From Workforce Management:
Powerful House Democrats are eyeing proposals to overhaul the nation’s $3 trillion 401(k) system, including the elimination of most of the $80 billion in annual tax breaks that 401(k) investors receive.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-California, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, are looking at redirecting those tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute.A plan by Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economic-policy analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York, contains elements that are being considered. She testified last week before Miller’s Education and Labor Committee on her proposal. At that hearing, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter Orszag, testified that some $2 trillion in retirement savings has been lost over the past 15 months.
Under Ghilarducci’s plan, all workers would receive a $600 annual inflation-adjusted subsidy from the U.S. government but would be required to invest 5 percent of their pay into a guaranteed retirement account administered by the Social Security Administration. The money in turn would be invested in special government bonds that would pay 3 percent a year, adjusted for inflation.
The current system of providing tax breaks on 401(k) contributions and earnings would be eliminated.
“I want to stop the federal subsidy of 401(k)s,” Ghilarducci said in an interview. “401(k)s can continue to exist, but they won’t have the benefit of the subsidy of the tax break.”
Under the current 401(k) system, investors are charged relatively high retail fees, Ghilarducci said.
“I want to spend our nation’s dollar for retirement security better. Everybody would now be covered” if the plan were adopted, Ghilarducci said.
She has been in contact with Miller and McDermott about her plan, and they are interested in pursuing it, she said.
“This [plan] certainly is intriguing,” said Mike DeCesare, press secretary for McDermott. “That is part of the discussion,” he said.
While Miller stopped short of calling for Ghilarducci’s plan at the hearing last week, he was clearly against continuing tax breaks as they currently exist.
“The savings rate isn’t going up for the investment of $80 billion,” he said. “We have to start to think about … whether or not we want to continue to invest that $80 billion for a policy that’s not generating what we now say it should.”
“From where I sit that’s just crazy,” said John Belluardo, president of Stewardship Financial Services Inc. in Tarrytown, New York. “A lot of people contribute to their 401(k)s because of the match of the employer,” he said. Belluardo’s firm does not manage assets directly.
Higher-income employers provide matching funds to employee plans so that they can qualify for tax benefits for their own defined-contribution plans, he said.
“If the tax deferral goes away, the employers have no reason to do the matches, which primarily help people in the lower income brackets,” Belluardo said.
“This is a battle between liberalism and conservatism,” said Christopher Van Slyke, a partner in the La Jolla, California, advisory firm Trovena, which manages $400 million. “People are afraid because their accounts are seeing some volatility, so Democrats will seize on the opportunity to attack a program where investors control their own destiny,” he said.
The Democrats want to end the private retirement system that has allowed Americans to become a vast investor class and put them back in thrall of the federal government. This is nothing more than a second welfare system that would sit on top of the crumbling Social Security entitlement. It would leave the American working and middle classes with no retirement option other than a government handout. If the Democrats control both Congress and the White House, kiss your 401(k)s goodbye, and get into the bread lines first before the crowd arrives. (via Q&O)–Ed Morrissey at Hot Air