funded media campaigns and strategic investments in politicians who carry out their plans, the Wizards of Wall Street have done a triple whammy on any hope we had for a decent retirement. They’ve attacked Social Security and pretended that it’s unaffordable and/or insolvent, they’ve worked to move us into fee-riddled private investment accounts, and they’ve looted our pensions.

They couldn’t have done it without friends like Gov. Chris Christie. Over in New Jersey, the big man is showing us how it’s done.

First, a little recap of how we’ve been screwed so far.

Private equity billionaire Pete Peterson is the Big Kahuna of Social Security-bashing, directing money toward media campaigns and enlisting folks like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of Obama’s deficit commission, to convince us that we require cuts to the country’s most successful anti-poverty program under the threat that the deficit is growing —except, oops, now it’s actually shrinking!

Nonsense aside, Wall Street has gotten its way with Social Security before, such as the 1983 deal under Reagan, which, still unknown to many Americans, chopped the program and forced a higher retirement age onto young people who could not vote at the time, up two years, from 65 to 67. Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, foe of Social Security and worshipper of Wall Street, was instrumental in getting that deal done.

Then there’s the 401(k), foisted on the American public 30 years ago as a rising tide of laissez-faire fanatics convinced policymakers to move us into do-it-yourself retirement plans. A study by the think-tank Demos revealed that the typical 401(k) steals an average of nearly $155,000 from a median-income, two-earner family over a lifetime of saving through hidden fees. The plans have also been shown to drive inequality and make ordinary people more vulnerable to economic shocks. Despite these dismal results, politicians across the country are pushing more Americans into 401(k)s. Republicans in Florida, Kansas, Illinois and elsewhere have been trying to move public workers into them, and Democrats with Wall Street ties have often joined in the effort: Former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley, who now advises an investment firm, was part of the (failed) effort to force Kansas state employees into 401(k)s, calling the effort to transfer investment risk onto workers “innovation.”…

continue reading and follow links at Campaign for America’s Future


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