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Politicians and others currently trashing defined benefit pension plans miss the point entirely. All of the obligations of a defined benefit plan are not payable immediately, next year or even in the next 20 years. The concept of a group plan is that years of poor investment returns are made up by years of good returns. Fortunately for plan participants, these results and their timing do not affect the employee who reaches retirement now.
Participants in 401(k) accounts are the victims of one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated on the American worker. Should your 401(k) come crashing down, you end up on the street holding a “will work for food” sign because you bought into the concept that individual risk is the American way. You swallowed the corporate PR campaign that puts stunning executive compensation ahead of simple security for elderly Americans.
Unions exist to prevent the exact situation owners of 401(k) accounts find themselves in now. The United States is the only first world country to embrace such an unconscionable system. All workers should ask themselves if today’s winner-take-all philosophy isn’t a form of the return of the robber-baron culture that gave birth to the labor movement in America.
Benefits that union members receive are the benefits they negotiated. Public employee unions are not at the bargaining table by themselves. Hold elected officials accountable for diverting the funds meant for the pension system into other projects. Don’t trash the people who simply try to gain some security in their purely middle-class existence.
Jan Lord lives in Point Loma.